Well, that was fast. In an early-September column about the Syrian conflict and the new world order, I wrote that Russia and the West could team up against the forces of radical Islam. It looks set to happen sooner than expected, given the current wave of Islamic terrorist attacks not far from the site of the upcoming Sochi Olympic Games.
The pre-Olympic suicide bombings give Russian President Vladimir Putin a wide-open shot at leading the world in the war against radical Islamic terrorism, and the only thing that might stop him is widespread global concern for human rights -- the human rights of terrorists, attacking the Olympics. Any takers?
Thankfully, not America. "The United States stands in solidarity with the Russian people against terrorism," White House National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a prepared statement. "The U.S. government has offered our full support to the Russian government in security preparations for the Sochi Olympic Games, and we would welcome the opportunity for closer cooperation for the safety of the athletes, spectators and other participants."
You won't be hearing any sort of statement about how the U.S. government also hopes that Putin unilaterally wipes Islamic terrorism off the map while the Olympics are giving him the pretext to do it. Old Cold War habits die hard, on all sides. Even though Islamic terrorism is a global plague, much of the world is nonetheless concerned about what Putin might do with any kind of carte blanche. That's because we've seen how resourceful he can be when he doesn't have carte blanche.
So what should Putin do? He should go for the gold in the anti-terrorism pentathlon. The circumstances don't get much more convenient than having Olympic security as a rationale. Anyone who says otherwise risks being pegged as a terrorist supporter rather than a Russophile.
This confluence of events -- the Syrian conflict, the Sochi Olympics and ongoing Islamic terrorism -- puts Russia in position to take charge. Earlier, when U.S. President Barack Obama was wringing his hands over whether to send American troops into Syria, I had contended that his best move would be to let Russia deal with the war-torn country, particularly since the conflict zone was about 20 hours by car from both the site of the Olympic Games and Russia's Northern Caucasus, a hotbed of radical Islam.
The threat of terrorism at the Olympics is now glaringly obvious. Over the past few days, Islamic Chechen suicide bombers have killed civilians in a train station and on a trolley bus in two separate incidents in the southern city of Volgograd, about a 14-hour drive from Sochi.
Early reports from Russian news agency Interfax identified the trolley bomber as Pavel Pechenkin, most recently of the jihadist hotbed of Dagestan. On the day before the Volgograd train station attack, a man named Islam Atiev -- known for his fondness of explosive devices and for being a close friend of Chechen terrorist leader Doku Umarov -- was reportedly killed in a security services operation in Dagestan. Umarov is America's problem, too: The U.S. State Department has offered a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture. Allegedly responsible for the bombing of civilian targets, including Moscow's busiest airport and two metro stations, Umarov wants "to establish an Islamic emirate through violence in the North Caucasus, Southern Russia and Volga regions of the Russian Federation, with Umarov as its emir," according to the State Department's "Rewards for Justice" notice.
Perhaps feeling that bombings didn't quite get his message across, Umarov declared himself to be the entire world's problem in July, when he released a video in which he pledged jihad against the Olympics, calling on supporters to use "maximum force ... to disrupt these satanic games to be held on the bones of our ancestors."
Umarov had issued a video in November 2012 praising Syrian jihadists. Islamic terrorism in the region has even spread into neighboring China, with the Chinese government denouncing recent attacks by Islamic Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region bordering Russia.
Only through adequate intelligence and security measures can radical Islamic terrorists be denied the chance to make their mark on one of the largest world stages. It seems as if humanity could only benefit from some Russian-American cooperation -- in the spirit of the Games and international sportsmanship, of course.