Sun | Jun 7, 2020

Russia on a high as World Cup wraps

Published:Sunday | July 15, 2018 | 12:00 AM


Despite a national wave of elation from the World Cup that bathed Russia in a rosy light, President Vladimir Putin will face some challenges in extending the post-football glow at home and abroad.

Well-organised, festive and friendly, the World Cup has shown off a welcoming and modern Russia in sharp contrast to common biases abroad that cast the country as dour, devious and a bit backward.

Putin is likely to try to leverage that Monday when he holds a summit in Finland with US President Donald Trump, and there have been strong signs the American side will be receptive. When US national security adviser John Bolton was in Moscow last month to arrange the summit, he told Putin he looked forward to "learning how you've handled the World Cup so successfully".

Just minutes after the World Cup final ended with France defeating Croatia, Trump tweeted, "Congratulations to President Putin and Russia for putting on a truly great World Cup Tournament one of the best ever!"

That admiration may not extend far enough to affect the larger questions at issue in the summit, including Russia's annexation of Crimea and involvement in a separatist conflict in Ukraine, allegations that Russia flagrantly meddled in the 2016 US presidential election, and Trump's withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement, among other troubles.