The West's Backfiring Boycott

Nhat V. Meyer / MCT / ZUMA PRESS

Putin shakes hands with a U.S. figure-skating coach after Russia won the inaugural team competition in Sochi.

Diplomatic protocol is fuzzy on the issue of the Winter Olympics. Although they are not considered a must-attend event for world leaders — unlike the Summer Games — they do present an opportunity for the host country's leader and his or her guests to mend any fraying relations. But when the Games went to Russia this month, the West's most prominent statesmen decided to skip them. That was a mistake.

Russian President Vladimir Putin may seem to many like an unbending autocrat on the rise, but in fact Putin has never in...

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