Russia is back, or at least that is what you were supposed to think while watching the 2014 Sochi Olympics over the past two weeks. To prove it, Russia spent 51 billion dollars on the first-ever Winter Olympics staged in a subtropical climate zone and took great pains to showcase Russian culture, diversity, wealth, talent, and swagger during nonstop coverage of the Olympic mega-event.

February 22, 2014

Does Singapore have a problem with xenophobia? It seems that barely a month goes by these days without news reports highlighting friction between Singaporeans and foreign workers in the tiny, multi-ethnic city-state. The population has increased dramatically in recent decades thanks to an influx of foreigners, who now make up around two out of five residents. This has put a growing strain on jobs, housing and infrastructure, and raised fears about the dilution of the Singaporean national identity.

Wales doesn’t get more Welsh than this northern market town. Business and conversations between friends here are conducted not in English but in Welsh, the language spoken by some 80 percent of the local population. For the past 40 years, the town has been a stronghold of Plaid Cymru, the nationalist party whose stated goal is eventual independence.

Shiva Keshavan, India’s most prominent Winter Olympics athlete, has no personal coach, funds his training largely with private donations and built his luge sled in his garage. Because India has no luge track, he often trains on wheels, shooting down winding Himalayan roads dodging goats and noisy trucks.

Egypt's army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, whom the military has endorsed for the presidency after he ousted a civilian leader, has emerged as a nationalist icon in the mould of Gamal Abdel Nasser. Sisi, 59, has not yet said whether he will seek the country's highest office, but Egypt's military commanders on Monday said in a statement that "the people's trust in Sisi is a call that must be heeded as the free choice of the people."

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited a controversial shrine to World War II dead, including 14 convicted war criminals, ignoring U.S. advice against gestures bound to strain already tense relations with neighbors China and South Korea. Abe told Japanese news media the visit was intended "to report the progress of the first year of my administration and convey my resolve to build an era in which the people will never again suffer the ravages of war."

Japan's approval of new national defense guidelines and its first-ever national security strategy are raising questions whether, after a year of focusing on the economy, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is finally baring his nationalist teeth. The announcement this week of a significant increase in military spending over the next five years to counter China’s growing military influence in the region was not unexpected.

The main streets of Shin-Okubo — Tokyo’s Koreatown — are lined with smoky barbecue restaurants and overlit cosmetics emporiums. Staircases lead down to basement music venues and up to hidden drinking holes. Japanese once thronged the neighborhood, which is home to many ethnic Koreans and known for its fiery food and late nights. But in recent months, the crowds have thinned, replaced by anti-Korean protesters who have turned Shin-Okubo into a rough barometer of deteriorating Japan-Korea relations.