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World A Chance for Putin to Woo the World, Thanks to Soccer and Trump

09:07  14 june  2018
09:07  14 june  2018 Source:   nytimes.com

Kremlin critic: Robbie Williams selling his soul for World Cup gig

  Kremlin critic: Robbie Williams selling his soul for World Cup gig A long-time Kremlin critic lambasted Robbie Williams for deciding to sing at the World Cup opening ceremony in Moscow on Thursday, while a campaign group offered to brief the British pop star on Russia's human rights record.British businessman Bill Browder, who accuses President Vladimir Putin of conducting a personal vendetta against him, took to Twitter to question why Williams was performing while Russia was under western sanctions.

A chain of crises made Russia’s World Cup charm offensive a tough sell, but President Trump ’s strains with Europe improved its chances . A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A12 of the New York edition with the headline: Putin Gets the Chance to Woo the World , Thanks to Soccer .

But it could be a World Cup that changes how Russia sees not only itself, but the world as a whole. As Putin himself said, though, soccer can bring a spark into the lives of people, young and old. Bye Eagles Bye: Trump Disinvites Philadelphia Eagles From June 5, 2018.

MOSCOW — Back when it sought the right to host the 2018 World Cup soccer tournament, Russia framed its bid as part of a concerted effort to transform its post-Soviet self into a modern, model global citizen.

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That is what Putin wanted from this tournament, why he supported the bid in the first place: a chance to stage a vision of his Russia to Russia. As Putin himself said, though, soccer can bring a spark into the lives of people, young and old. This is a World Cup designed to show his strength.

Advertisement. Like the Sochi Olympics in 2014, the event is meant to be a shining moment for Russia and President Vladimir Putin , a chance for the country In fact, there is no professional football team in Saransk, though — thanks to the spending spree — there now is a world -class soccer stadium.

A female Olympic poll vault champion wooed the International Football Association by urging it to “help shape the future of Russia,” while a deputy prime minister said holding the championship would speed his country toward becoming “a completely different nation” whose people “will be brothers and sisters to the whole family of the world.”

That was in December 2010.

Then Russia proved that it harbored a rather different idea of brotherhood: annexing Crimea, backing a separatist insurgency in eastern Ukraine, providing the missile battery that shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 and propping up a bloody dictator, Bashar al-Assad, in Syria. Various Kremlin critics abroad died or fell ill under mysterious circumstances, while scores of activists at home were either jailed or their organizations were shuttered. Russia made “gay propaganda” illegal and weaponized social media to meddle in Western elections.

Trump says it's 'possible' he'll meet with Putin this summer

  Trump says it's 'possible' he'll meet with Putin this summer <p>President Donald Trump says "it's possible" he'll meet with Russian President Vladimir this summer.</p>And he again made the case that Russia should be allowed to re-join the Group of Seven industrialized nations during in an impromptu interview and gaggle on the White House driveway.

Trump spoke with Putin to offer condolences over the loss of a passenger jet Sunday, ahead of the The December 6 White House declaration outraged Ramallah and others across the Muslim world . Palestinian leaders have said it means Washington can no longer serve as a Mideast peace broker.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has President Donald Trump 's thanks — for booting U.S. diplomats out of his country. Trump : I would like to 'de-nuke' the world 4:55 PM ET Thu, 10 Aug 2017 | 04:43.

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In short, when President Vladimir V. Putin returned to the presidency in 2012, he abandoned the quest for admission to the global fraternity of dominant states. Instead, he contrived to seize a spot through his own devices.

“We are not aspiring to be a globalized nation, that is gone,” said Vladimir Frolov, an independent foreign policy analyst, ‘‘Russia’s foreign policy strategy is to be a cat who walks by himself.”

Russia still feels compelled, however, to try repeatedly to prove that it has great-power credibility. It cannot do it militarily — short of flexing its nuclear weapons — nor financially after four years of drifting in economic irons despite a recent buoyancy in oil prices. Major sporting events offer one plausible substitute, including the World Cup, which begins on Thursday.

Events like the Sochi Winter Games and the World Cup cast Russia in the role of a global power, which helps to foster national pride and to defuse the notion that the West has isolated Russia through international sanctions, diplomatic expulsions and other measures prompted by recent events.

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Soccer . Now, thanks to U.S. President-elect Donald Trump , the two superpowers might have the chance to start all over again. On Friday, Trump was pleased with a “very nice” letter from Russian President Vladimir Putin .

The Trump administration's withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal last month for some observers has created an unusual moment for Europe and Russia to try After Macron's comments about judo, Putin responded: "Such a situation in the world has come about, that everyone is playing soccer , while

“There are not so many clubs of which Russia is a member,” said Gleb Pavlovsky, a political analyst and former Kremlin consultant. “We are going through a period of isolation, and it is important for Russia to show that we are still members of the club of big powers.” Or, at least, that Russia should be a member.

Major sporting events also reflect Mr. Putin’s image of Russia and, to a certain extent, of himself. “This demonstration of strength, of power, of collective success is important to him,” said Lev D. Gudkov, the director of the Levada Center, an independent polling organization.

In that respect, the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi did not quite work as envisioned. Western leaders stayed away, and Russia’s record medal haul was later diminished later by indications of a state-sponsored doping program.

The World Cup offers another chance.

The strains between the United States and Europe over trade, which erupted at the G-7 summit in Canada last week, just days before the tournament’s scheduled start, are an added bonus.

That fiasco, combined with President Trump’s assertion just before the meeting that Russia be readmitted to what had been the G-8 before its expulsion following Crimea, may have spawned the best opening for the Kremlin in years, despite unresolved wars in Ukraine and Syria.

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Trump ’s advisers have close and continuing contact with Russian oligarchs and Putin associates; and he America will be left standing amidst the rubble of the post World War II world order, while Putin can retreat happy with the damage he has caused. Bill Clinton made a point to woo Boris Yeltsin.

Narendra Modi arrives in Sochi for an "agenda-less" meeting with Vladimir Putin , but there won't be Instead, the one-day visit will provide a chance for the two leaders to develop "personal chemistry India to woo Russia away from China? On nuclear, the relationship is similarly fruitful, if not so

Populist leaders in power in Greece, Hungary, Italy and Austria have all made overtures to Mr. Putin. Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and President Emmanuel Macron of France both visited Russia in May to discuss salvaging the Iran deal, among other issues.

“It is the most beneficial international situation for Russia right now since 2013, on the eve of the Olympics,” said Mr. Frolov.

Asked last week about tensions between European countries and the United States, Mr. Putin took an I-told-you-so attitude, saying that he had long warned European leaders about the United States’ spreading its jurisdiction abroad through sanctions and other measures.

“Our partners apparently thought that they would never be affected by this counterproductive policy,” said Mr. Putin, gloating somewhat. No European leaders “wanted to listen, and nobody did anything to stem this trend. So there you are.”

Lately, Mr. Putin has sought to cast Russia as Europe’s reliable friend.

“Putin does not think that he needs to change anything,” Mr. Frolov said. “Trump’s decision relieved the pressure to change.”

There are scattered international efforts to maintain some pressure on Russia during the World Cup. Human Rights Watch has called on world leaders to boycott the opening ceremony unless Russia acts to protect Syrian civilians. Some European lawmakers also called for a boycott, linking it to the March poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain, which they called the most recent example of “Putin’s mockery of our European values.”

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On Thursday, Trump thanked Putin for remarks he made acknowledging 'America's strong economic performance,' the White House said. Mark Wright cuts casual figure in black and white tracksuit ahead of Soccer Aid football match He's set to play in the star-studded match.

At this point the debate is no longer about whether Assad is the perpetrator of the attack, which the world community seems to have accepted as a fact and The risk of escalation is always there, but given the likely contained nature of the attack, this is probably not what bothers Vladimir Putin .

The families of 40 Australians killed aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 wrote an open letter saying that recent revelations about a Russian military unit firing the fatal missile cast a “dark shadow” over the World Cup.

However, Mr. Putin is popular in parts of the world for standing up to the United States, so a successful championship could bring Russia a pronounced soft-power payoff.

One tournament slogan — “Russia Never Sleeps” — will please some hard-partying soccer fans, and Moscow in particular is in the midst of a more-than-$3 billion makeover to widen sidewalks, plant trees and provide services like rental scooters and signage for its palatial subway system. Those signs will be translated into Roman letters, for the first time.

In cities with less money, in the tradition of Potemkin villages, the roads to World Cup stadiums have been repaved and the buildings repainted, while those a block away remain in various states of decay.

Although the United States team did not qualify, more Americans bought tickets than anybody except the Russians — more than 86,000.

On the home front, Mr. Putin, who just began his fourth term as president, has tried to forge a national sense of unity and purpose atop nostalgia for Soviet achievements. The victory in World War II is the centerpiece, but the Soviet sports machine also comes into play, sports being a noncontroversial arena where everyone in an ethnically mixed population can celebrate together.

“This fits into the whole tradition of totalitarian mass events, parades, collective celebrations of sporting events,” said Mr. Gudkov. The video used to introduce the World Cup poster deployed a few Soviet clichés, for example, including a soccer ball that transforms into a model of Sputnik, the first satellite to orbit the earth.

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MUST WATCH. Putin thanks Trump for tip on terror attack 02:36. Back-to-back phone calls. "The thing that's problematic is the way Putin seems to play off Trump 's desire for affirmation and praise and Trump rushes to shout it out to the world ."

And it seems that the next time Trump had a chance to show everyone he was on Putin ’s level—with Putin now identifying with Trump and endorsing his manifest brilliance—he seized it. For a narcissist, what in the world could be more important?

When Russia was awarded the 2014 Winter Olympics, Mr. Putin called it the world’s judgment on Russia, suggesting that only a global power could organize such an event. Holding the World Cup inspires a similar calculus, especially after an investigation by FIFA, the international football association, cleared Russia of bribing its way to the role.

“That is the main consideration for the Kremlin: The ability to handle an international event here is almost like winning a small war,” Mr. Pavlovsky said. “For the Kremlin group, scale is very important. The greater the scale of an event, the more powerful the authorities seem to be.”

There is also, inevitably, a bread and circus factor.

The tournament will distract, at least temporarily, ordinary Russians, who have suffered economically in recent years and face a bleak future. It will also line the pockets of

well-connected tycoons who milk government infrastructure projects. The cost of the games, spread over 11 cities with new or refurbished stadiums, roads and other infrastructure, mushroomed from an initial estimate of around $640 million to some $11 billion.

“He needs to feed his court, otherwise they will be hungry and might eat him one day,” Mr. Pavlovsky said.

Finally, it cannot be ignored that Mr. Putin loves sports. He learned to play hockey after becoming president, and has been photographed regularly swimming or, more infamously, riding horseback bare-chested. Holding the tournament will promote sports and fitness among all Russians, he has said, and perhaps foster more promising soccer teams.

Even the president admits that Russia is not a global soccer power. The current national team is considered particularly bad, coming 70th in the FIFA rankings. No country holding the World Cup has ever ranked so low.

Mr. Putin is trying to appear philosophical about it. Asked recently who might win, he responded, “the organizers.”

[Video: Александр и Устинья Малинины ft. Чингисхан - "Москва встречает Чемпионат" возраст 12+ Watch on YouTube.]

Correction: June 14, 2018

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: An earlier version of this article misspelled the French president’s name. He is Emmanuel Macron, not Emanuelle.

Reviewed penalty lifts Sweden over South Korea .
<p>Sweden beat South Korea 1-0 at the World Cup on Monday through a penalty by captain Andreas Granqvist following a video review.</p>Granqvist slid his penalty kick into the bottom right corner to see Sweden home in its first World Cup game since 2006.

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