Interesting from Asharq Al-Awsat:
Opinion: The Black Madonna and the Russian Problem
by Amir Taheri
Last month, when Vladimir Putin ordered that the Black Madonna of Kazan, the holiest icon of the Russian Orthodox Church, be flown over the Black Sea, many believed he wished to secure blessings for the Winter Olympics in Sochi.
It was the first time the icon, or rather a copy of it, since the original was stolen and possibly destroyed in 1904, was deployed to bless a peaceful enterprise. [If it was for Sochi.] Over the centuries, the “Black Virgin” has been taken to battlefields to bless Russian armies fighting Swedish, Polish, Turkish, Persian, French and German invaders. Stalin sent it to Stalingrad in 1943 to ensure victory over the German invaders under Field Marshal Friedrich Paulus.
With Putin’s troops in control of Crimea and threatening to move further into Ukraine, we now know that the icon was brought in to bless a military operation this time as well.
Putin appears strong because US President Barack Obama, accidentally cast as the leader of Western democracies, is weak. Putin is over-using the power Russia really doesn’t have because Obama under-uses the power the US does have. As long as Obama prevents the US from playing the leadership role it has had since the end of World War II, Putin will see no reason why he should not pursue his dream of reviving the Soviet Empire wherever possible. In doing so he is acting within a tradition established since the 18th century, when Russia emerged as a power with a pathological fear of encirclement. That fear has always made Russia aggressive.
Read the rest there. Interesting.