Unfortunately for the Sochi Olympics, it seems most of the entertainment so far is not of the sporting variety. To no small extent, this is the Russian host's fault and not of Western media. While parading their (comely) female athletes in scantily-clad poses is not especially eyebrow-raising in this day and age, I think they would capture the world's attention more if they, er, actually managed to win some medals at this stage. They're athletes, right?
Another sideshow of Olympic dimensions has involved Ukranian President Viktor Yanukovych meeting his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin at Sochi. Having eased out his rabidly pro-Russian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov in a bid to appease protesters, Yanukovych has incurred Putin's wrath and, as a result, further Russian emergency aid for Ukraine is currently in limbo. Before he left for Russia, American officials now famously met with Yanukovych in Ukraine. And, unwisely using unencrypted phones, we have a recording of the now-infamous quote where Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland says the US should ""f--k the EU" to the State Department representative in Ukraine. Whether Russia deliberately snooped on the conversation or simply pointed out that it was online, I suspect they are happy it exists. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is claming outrage over the statement. Divide and conquer (Westerners) and all that jazz.
It is perhaps unfortunately common that American "diplomats" pepper their conversations with foul language. Ask Susan Rice. Why is it though that we never hear of, say, EU officials expressing their frustrations using foul language?
(1) The EU is a multinational enterprise. Their officials are not as comfortable using expletives with Europeans of other nationalities who may misunderstand their intended meaning. Americans are comfortable using foul language among themselves since the intended meaning comes across clearly, having a common language and culture. European diplomats, however, must deal with far more linguistic and cultural diversity, and the chances of offending other Europeans is much greater. So, to be on the safe side, they stick to civilized communications even during private correspondence.
(2) Another obvious political economy consideration is that Western Europe is far more reliant on trade with Russia than the United States is and thus cannot afford to be so gung-ho on Russia. While it is busy diversifying its energy supplies, much of the EU is still dependent on natural gas being supplied by the giant to the east:
Of the EU's current annual demand for 485 billion cubic metres (bcm) of gas, Russia supplies some 150 bcm.
Demand could rise to 585 bcm by 2023 with the Russians supplying as much as 175 bcm, according to Reuters calculations based on data from governments and energy companies, as well as input from research firms and consultancies. This means that the amount of gas from Russia is not only set to rise, but Russia's share of Europe's gas market will remain stable around 30 percent.So, don't hold your breath waiting for Baroness Ashton telling EU diplomats to "f--k Russia over Ukraine." Otherwise, do enjoy the Olympic sideshow. It didn't cost $50 billion to stage and yet it is providing superior entertainment so far.