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Kirchick: Boycott by ‘Political Leaders’ of Sochi Olympics Could Be Effective

Note to MSNBC chyron writers: It's 'Kirchick'

• August 27, 2013 12:45 pm

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Foreign Policy Initiative Fellow James Kirchick discussed his appearance on the Kremlin backed RT network with Thomas Roberts Tuesday on MSNBC.

Kirchick said he thought the provocative stunt would serve to both critique Russian anti-gay laws and shame the employees of RT, many of whom are American and British and "take Vladimir Putin's money."

With respect to calls for a boycott of the 2014 Sochi Olympics, Kirchick advocated a boycott by political leaders as opposed to a vodka boycott. Kirchick is joined by the Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin who earlier this month advocated for a boycott of all sponsors of the Sochi games.

According to Kirchick, the potential impact of a vodka boycott would be diluted because many Russian vodka companies are not state owned.

Abstention by political leaders would send a far more stark message to Putin if he were only surrounded by "other dictators" at the games, Kirchick said:

THOMAS ROBERTS: You were in Sweden. I love how it looks like you were in Rio, in the Amazon, where they have the set with all the greenery behind you on the set. But James a couple of weeks ago on this show we had the opportunity to speak with American figure skater Johnny Weir about the laws and whether or not he plans to wear any type of pin publicly in opposition to these Russian laws if he goes there whether competes or whether he is a sports commentator for NBC. Last week we saw actor Wentworth Miller use the opportunity to come out, to turn down an invitation to a Russian film festival in St. Petersburg? Do you think those "in your face" types of moves are going to send a clear message to Vladimir Putin, and also send a clear message LGBT, the Russian community, and also the straight allies who live there, that they aren't isolated, they aren't not forgotten?

JAMES KIRCHICK: I think those moves are very positive. I'm not so sure that I would support a vodka boycott because Stolichnaya is not a state-owned company and I don't really see the effectiveness of that, and it's also bottled in Latvia, where I was today actually. As for boycotting the Olympics, I'm not sure if that's a great idea. What is effect if the political leaders boycott. Usually at the Olympics they have prime ministers and presidents from all over the world come and they are seen publicly. I think would be great if Vladimir Putin is left all alone with maybe some other dictators. I don't think any leaders of free countries should show their faces at this spectacle. I think those are the sorts of moves that would be helpful.

Published under: Russia, Vladimir Putin