Like with the Sochi Olympic Games, it’s no secret that Russia wanted to host the World Cup for the accompanying international recognition and PR benefits. Sadly, the world has willingly given Putin this boost, choosing to ignore the inconvenient truth that Russia today is at its most repressive since the Soviet era.
Vzglyad writes: “The World Cup is not only a sports celebration but also a political event. It not only shows Russia’s real face to the world but is also a good occasion for high level meetings and negotiations”.
However, the author is quick to explain away the rather modest showing of global leaders at the opening ceremony: Apparently, “Kings, presidents, and prime ministers come to football matches when their countries make it to the finals or semi-finals”. This is followed by the hope that France and Germany will play well and that Macron and Merkel will come to Russia to support their national teams. And, of course, talk to Putin.
Vzglyad also couldn’t help but emphasise how great the Italian election is for Russia: “Austria will be represented by deputy chancellor Strache, Germany by minister of the interior Seehofer. Both are known as cheerleaders of normalizing relations with Russia, therefore their presence should be seen as a clear political gesture. It’s a pity Italy didn’t make it to the World Cup, otherwise Italian deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini would be perfect company for Seehofer and Strache.
“For many international leaders, the World Cup is a good occasion to see Vladimir Putin, and discuss all possible subjects from military cooperation to the Korean issue, from the Syrian war to oil prices. Regardless of who wins on the football field, Russia has already won on the geopolitical one.”
It is a sobering question: how much of this victory have we, our countries, and our leaders willingly handed to Putin on a silver platter?