Russia's Best Olympic Event: Downhill Anti-Americanism
An amazing sequence of shockingly sordid anti-American behavior from the Russians has now permanently tarnished their second attempt to host an Olympic Games. Blessed with an absence of feared terrorist events, the Russians had a golden opportunity to introduce the world in general, and Americans in particular, to a people who were different from their stereotype. Instead, they confirmed that stereotype in spades.
International Ice Hockey Federation Rule 471(a)(5) states that "no goal shall be allowed [i]f the goal net has been displaced from its normal position, or the frame of the goal net is not completely flat on the ice." During Russia's round-robin match with the United States, an apparent Russian goal was disallowed under Rule 471 following video review because the net had become dislodged prior to the shot. The result was a tied score through overtime and a heartbreaking Russian loss in a dramatic shootout.
Russian venom came fast and furious, notwithstanding that they were the host nation. I've seen some disgraceful behavior from the Russians over the years, but this was a new low.
Russians ignored the fact that the final ruling followed a joint review by all the officials using video replay, essentially suggesting that the rules should have been ignored to benefit them. There is absolutely no question but that the call was precisely correct according to the rules -- even those who think the rule should be changed agree on that.
Russians also ignored the fact that they still had a clear shot at the gold medal despite the loss, and that the draw they received ha dput them out of contention with the two hockey superpowers Canada and the United States, so that they'd only need to beat one to win gold, not both, and would instead face Finland and Sweden en route to the finals. They ignored the fact that beginning a day later team Russia revealed profound weakness at these games, for example being forced into another shootout with the much weaker Slovakian team, which they should have been able to easily overcome.
Instead, they childishly and viciously chose to focus on the fact that the referee who made the initial call was American, and assumed he was cheating on behalf of his country. And they accused the U.S. goalie of cheating as well.
Before long, there were calls that the referee be "turned into soap," with ominous overtones of genocide. Russians besieged the U.S. Embassy, implying that they believed the U.S. government stood darkly behind their hockey loss. Stunningly, even Vladimir Putin himself condemned the referee, an unheard-of personal attack from a head of state hosting the games. The Olympic spirit burst into flames and Russians poured on the gasoline.
But the worst was yet to come.
Days later, Russians were lucky enough to host and witness the greatest ice dancing performance in Olympic history. The American pair of Davis & White set world records for their scores in both the short and long programs and delivered their country's first-ever gold medal in the sport, decisively defeating the silver medalist Canadians and the bronze medalist Russians.
But you could have heard a pin drop when the history-making American performance ended. In one of the most disgraceful episodes in Olympic history, the Russian audience took out its frustrations over the hockey loss on the innocent pair of skaters, who had worked together for more than fifteen years to achieve their dream. Did they care that the American skaters had a Russian coach? They did not.
Russia received its just desserts for this hideous blasphemy against the Olympic spirit and its obligations as host when, after crushing tiny Norway in its opening round playoff game, it was dismissed from the men's hockey tournament by Finland. Barely able to beat Slovakia and unable to remain competitive against Finland, the notion that Russia could have defeated the USA or Canada to win gold was a mere pipe dream denied by Russian frailty, with no need of an "international conspiracy." The look on Vladimir Putin's face as he watched Finland run amok was simply priceless.
Unbelievably, Russia's infantile, self-destructive joyride was not nearly finished with these antics. They capped off the festival of anti-American hatred by rearresting Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, formerly of the Pussy Riot performance art troupe, almost as soon as they arrived in Sochi in order to prevent them from carrying out a planned protest demonstration, laughably accusing them of petty theft when they had just toured the USA, appeared on the Colbert report and met with the Mayor of New York City.
Tolokonnikova's husband reported: "They were put to the floor and beaten and physical force was used to them when they refused to be questioned without the presence of their lawyer, who was on his way to the police department." It was clearly a chilling, neo-Soviet political warning, and the pair were soon released because not even the Kremlin would dare to try to make such frivolous charges stick. But soon after being released they were attacked by a gang of Cossacks with whips and pepper spray, and their movements continued to be shadowed by the secret police.
The world clearly saw why Americans have so dramatically soured on the Putin regime, and why American media attention has been so scorchingly negative towards Russia even in outlets that had previously been sympathetic. Russia was unmasked, and even the most ardent Russophiles were appalled.
Indeed, the pure impulsive recklessness in which the Russians proved willing to engage was shocking. It became clear that Russians were just waiting for some type of excuse to give vent to rabid anti-American furor and neo-Soviet paranoia. If the Olympics had been staged in the U.S. and a Russian referee had made an initial call denying the USA a goal, you can be quite certain you would not have heard a peep out of the Russians.
And make no mistake: very real and significant Russian foreign policies are being adopted in support of this anti-Americanism. Even as Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina were being arrested, U.S. Secretary of State Kerry was blasting Russia for working with its close ally Iran, the most anti-American nation in the world, to subvert and destroy the peace process in Syria. Both Russia and Iran funnel massive support to the American-loathing terrorists of Hizb'allah. Russia is also accused of repeatedly violating nuclear arms treaties with the U.S., and it is engaged in a furious new arms buildup designed to threaten both the U.S. homeland and U.S. interests around the world.
Russia is sending a message loud and clear, not just that it doesn't care what the U.S. and its allies think about its actions, but that it actually wants a new cold war and intends to win it. Putin has long been ardently pursuing this policy, but the rearrest of the Pussy Riot activists during the Olympics escalates his war on American values to a whole new level.
Russian pundit Leonid Bershidsky believes that Putin "is unabashedly restoring the order to which he was used at the top of his KGB career. To him, it is clearly a matter of not letting the fifth column give up Russia to a predatory U.S., and the war will be waged by any means he deems necessary."
Indeed, Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina were released early from their original two-year prison terms (arising from a peaceful protest against Putin in a church) specifically so that their incarceration could not be used by Putin's critics to tarnish the games. Now that plan has been thrown out the window, and the regime has arrested the young mothers in Sochi itself, and preemptively at that. It has shown it is more afraid of them than of the negative publicity their arrest would generate. That is a neo-Soviet attitude.
Welcome back to the USSR!
And it is equally clear that a majority of the people of Russia support their government's relentless attacks on the United States and her values and ideals. At long last, Americans are waking up to the threat they face from Russia, widening the disconnect between them and Barack Obama, whose "reset" policy of appeasement has dramatically encouraged Putin to pursue his present course, confident that he would not pay any price for doing so.
Follow Kim Zigfeld on Twitter @larussophobe.