Vladimir Putin attending yesterday in Moscow at a gala on the occasion of the launch of the World Cup.
Elimination in the first round, however, would be a black spot for the organizing team.
Vladimir Putin is not a fan of football, but it is with a certain interest that he will follow the World Cup which starts today in Russia. Despite the low level displayed by the Russian selection, the president is aware of all the prestige he can draw from this competition that breaks the image of Russia isolated by Western sanctions.
A major international sporting event, such as the Football World Cup, is always a political opportunity for the country hosting the event. It is a way of sharing one’s culture with the rest of the world, spreading one’s economic and infrastructural capacities, and conducting informal diplomatic relations. An opportunity for the Kremlin leader to use his soft power at a time when he is seriously criticized on several issues by Westerners. The most anticipated sporting event on the planet is an opportunity for the Russian Federation to project a strong, stable and organized state image, but also open and welcoming. “For Putin, organizing the World Cup shows the failure of sanctions and the efforts of the West to isolate (…) Everyone still comes to the World Cup”,
The seduction operation has already started with a promotional video shared last Saturday by the organizing committee of the competition. In front of the camera, back to the Kremlin, Vladimir Putin in a suit and tie is addressing the world directly. He declares, in Russian, that he “hopes that you will have unforgettable memories; not just matches (…), but also your meeting with Russia, its extraordinary culture, its unique history (…) and its hospitable people, sincere and friendly “.
The other media offensive came from Chechnya, from the president of the Russian Republic, who will not host any match, Ramzan Kadyrov. The latter, who “shot Mohammad Salah from his sleep”, according to the British daily The Sun, yesterday offered a tour of ground in front of 8 000 spectators, with the Egyptian star of the Liverpool club and best African player of the year 2017, very popular in the world of football. Ramzan Kadyrov, who enjoys the full support of Vladimir Putin, is regularly accused by international organizations of his attacks on human rights and freedoms. He is particularly known for having said, in reference to accusations of unlawful detention and torture of homosexuals: “There is none at home. ”
“Russia is too toxic”
In the Kaliningrad enclave, a real Russian forward post in EU territory, Moscow decided to hold four matches. On this territory, located between Poland and Lithuania, both members of NATO, is the base of the Russian fleet in the Baltic Sea, and especially a permanent arsenal since last February of Iskander missiles, capable of carrying nuclear warheads… The region has also witnessed the construction of a $ 300 million stadium with a capacity of 35,000 people, while the local club has only 4,000 supporters. William Courtney, a researcher at the Rand Corporation, told The New Republic newspaper that “Vladimir Putin can boast that Kaliningrad is a powerful military stronghold … and wants to show that the city is more prosperous than it really is”. “The World Cup will not have a significant impact on the image of Russia because it is too toxic,” says Andrei Kolesnikov, a researcher at the Carnegie Center in Moscow. Since FIFA’s 2010 FIFA assignment to Russia, the image of the country has deteriorated dramatically. In the meantime, there has been the annexation of Crimea and the beginning of the Ukrainian conflict in 2014, in addition to accusations of systematic doping by Russian athletes during the Sochi Olympic Winter Games. Last month, the Dutch prosecutor’s office claimed that the missile that destroyed the aircraft of flight MH17 over Ukraine in 2014, killing all people on board, came from Russia. Twenty-eight Australian nationals were among the victims,
“No big results”
In 2015, Russia began its intervention in Syria in support of the regime of Bashar al-Assad, and in 2016, it was the accusations of Russian interference in the US presidential election that was controversial, in addition to the events of the “Battle of Marseille”, where Russian hooligans had violently attacked groups of English fans. This year there was the Skripal case, named after the Russian spy who was poisoned with her daughter on British soil. A case attributed by London to Moscow that pushed the majority of EU countries to expel Kremlin diplomats. This is why the London government will not send official delegations for the matches of its national team.
Vladimir Putin should still receive more than one foreign leader participating in the competition. He will now receive Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin; Salman on the sidelines of the opening match of the World Cup between their two countries. The opportunity to speak, beyond football, of the next OPEC summit on 22 and 23 June, during which the two countries would like a decision in favor of an increase in oil production. For his part, the French president Emmanuel Macron confirmed that he would go to Moscow if the Blues arrived in the quarterfinals. The other countries in the group of Russia and Saudi Arabia are Uruguay and Egypt. Putin has no illusions and avoids associating with a weak team that may not pass the first round. “Regarding our selection, I must admit one fact: unfortunately, it has not had great results lately. But we hope (…) that the selection will play with dignity, show a nice football, interesting and modern, and will fight to the end, “said the Russian president on June 6 in an interview on Chinese television, transcribed on the Kremlin site. In a group with a strong geopolitical color, a defeat against Saudi Arabia or against Egypt would, however, spot for the organizing team. transcribed on the Kremlin site. In a group with a strong geopolitical color, a defeat against Saudi Arabia or against Egypt would, however, spot for the organizing team. transcribed on the Kremlin site. In a group with a strong geopolitical color, a defeat against Saudi Arabia or against Egypt would, however, spot for the organizing team.