I suppose this is better than visa restrictions.
U.S. officials have embraced sanctions and visa restrictions to punish Russia over the crisis in Ukraine. Now, two U.S. senators want to hurt Russian President Vladimir Putin where it could really sting: on the soccer pitch.
Sens. Mark Kirk (R., Ill.) and Dan Coats (R., Ind.) on Friday wrote to the head of soccer’s international governing body requesting that Russia’s membership be suspended and the country not be allowed to participate in the upcoming World Cup in Brazil later this year.
Citing FIFA statutes that bar discrimination against any country based on politics or ethnic origin, the two lawmakers asked FIFA President Joseph “Sepp” Blatter to also strip Russia’s right to host the 2018 World Cup. They cited FIFA’s decision to prevent then-Yugoslavia from participating in the 1992 European Championship and 1994 World Cup as a precedent.
“Since Russia has similarly displayed a brazen disrespect for fundamental principles of FIFA and international law, I hope you will agree that it doesn’t deserve the honor of either hosting the World Cup or participating in one,” the senators wrote.
FIFA didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. The U.S. is currently ranked 13th in the world in FIFA’s world rankings, while Russia is 22nd. The World Cup, which kicks off in Sao Paulo in June, has the potential to pit the U.S. and Russia in an on-field clash if both teams make it out of the tournament’s group stage. They could then meet in the World Cup round-of-16 matches.
I suspect that FIFA will do nothing unless Ukraine becomes a shooting war. Then, I believe they would give a proposal to ban Russia from Brazil serious consideration. As the Journal points out, there is precedent for such an action. Although claiming to be a global organization, FIFA is actually run by the Europeans, who are desperately casting about for a way to sanction Russia without causing themselves any pain. Keeping the Russian national team home this summer is about as far as they would go to punish Putin for his actions in Ukraine.