West must boycott FIFA World Cup or face an even more dangerous Putin afterwards

Image: Ruslan Gorovyi via facebook.com/gorovyi.ruslan 

International, More, Op-ed

If the West doesn’t recall the 1936 Nazi Olympics when thinking about the FIFA World Cup competition to be held in Russia in 16 days, then when will it? Tata Gutmakher asks, adding that unfortunately it appears the West “doesn’t understand what is taking place” and won’t boycott as it did in 1980 when the USSR invaded Afghanistan.

And what is still worse, Dmitry Bykov adds, is that if the West doesn’t stay away from this competition, the likelihood is that Vladimir Putin will behave even more aggressively after the FIFA World Cup competition is over than he has up to now, just as when after the 2014 Sochi Olympiad he invaded Ukraine.

Putin is billing the upcoming event as “a championship of peace,” but in fact given what he has done, “it is a championship of war.” For those who appear to have forgotten, Gutmakher says, “war is when people are killed … when foreign territories are seized … when there are many prisoners … when those who resist are risking their lives … [and] when you are hated only because you are among those who attack and seize.”

Is what Russia doing a “hybrid” war? “No, kiddos, this is war. And deaths from it are not hybrid,” Gutmakher says. But apparently, “the Europeans do not understand what is happening: the purchase of gas and support for pseudo-economic forms is more important for them.”

At least, she says, “let us not allow this CHAMPIONSHIP OF WAR. Sixteen days remain. Now is the last chance” to stand up for what is right against the forces of war.

Bykov adds another reason for taking a stand against the FIFA World Championship. In the absence of such actions, Putin is likely to behave as he did after the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi when he invaded Ukraine and seized Crimea.

After the World Cup, “we can expect the same thing that we saw in March 2014: a sharpening of the foreign policy agenda and the fateful seizure of small but significant portion” of a neighboring country. One would think that the West would finally understand that, but unfortunately the evidence is otherwise.

Putin doesn’t care about the love of his own people or the love of others: he knows these are always temporary things. What he wants is fear and fear among foreigners in particular.

“We are ‘the big red machine,’” Putin wants them to understand. And he especially wants the West not to interfere with his celebrations of himself as at the FIFA World Cup.

But not everything is going as he wants: Sentsov is on a hunger strike, the international commission has blamed Moscow for the downing of the Malaysian jetliner MH17 with 298 people onboard, and the war in the Donbas is getting worse. And Putin is responding by asking why everyone is trying to undermine our “main holiday”? and planning for revenge.

The Kremlin leader clearly hopes he can intimidate everyone into doing what he wants – and in that he has succeeded – because of fears that he will otherwise behave even worse. But that didn’t work in 1936 and it didn’t in 2014. No one should be fooled now. Only a tough line and in this case a boycott can send the right signal.

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Edited by: A. N.

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