The big surprise that rejoiced the vast majority of Russians last Friday was the decision by the International Federation of Football Associations (FIFA) to hold the 2018 World Cup tournament in Russia.
There is, however, a particular twist to this triumph in what Putin described as a “tough and fair fight,” and it concerns his current assessment of European discord and faltering integration. One political consequence of the FIFA decision, driven probably by the best football intentions, is that Putin is now even more motivated to reclaim supreme power, so that his new presidential term will stretch from the Sochi Olympic Games to the World Cup in 2018. He expressed indignation over the “cynical” views of US diplomats who compared the Russian duumvirate to Batman and Robin. The comparison is indeed rather off-target: Medvedev could hardly qualify as a useful and ambitious side-kick, but Putin resembles not the crime-fighting superhero but rather his antagonist –the Joker. Such characters could not tolerate power-sharing and despise their accomplices motivated by greed, but their ideas of having mega-fun are seriously dangerous.