Carlo's Think Pieces

Reflections of a Filipino in the Netherlands

Posts Tagged ‘Crimea’

Let Russia Host FIFA World Cup 2018

Posted by butalidnl on 10 August 2014

FIFA has reiterated its decision to hold the 2018 World Cup in Russia, in the face of mounting calls to transfer it in the wake of Russia’s annexation of Crimea. This issue is complicated – Russia has indeed violated international law; but at the same time, sports events also have a tradition of not being swayed by political events.

The last time an international sports event suffered because of politics was in 1980, when many countries refused to go to Olympics scheduled to be held in Moscow because of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The Soviets responded with a boycott of the 1984 Olympics held in Los Angeles, and held Friendship Games instead.

I believe that the FIFA is right – nations should stop wars for sports, rather than stop sports because of war. But there are also more practical considerations. First, Russia’s conflict in Ukraine (including its occupation of Crimea) may very well be over by 2018. The sanctions by the EU and other countries are bringing Russia into recession; and they will get even tougher if Russia does not change its behaviour. Russia may very well withdraw from occupied Ukraine before 2018.

Second, if Russia still holds Crimea by 2018, its economy would then be in tatters. The billions of dollars needed to build and renovate 12 stadiums and upgrade other supporting infrastructure will be a heavy burden for them to bear. These will have to be built with little foreign financial support. Hosting the World Cup will effectively be a punishment for them.

Hosting a World Cup will open Russia to large numbers of visitors from all over the world. These people will interact with Russians; giving them an insight into the outside world which cannot be controlled by the Russian media and state. Ideas that Russians get from such encounters could be truly subversive to Kremlin control.

The preparations for the World Cup are already quite advanced in Russia, and transferring the games will mean that FIFA will be slapped with a huge liability. But on the other hand, Russia is also committed to the plans for World Cup 2018 – it cannot deviate significantly from the plans. The list of 11 World Cup cities (12 stadiums; Moscow will have two) had been approved back in 2012. Russia has to make sure the stadiums are ready, even if it will have difficulty getting financing for them. It also cannot include other cities e.g. Sebastopol (in Crimea) into the list anymore.

So, let Russia host World Cup 2018. If it insists on remaining in Crimea by then, the World Cup will be a heavy burden amidst an economic crisis. If it withdraws from Crimea, it will get a lot of international support for its preparations, and its economy will boom. It is the choice that Russia needs to make.



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Of Potatoes and Toothpaste

Posted by butalidnl on 27 July 2014

The conflict in Ukraine today seems complicated, with Russia occupying Crimea and instigating rebellion in parts of Ukraine’s east. Actually, it is quite simple: Russia is wasting its efforts and resources in a futile war.  It is sure to lose in both Crimea and Ukraine’s east. Why am I saying so? Because while arms may be the  spectacular components of this struggle; the decisive, long-term, factor would be the availability of less obvious items like potatoes and toothpaste. Russia will fail because of its failure to provide adequate food and consumer goods; and not because of anything in their political and military strategy.

The Russian rebels concentrate mostly on the military and political aspects of their operation. But they fail miserably in terms of public administration and the economy. While they occupy areas of Donetsk and Luhansk provinces in Ukraine, economic activity there is crawling to a halt. The rebels operations are financed by Russian ‘help’ and by looting stores and banks. Agricultural production is slowing down; meaning that food shortages would start to be felt soon. The people will literally be running short of potatoes and toothpaste.

Even Crimea, which Russia has occupied, will have a similar problem at a later date. Crimea is a peninsula conencted by land to Ukraine, and separated by a narrow sea strait from Russia. The EU has prohibited the importation of goods from Crimea; and Ukraine has cut its trade with it. While Crimea produces enough wheat, it has to import its potatoes – this time from Turkey. And its supermarkets are running short of toiletries, including toothpaste and deodorant. Crimea’s link to Russia is not really suited to large-scale importations: shipments are mainly by ferry boat or air. And to add to Crimea’s problems: it is completely dependent on Ukraine for its gas, water and electricity.
Russia’s failure to annex southeast Ukraine has meant that Crimea will remain isolated, and that supplies of many consumer products will continue to be scarce and expensive.

ISIS faces a similar problem – it controls a wide area in Syria and Iraq that is landlocked. Its neighbours are not trading with it. Money is not really that useful if others do not want to sell you anything. This ‘Islamic State’ is destined to dry up and fade away with time. (But ISIS could survive as a terrorist guerilla organization for some time, though.)

Unfortunately for Gaza, Israel is adequately supplied with enough potatoes and toothpaste. Gaza, on the other hand, is completely blockaded and depends on Israel for many basic commodities. Thus, Israel can do very much what it wants to do to Gaza. The future of Gaza is bleak.

Afghanistan (which is also landlocked) under the Taliban lasted for decades, one would say. True, but the Afghan economy was never really cut off. Trade went on with its neighbours: Pakistan, Iran, Uzbekistan and Tadzhikistan during the whole time that the Taliban was in charge of Aghanistan. When Pakistan joined the US fight against the Taliban, it meant that the end was near, since Pakistan was its main trading partner. The arrival of the US military simply hastened the fall of the Taliban.

Politics is not as complicated or unpredictable as it seems. A simple analysis of the economy would predict the outcome most of the time.

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