Although Russia has failed to get at the Winter Olympics the one prize it particularly coveted, the ice hockey title, it managed to win a far more important victory—in ensuring that the Games, the athletes, and spectators were safe. However, making Russia safer remains a challenge.
Though Sochi is located in the Caucasus, the planners of the Sochi Olympics failed to give the games any Caucasian flavor. It looks as though the North Caucasians have been factored into the planning of the games only in so far as they present a security headache.
The Sochi Olympics could become the pretext for a real rapprochement between Moscow and Tbilisi. However, conversation between Russia and Georgia about the insurgency in the North Caucasus never started, and in the future this will be remembered as a missed opportunity.
If Russia were able to overcome its defensive rhetoric and come up with its own version of “a good neighborhood policy,” Georgia would of course benefit; perhaps more significantly, Russia itself would benefit.
Philippe Lefort is stepping down as the EU’s special representative for the South Caucasus. Now a new representative will have to start again from zero in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and the worry is that in the meantime the Caucasus conflicts will slip down the EU agenda.