STANFORD – Millions of people worldwide watched the athletic achievements at the Sochi Olympics and the opening and closing ceremonies’ majestic portrayals of Russian history and culture. But the cost was immense, the alleged corruption dispiriting, and the contrast with the political situation in nearby Ukraine alarming.
After lining up for an Association Agreement with the European Union, former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych instead opted for closer ties with Russia, following immense pressure from the Kremlin, as well as a promise of $15 billion in financing. Three months of protests and riots ensued. A parliamentary vote stripped the high-living Yanukovych of power, and he fled to Russia. The situation remains tense and fluid. Russian troops have occupied Crimea, and European and American leaders are threatening to impose stiff sanctions on Russia if it does not respect Ukraine’s sovereignty.