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Putin retaliates against diplomatic expulsions: How will it affect FIFA World cup 2018?

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News Analysis |

The recent tensions between Russia and West, particularly the United Kingdom, after a former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter were poisoned, is escalating. 66-year-old former Agent Sergei Skripal and his 33-year-old daughter Yulia were subject to an assassination attempt by a nerve agent which is believed to be of Russian origin. Owing to the possibility of the poisoning being carried out by the state of Russia, UK demanded an official explanation.

The response from Russians negated any sort of involvement in the attack whatsoever. The United Kingdom and the USA, followed by several Western states, tried to barge down Russian via diplomatic expulsions. But contrary to general perception, instead of showing restraint as Russia is due to host the biggest sports event after Olympics in a matter of months, FIFA Football World cup, it responded with the expulsion of US and UK diplomats from Russia. Not only are the number of diplomats declared as “persona non grata” far more than the ones coming home, Russia also announced to close US consulate in Saint Petersburg.

Since going after Russia in a direct military conflict is not viable for either side, the assassination incident could have been interpreted by western strategic brass as a golden opportunity to use diplomacy to achieve the desired outcome.

After a hard response from Russian Federation, an end to the said diplomatic row seems unlikely in near future. Though the direct stakeholder of the crisis United Kingdom has stated that it will not be boycotting the FIFA world cup, however, attendance of Royal family should not be expected at the event anymore. Given the state of the Russian economy, hosting the FIFA world cup is highly likely to boost Russian financial state as millions of fans are expected to arrive in June 2018. However, amidst the diplomatic crisis which Russia is currently engaged in, the number of international travelers travelling to the country is expected to drop down drastically.

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In 2008, when the prospects for Russia in general and its economy in particular, were not very promising, the football-unenthusiastic Russians came to know what wonders the game could do to lift the GDP. Russian stock market hit an all-time high when Moscow hosted the Champions League Final between Manchester United and Chelsea. It was then, Russia decided to bid for the hosting of mega event. After the diplomatic expulsions, it was anticipated that response from Russian side will most likely remain confined to just diplomatic and political rhetoric. But President Putin decided to go full-fledged as it was the Russian esteem on the line, something which has been winning him the presidential elections for years.

Putin’s bid to respond with coercive action may rest upon the general understanding that western countries do not boycott the FIFA world cup. In the age of information revolution and integrated economies, it corresponds to putting one’s own national and economic interests at stake. But the possibility of things taking an unforeseen course can still not be neglected altogether, although there has been precedence when Moscow Olympics in 1980 was boycotted by more than 60 countries in response to Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan.

66-year-old former Agent Sergei Skripal and his 33-year-old daughter Yulia were subject to an assassination attempt by a nerve agent which is believed to be of Russian origin.

It is widely believed that the attempted murder of the former Russian agent and his daughter is a mere outcome of the boiling tensions between Russia and the West, that have existed since the inception of this decade. The idea might be, to bring Russia to comply with the unipolar world order and the state of affairs as set by the United States. Since going after Russia in a direct military conflict is not viable for either side, the assassination incident could have been interpreted by western strategic brass as a golden opportunity to use diplomacy to achieve the desired outcome.

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The efficiency of the applied maneuver has apparently backfired as the response from the other side has been unequivocally stern. The question which the contemporary realm has posed remains, what will happen next? How will the existing diplomatic deadlock come to an end? Will the failure of diplomacy, the globally accepted course, since the inception of UN, to be followed in future in order to solve disputes, result in the scenario which led to WWII? It will be hardly possible for any state to remain neutral if it comes to this, as the very existence of life on earth will be on the line.


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