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'Rootin' Tootin' Putin' - Be Careful What You Wish For

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Perhaps its time to put all the romantic Cold War, Ian Fleming, 007 'shaken and not stirred' nostalgic images and cleaver conversation far behind us and assess what the real threats are to our global stability.

As I write this I can safely say, that despite all the nay sayers and the stories about unfinished hotel rooms and a venue that was not ready to host a prime time event, the Sochi Winter Olympics, thankfully, went off without a major issue.

It was, as it should be, an opportunity for the world's greatest athletes to compete with each other and have their victorious moments in the spotlight.

Russian President Vladimir Putin deserves credit for ensuring this was the case.

The unlikely choice of this sub-tropical Black Sea coastal resort bordering one of the most unstable regions in Russia by the International Olympic Committee will however, continue to be debated for years to come.

Although Putin will undoubtedly take all of the credit for this successful extravaganza - Russia most medals won - there have been some domestic downsides.

As is the case with any major. international event, the world's media descend en masse on your nation's doorstep.

Their assignment is to cover the Olympics and any other exciting story they can find.

One might assume it is the presence of the international media in Sochi and the potential for world coverage that may have influenced the timing of the protests in the Ukraine.

Although the problems have clearly been brewing for quite some time, the protesters may have believed they would be further from harm's way with the international media reporting events as they unfolded.

The protesters may also have hoped that airing their grievances worldwide might accelerate the pace of change.

One thing is clear, if it were not for the Olympics in Russia it is unlikely the world press would have had the access to this story.

It is also very clear that Putin and his ally President Viktor Yanukovych believe that the Ukraine should be within the sphere of Russian influence at a minimum.

One might think that they would have taken even more extreme steps to quell the protests if the world was not watching.

Considering his staunch nationalistic background, Putin may see any movement of the Ukraine toward the West as a threat to his vision for "Mother Russia."

What is not so crystal clear is exactly what the majority of people of the Ukraine want.

The sympathies of the Ukraine are divided - with the west leaning toward a relationship with the EU and the east much more aligned with Russia.

It would have been unimaginable for Putin, while Olympic host, to send the Russian Army into Maidan to assist Yanukovych in maintaining the threatened peace - images of the Soviet Army come to mind entering Budapest in 1956 and the Prague Spring of 1968.

So the Parliament of the Ukraine simply took charge on its own - voting to free former Prime Minister and opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko from jail, putting out an arrest warrant for President Yanukovych, calling for new elections on May 25 and naming a new interim president - Oleksandr Turchynov.

Hardly what western nations would call a democratic peaceful transition - releasing one leader from jail and seeking the arrest of another.

The consequences of all this are now grave for the Russian President.

Despite the favorable Russian medal count "Rootin' Tootin' Putin" may have unintentionally forced himself off the medal stand and into a cauldron of controversy.

With his desire for a meaningful place in the international spotlight, Putin may have out manoeuvred himself on the domestic front.

Many wonder if Putin has out manoeuvred President Obama and the other western leaders when it comes to Syria, Iran and North Korea.

It seems clear Putin's goal is to convince President Obama and his Nato allies that Russia's support and his buy-in is indispensable on all these fronts.

Although it is not so clear Putin is really getting what he wants in any of these hot spots either.

In Syria, Putin wants President Bashar al-Assad to stick around and provide stability and a viable "consumer state".

At the moment, Syria is anything but stable and seems to be on its way to total dissolution.

This is not in the best interest of Russia since Syria owes Russia $10billion and Russia wants access to Syria's ports.

Russia faces similar issues with Iran and North Korea - another Blog!

Up till now, except for work on global terrorism, President Obama and his Nato allies have not found the common interest between Russia's goals and the goals of the West.

This might be the moment to try once again in light of Putin's desire to bask in the glow of the international spotlight and settle the unrest in the Ukraine.

If he plays his cards right, there could even be a Nobel Prize in it for him.

Around the Web

Vladimir Putin | World news | The Guardian

Vladimir Putin - Telegraph

BBC Sport - Vladimir Putin's Olympic journey

Ukraine crisis: Vladimir Putin has marched into the void left by Barack Obama

Vladimir Putin's Olympic journey

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