In the midst of rising tensions between Russia, Ukraine, NATO and the U.S., the Winter Olympics have begun in Beijing.
Russian President Vladimir Putin showed up for the Opening Ceremony, even though Russia is banned from the 2022 Games for doping.
Sitting in Beijing National Stadium, Putin appeared to fall asleep when Ukraine’s athletes entered, the Daily Mail reported. He sat with his arms folded and eyes closed.
This kind of disrespect comes as no surprise.
Russia has tens of thousands of troops on its border with Ukraine. They have been sitting there for months while Putin continues to tell NATO and the Western powers that he will not invade his neighbor, according to NPR.
But Putin is also demanding that Ukraine never be allowed to join NATO.
U.S. President Joe Biden initially waffled on what the response would be to a “minor incursion” into Ukraine by Russia. He later took a tougher stance, saying any movement into Ukraine would be met with a “severe and coordinated response,” Reuters reported.
This week, Biden finally deployed U.S. troops to Eastern Europe.
The Olympics are supposed to be an occasion for all nations to put aside tensions for a few weeks. But the Beijing Games have turned into a playground for international politics, posturing and deal-making.
Just hours before the Opening Ceremony, Chinese President Xi Jinping made the bold move of announcing a new alliance with Putin, according to Reuters.
They declared a friendship with “no limits.”
“This is a strategic decision that has far-reaching influence on China, Russia and the world,” Xi said, according to The Associated Press.
Putin and Xi formed a united front against the West even at the start of the Olympics, a symbol of international unity.
“The parties oppose the further expansion of NATO, [and] call on the North Atlantic Alliance to abandon the ideological approaches of the Cold War,” they said in a joint statement.
Putin’s display of disrespect is just the tip of the iceberg. Let’s not forget that the U.S. and several allies are carrying out a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics over China’s abuse of Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region.
He may have fallen asleep during the Opening Ceremony, but Putin is wide awake to the power struggle at hand. He is wasting no opportunity to use China to bolster his position against the U.S., NATO and Europe.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.