When Sochi greets athletes from all over the world for the Winter Olympics, "it will be showcasing much more than sport," according to Kathrin Hille of the FINANCIAL TIMES. Russia "wants to mark its return to the world stage not just as a cradle of culture and civilisation, but, critically for President Vladimir Putin, as a resurgent global power." For now, "Sochi is a fortress." Moscow "has transformed the city and the Olympic venues on the adjoining Caucasus slopes into an ironclad zone closed to anyone but athletes, registered visitors and security personnel." The sense of threat "extends far beyond Sochi." In contrast to the confident image Moscow wants to convey in the Olympic celebrations, "Russia is undergoing an existential crisis." Not only do Russians "still ache from the loss of the country’s superpower status after the demise of the Soviet Union more than two decades ago, but the country also struggles with a shrinking population, a crumbling industrial base and perceived hostility towards it on all fronts" (FT, 1/21).
RUSSIA RETALIATES: BLOOMBERG's Kravchenko & Arkhipov wrote Russia sent troops across Dagestan on Tuesday "as the government pressed an offensive against insurgents and new threats emerged less than three weeks before the Winter Olympics kick off" in Sochi. National Anti-Terrorist Committee spokesperson Alexander Polyakov said that two counter-terrorism operations were under way in Dagestan, "a Muslim-majority region on the Caspian, east of Sochi." Russian forces also embarked on a third mission, "with an insurgent leader killed in a shootout, Interfax reported, citing unidentified security officials" (BLOOMBERG, 1/21).
CHINA CONFIDENT: REUTERS' Peter Rutherford wrote China "is confident that Russia will be able to guarantee security at next month's Winter Olympics in Sochi." Deputy Foreign Minister Cheng Guoping said, "China has complete faith that Russia has the ability to ensure the security of the Sochi Winter Olympics. I believe these Games will be successful with this tight security. China has been in close touch and has coordinated with Russia about this" (REUTERS, 1/21).