Foreign Policy Blogs

Russia’s World Cup Foreign Policy

Russia’s World Cup Foreign Policy

Not long ago the international community was celebrating the end of the Sochi Olympics in Russia. This was before Russia’s involvement in the Middle East, before the conflict in Crimea as well as before the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight over a contested part of the Ukraine. The beginning of Russia’s added military involvement started soon after Sochi, and there has been little analysis of Russia beyond tying it to the last Presidential elections, in the United States.

International sporting events seem to have a different perspective inside Russia as opposed to that of the rest of Europe. While the FIFA World Cup is often a time to set aside differences and promote fair play on the pitch, Russian based international events also seem to focus Russians in on themselves in addition to providing the world with a positive image of the host nation as well. Sochi was a successful games, but also set a very different tone outside of Russia as opposed to inside of Russia. Negative perspectives on Russian society during the last Winter Games outside of Russia allowed nationalist movements to set Russians apart from the rest of Europe, playing on historical divisions between Russia and the West. Since then, divisions have been amplified by actions by Russian politicians as well as European policy that drove a wedge further between neighbours. What must be understood is that international events can be used as a tool of self-promotion by the government, but can also be focused on in a way that pushes moderates in Russia closer to their government if international media uses such events to criticize Russian culture.

A post Sochi approach to Russian policy during international events should have made it clear that any conflict with Russia should be addressed by an absence in international activities where Russia is hosting the event. A severe fault by Russia’s government should likely be met with a clear response to their government, even if it costs a spot for a national team in the World Cup. If all teams accept to participate in the tournament, policy is best left to when the event ends. An appreciation for the hosts during the event should reflect an appreciation of their people, not necessarily their government, until the games conclude and relations can return to one focusing on government policies. A positive games is good policy, as politics should always be left off the pitch.



Richard Basas

Richard Basas, a Canadian Masters Level Law student educated in Spain, England, and Canada (U of London MA 2003 LL.M., 2007), has worked researching for CSIS and as a Reporter for the Latin America Advisor. He went on to study his MA in Latin American Political Economy in London with the University of London and LSE. Subsequently, Rich followed his career into Law focusing mostly on International Commerce and EU-Americas issues. He has worked for many commercial and legal organisations as well as within the Refugee Protection Community in Toronto, Canada, representing detained non-status indivduals residing in Canada. Rich will go on to study his PhD in International Law.

Areas of Focus:
Law; Economics and Commerce; Americas; Europe; Refugees; Immigration