Russia gets deserved credit for a great World Cup

Sunday, July 15, 2018

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Russia , since the days of late 17th century, has felt that Western Europe looks down on it as an uncivilised backward country, and it has longed to be accepted among the so-called concert of modern nations.

Peter the Great gained fame by implementing modernisation reforms with advisors from Western Europe. Seeking power status, he focused on the reorganisation and enlargement of the Russian army.

But the inferiority complex persisted for centuries in Russia while Western Europe regarded it as an alien culture, despite the fact that the ruling royal families were all related.

Western Europe began to fear Russia after the Communist Revolution in 1917, compounded by Russia transforming itself into the Soviet Union and an empire in Eastern Europe after World War II.

Russia started feeling equal to Western Europe when it developed a nuclear bomb and felt superpower status when it was the first to put a man into outer space. The implosion of the Soviet Union in 1991 returned Russia to a status below that of a superpower. The world was no longer dominated by a Washington-Moscow hegemony.

The impression of Russia in the Western press is that of a second-rate country ruled by Mr Vladimir Putin, former KGB spymaster turned dictator, and supported by a clique of capitalist oligarchs.

It is alleged that the regime uses poison to kill political opponents and that Russians used cyber attacks to attempt to influence the 2016 presidential elections in the United States. Now, 191 criminal charges have been brought against 12 Russians by the Robert Mueller investigation in the US.

The overall picture is one of a State-supported capitalist country where goods, except for Vodka, are shoddy and services are inefficient. However, Russia is getting some kudos for an outstanding job in hosting the World Cup.

All the stadia and physical infrastructure were ready on time. Millions of foreigners from many countries in the world have travelled around the vast country efficiently and safely. Millions of visitors and Russians have mixed and mingled happily and enjoyed and celebrated over World Cup football.

Most countries hosting the Olympics and the World Cup have had problems of cost over runs, hastily finished facilities, transportation glitches, security issues, clashes between locals and foreigners, and ticket problems. Everything seems to have worked in Russia and they therefore deserve some credit.

The lesson of the successful hosting of the World Cup by Russia is that the country should not be underestimated. This is particularly pertinent as President Donald Trump meets with Mr Putin.

Mr Trump is not as naive as his pronouncements have made him seem. His apparent lack of diplomacy arises from his overarching preoccupation to retain his political base before the midterm elections in November of this year.

Statements that insult international leaders are cheered by his ultra-nationalist, xenophobic political supporters who mistake this for America asserting its independence and superiority. This hubris may not be in evidence with Mr Putin for reasons we may never know.

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