Vladimir Putin has been working overtime in recent years to solidify his reputation as a real-life James Bond villain, having now attempted to impose his influence in numerous covert, global ways.
And, when it comes to global sports, there is nothing more grand, in scope or prestige, than the World Cup of soccer.
It just so happens that Russia will be hosting this year’s World Cup, despite the numerous grievances that the world seems to harbor against the former Soviet Union. This contest comes, of course, just months after a almost certainly-rigged election in which Vladimir Putin has once again been elected President of Russia despite the massive concerns over the validity of the contest and the legality of Putin even running.
Putin “won” re-election on March 18 with about 76 percent of the vote — not as much as the 99 percent Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein “won” and maybe not as impressive as the nearly unanimous vote by the People’s Congress to allow China’s Xi Jinping to effectively be president for as long as he wishes — but impressive nonetheless.
Well, not really all that impressive since Putin effectively wiped out (or rubbed out) any serious opposition. And speaking of wiping out, how about his alleged (and here I use the word only in a legal sense) use of deadly WWII nerve gas in an attempt to extinguish two former spies who served as double agents? They remain in critical condition in a London hospital.
In a style familiar to those who remember the Cold War, Russian toadies blame everyone but themselves — the UK, the U.S. and other foreigners. But they “credit” the West’s criticism of Russia for the high voter turnout.
All of this electoral uncertainty, along with Putin’s various sins against global community, have many a nation weary about participating in Russia’s upcoming soccer showdown – which is truly a shame for FIFA; an organization that was rocked by scandal just years ago, and who could desperately benefit from this year’s World Cup going off without a hitch.
Just how massive is the global response to Russia? It has some nations rethinking even sending their teams to the World Cup at all.
They are Poland, Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, Australia and Japan, with more expected to follow.
The communal snubs come after Theresa May’s announcement last week that Prince William and all her government ministers will refuse to play any part in the competition.
And they are another boost for the PM in her stand off against Vladimir Putin.
Polish President Andrzej Duda was the first world leader to stand alongside Mrs May by revealing he has refused to go to the tournament’s opening ceremony in Moscow on June 14.
This already has several pundits comparing the 2018 futbol extravaganza to Hitler’s 1936 Olympic Games.
And, as if to rub salt in the wounds, we must remember that Poland and the rest of the European Union have long been at odds over the increasing pressure to re-home Syrian migrants. For Duda to align himself with any European Union member nations for any reason is a bold statement.