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Art, football, video games… When the intoxication of sanctions against Russia meets cancel culture


Treat the culprit as a pariah, banish him from the international community, isolate him, asphyxiate him and make Russian public opinion turn around. This is the meaning that Western countries give to the economic sanctions inflicted on Russia, which Vladimir Putin has just dragged into a war – odious and unjustifiable, let it be said. The logic ? As old as the war: it is a question of replacing military pressure with economic pressure, from states which, for different reasons, cannot or do not want to send troops directly to Ukraine. It is therefore easy to understand the consistency of the sanctions consisting, for example, in paralyzing the assets of the Russian Central Bank or excluding certain Russian banks from the Swift system, an essential channel for international financial transactions.

demonstration of virtue

Except that it is a question there of borrowing a ridge line oh so delicate. Bruno Le Maire knows it now, for having tripped badly… “ We will wage an all-out economic and financial war on Russia “, he declared this Tuesday on franceinfo, affirming that the objective was to ” cause the collapse of the Russian economy “. A few hours later, he backpedaled: The term “war” used this morning was inappropriate and does not correspond to our de-escalation strategy “, rightly adding: ” We are not in conflict with the Russian people. This tactical blunder allowed the Vice-President of the Russian Security Council, Dmitry Medvedev, to play the right role against the West: “ Pay attention to your speech, gentlemen! »

This exchange is not anecdotal and testifies to the risk for Westerners, although inhabited by good intentions, of activating the sanction too much. The one whose logic we look less at than the intoxication it provides: feeling on the side of the attacked Ukrainians. Of course, again, the invasion of Ukraine is unjustified. But should we give in to the drunkenness of sanctions to the point of taking decisions that are not very justifiable? The question is not easy but it should be asked. Calmly. Without ulterior motives. Thus, on February 24 on CNN, the Democratic representative of California, Eric Swalwell, evoked the idea to expel all Russian students from the United States “. Is this a measure capable of bringing peace or, on the contrary, a decision which could prove to be totally counterproductive by accrediting the thesis dear to Putin of Western Russophobia? A brief overview of sanctions where the desire to demonstrate virtue (at little cost) and the logic of erasing the “cancel culture” meet the principle of diplomatic sanctions.

Olympics: the zeal of the IOC

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has recommended the banning of Russians and Belarusians from all international sports competitions. This resulted in a salvo of measures directly targeting Russian athletes. The International Ice Hockey Federation has suspended the two selections from the next World Cup. Russian basketball clubs in Euroleague are temporarily excluded until further notice. In the United Kingdom, Norway and Sweden, all Russian athletes have been declared persona non grata. Banning a nation’s athletes from all competitions by applying the reasoning “a nation’s athlete = accomplice of its government” amounts to turning Russian athletes into mere docile automatons, tools of soft-power liabilities, of Vladimir Putin, as if things hadn’t changed since the days of the USSR.

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Why – and the argument also applies to football – not imagine for a moment that these athletes could use the window of major competitions to oppose Putin? As with all authoritarian regimes, we know that it is these small blows, coming from within, of admired sports or cultural idols, which have the most effect on the opinion of a population. This is precisely what this new generation of Russian sportsmen, including tennis player Andrey Rublev, did by writing in marker on a camera: No War Please after qualifying for the Dubai Open final on Saturday February 26, using the “strike force” of television and social networks. What also did the footballer Fedor Smolov, the tenniswoman Anna Kalinskaya or the hockey player Aleksandr Ovetchkine. Lukaz Aubin, doctor in geopolitics and author of Vladimir Putin: a geopolitics of Russian sport (Bréal, 2021), remarks elsewhere in the columns of the newspaper West France than ” until now the voices raised against power in Russia were very rare from a sporting point of view because the athletes did not want to harm their careers. (…) There are signals in Russia that show it could snowball. »

FIFA: morality with very variable geometry

UEFA has announced that it is breaking its contract estimated at 40 million euros a year with the Russian juggernaut Gazprom, one of its main sponsors since 2012. When we know Russia’s use of gas diplomacy, and the intense lobbying by Gazprom to make certain countries dependent on the latter, which we know can serve as a soft-power has a hard power which kills civilians, so we applaud the measure.

We are talking here, however, of a sanction against a company, directly positioned on Putin’s chessboard. Should Russia also be banned from the next World Cup in Qatar? The selection was indeed to play the qualifying play-offs soon. Excluding the Russian national team raises questions: to what degree are the Russian football team and its supporters accountable for Putin’s headlong rush? Likewise, the possibility that Russian civil society could voice its disagreement with Putin on the occasion of this event is nipped in the bud. Especially since the football authorities are much less careful with Qatar itself where, among other things, 6,500 migrant workers are said to have died on the stadium sites, according to a recent investigation by the Guardian. What about for example North Korea authorized to play the 2014 World Cup?

Spartak Moscow: the ideal outcast

As a Russian club, Spartak Moscow was excluded from UEFA competitions, and therefore from the Europa League, the second European club cup after the Champions League. Spartak Moscow has belonged since 2003 to billionaire Leonid Fedoun, close to Vladimir Putin, we will answer rightly. But if by chance we think that attacking the oligarchs will stop Putin, why not just target him directly, by freezing his assets in Europe for example?

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Let us add that this practice condemns to inconsistency: what to do with the clubs of Monaco and Chelsea, owned by Russian oligarchs? What about Turkish clubs? From Basaksehir, Erdogan’s club, responsible for the war in Armenia and against the Kurds? Qarabag, who has just been eliminated by Marseille, is he accountable for the war in Armenia? The mechanics are endless.

Culture summoned to derussify itself

At the crossroads of football and culture: video games. This Wednesday, March 2, EA Sports, publisher of the game FIFA 22, announced the withdrawal of the game from the national teams of Russia and Belarus, as well as from all the clubs of these countries. The same for NHL 2022, the game of Hockey, a sport in which Russia occupies a major place. ” EA sports stands in solidarity with the people of Ukraine and, like so many voices across the world of football, calls for peace and an end to the invasion of Ukraine. We would almost pinch ourselves to believe it as the measure seems ridiculous: Ukraine is bombed? We can no longer tolerate the possibility of fielding a virtual Russian team… in a virtual competition.

Disney announced to suspend the release of its films in Russia, including its next film with Pixar, “ given the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and the tragic humanitarian crisis “says the world’s leading entertainment company. Sony Pictures, a subsidiary of the Japanese group Sony, has also announced that it is suspending the screening of its films in Russian theaters, including “Morbius”, its new blockbuster in the universe of superheroes. It is difficult to understand the logic of such a decision. Unless it’s first and foremost about pure communication operations for these big companies that don’t care about fragile geopolitical balances?

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Even more worrying: a wave of cancellations of classical music concerts is affecting Europe. In question ? The Russian origin of the composers whose works were to be performed. In Slovakia, the National Orchestra has removed from its program a piece of the cantata Alexander Nevsky by Prokofiev. In Croatia, the Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra has canceled the performance of two works by Tchaikovsky. How can we remember that a people and its history cannot be summed up by the actions of its head of state in office? How are Prokofiev and Tchaikovsky, who died in the last century, responsible for Putin’s invasion of Russia?

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