The horrific bombings in Volgograd in southern
Russia have got people wondering
if the anti-Russian Islamists of the Caucasus
region are planning to ‘ramp up violence in the run-up to the 2014 Winter
Olympics in Sochi’.
The Sochi Games start in just six weeks’ time.
And some think the Volgograd bombings – one of a train station, one of a bus,
leaving at least 30 civilians dead and many more injured – confirm that
Islamists are plotting a spate of ‘Olympics terrorism’ in order to cause
maximum political embarrassment and harm to President Vladimir Putin in the
If that is their plan, is it surprising? The
Sochi Games have, after all, been relentlessly transformed by influential
Western NGOs, campaigners and officials into a platform for criticising and
ridiculing Putin’s Russia.
The Games have been thoroughly politicised, by
everyone from human-rights groups to gay activists, turned into what one
observer calls an ‘unlikely platform [for] world condemnation’ of Russia
condemnation which in recent months has reached ‘fever pitch’
If Islamists think Sochi represents a good
opportunity for attacking Russia, maybe they’ve been influenced by powerful
Western elements who for the past year have been using Sochi to precisely those
The most striking thing about the Western
response to the savage attacks on civilians in Volgograd is how little sympathy
there has been. There’s even a powerful hint of ‘You had it coming’ in the
editorialising on the bombings.
’ leader on the attacks,
headlined ‘Tsar Vladimir’
, focuses its ire entirely on Putin, who is
‘vain, reactionary and not a little paranoid’ and has ‘accumulated unrivalled
authority’, we are told. So it’s not surprising, the paper nudges, that his
nation faces suicide bombings.
casually asserts that the
Volgograd attacks are the ‘high price’
Russians must pay for Putin’s ‘mistakes in the
[Caucasus]’. The Independent
likewise says Russia is paying the ‘delayed price’
for its bad behaviour in the ‘small, mainly
Muslim, autonomous republics in the Caucasus’. Shorter version: you deserve it,
These respectable observers, including Britain’s
newspaper of record, are effectively saying about Volgograd what eccentric
leftists say about Islamist attacks here in Britain: that ‘they had it coming’.
The self-loathing sentiment expressed by some
British leftists after attacks like the 7/7 bombings or the murder of Lee Rigby
in Woolwich – that is, that Britain brought these assaults upon itself by
behaving so wickedly in Muslim lands – is usually and often adroitly rubbished
by right-leaning and some centre-left observers. [But British intervention did cause Islamist attacks in the United
Kingdom. Whereas Russia’s actions are responses, not causes.]
Yet now, those same observers are saying that the
murder of civilians in Volgograd is the logical consequence, the ‘price’, of
Russia’s military behaviour in Caucasus regions such as Dagestan and Chechnya.
They’re effectively providing a justification for
Islamist terrorism in Russia, which does nothing to discourage such violent
assaults, and might unwittingly inflame them in the long run through conferring
on them the status of being an ‘understandable’ response to the tsar-like
behaviour of an apparently merciless Putin. This is a very foolish thing to do
at a time when the West itself faces episodic acts of Islamist terrorism.
This extraordinary double standard – where the
Islamist terrorism we face is seen as being the sole responsibility of the
perpetrators themselves, while the Islamist terrorism Russia faces is seen as
being fundamentally down to Putin and his past militarism – is mirrored in the
cavalier, even quite callous response to the bloodshed in Volgograd.
Try to imagine how we would respond if, just a
few days after Christmas, a St Pancras station packed with commuters was
targeted by a suicide bomber and a London bus was blown to smithereens.
shocked, distressed, keen to discover who the culprits were and possibly to
clamp down on their suspected associates or sponsors. Yet Russia’s similar
feelings of loss and anger are subtly ridiculed by Western observers.
Putin will probably ‘respond ruthlessly to
yesterday’s suicide bombing’, scoffs one newspaper
in a piece on the corruption and
authoritarianism of modern Russia. There’s nothing Putin can do anyway, says
another paper; ‘the violence looks set to continue’
These double standards, the hinting that we don’t
deserve to be assaulted by Islamists but Russia does, the palpable lack of
horror in Western circles over what was done to civilians in Volgograd by
backward Islamists from cowboy republics in the Caucasus, shows the extent to
which many in the West have been blinded by Russophobia.
Anti-Russian sentiment, feverish
Putin-bashing, has in recent years become a glue binding together numerous political
constituencies in the West.
From the old right [actually, the New Right; the Old Right , from Pat Buchanan to Peter Hitchens to John Laughland to Mark Almond to Theodore Dalrymple, is pro-Russian, or in Hitchens’s case at least anti-anti-Russian], who miss the certainties of the
West-v-East Cold War period, to new leftish outfits and human-rights groups,
who cannot abide Putin’s severe lack of PC on matters such as gay rights and
the environment, Putin’s Russia has become a kind of whipping boy for the
expression of an often shallow moral fury.
So in recent months, Greenpeace activists from
the West have attacked Russian oil rigs on the basis that they are ‘destroying
the Arctic’; Amnesty International has elevated the cause of Pussy Riot,
Russia’s then imprisoned female punk band, above every other human-rights cause
on Earth, generating a massive, celebrity-endorsed moral assault on Putin’s
authoritarianism; numerous NGOs, some
of them funded by American government agencies
, have set up shop in Russia
with the aim of exposing its democratic failings; right-leaning commentators
have slammed Putin for using ‘bullying and cajolery’
to try to make modern Russia as
globally powerful as the Soviet Union once was. Westerners who don’t agree on
very much have become unified around the cause of Anti-Putinism.
This has reached a crescendo – or ‘fever pitch’
, as one account puts it – around the Sochi Games.
For the past year there have been calls from Westerners to boycott or disrupt
the upcoming Winter Olympics in protest at Putin’s anti-gay policies, harming
of the environment, imprisonment of dissidents, and so on.
including in that key outlet of respectable Western opinion, the New York
, have said that attending the Sochi Olympics would be as immoral as going to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin overseen by
Such hyperbole reveals little about modern Russia
– which for all its vast faults is not a reincarnation of Nazi Germany – but it
does tell us something about what is driving Russophobia in Western campaigning
and commentating circles: an existential need for an external bogeyman, a new
Hitler, against whom we might define ourselves and advertise our comparative
says Putin desires to ‘fill the geopolitical vacuum left by the Soviet Union’
but that criticism would be more accurately made of Putin’s Western critics:
missing the clean moral divide that was provided by the West’s posturing
against the ‘Evil Empire’ during the Cold War years, they are promoting Putin
to the level of one-man empire against whom all Good People must take a stand.
The danger is that this casual moralisation of
the Sochi Games, springing from the broader Western project of demonising
Putin’s Russia, could have destabilising consequences in Russia itself.
you make it open season on ‘Evil Russia’, you potentially make it open season
for everyone, including those who prefer to detonate literal bombs rather than
metaphorical ones against Putin’s regime.
Yes, modern Russia has been subject to sporadic
attacks by Islamist elements for many years now, but the international
politicisation of Sochi as an opportunity for ‘world condemnation’ of Russia
could unwittingly incite more such attacks.
Indeed, where Western campaigners
describe the Sochi Games as Hitlerian, an Islamist leader in the Caucasus has
described them as ‘Satanic’
Both sides spy an opportunity to attack what they consider to be an evil
Putin’s Russia has numerous profound problems,
including authoritarianism and censorship. But such problems are not helped by
the self-serving Nazification of modern Russia by elements in the West who want
a person or thing that they can ostentatiously rail against.
In fact, such
problems could be made worse by this process – backed into a corner by an
opportunistic ‘international community’ and by violent Islamists closer to
home, Putin’s Russia could become more rather than less likely to lash out and