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Post Helen Pitlick on the Russia-Saudi Arabia Match
Created by John Eipper on 06/15/18 4:28 AM

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Helen Pitlick on the Russia-Saudi Arabia Match (John Eipper, USA, 06/15/18 4:28 am)

Helen Pitlick writes:

An anecdote on the World Cup and how it relates to current events and politics.

I was watching Russia vs. Saudi Arabia in the break room at my office (while working on some projects that didn't require my full attention) with a few other people, including a gentleman from Russia.

The TV would periodically show Putin sitting and chatting with Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman. During one such interlude, this Russian colleague joked to his friend, "they're deciding the outcome of the game." I actually spilled my coffee laughing so hard.

It was a great (and needed) reminder to me as an American in 2018 that Russia the government and Russia the people aren't always one and the same. When I studied in Russia in 2005, my host mom would pretend to spit whenever Putin would come on TV; the Russians I know are realistic about their politics and politicians, not right-wing bots like Americans now think they all are.

I wish Americans could be more realistic about our politicians.

JE comments:  Putin must have made the Crown Prince an offer he couldn't refuse:  Russia trounced the Saudis, 5-nil.

Great to hear from Helen Pitlick.  Helen, do you have a favorite for this year's World Cup?  Based on nothing other than my present whereabouts, I'll be pulling for Colombia, despite their placement in the same bracket with Poland.  (There's no home team for us Americans this year.)

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  • Putin and FIFA's Gianni Infantino (Paul Pitlick, USA 06/16/18 5:46 AM)

    As a follow-up to Helen Pitlick's post of June 15th, I happened to read an article in The New Yorker this morning:


    The author also described a TV shot of the luxury box where the FIFA president, Gianni Infantino sat between Mr. Putin and Mohammed bin Salman. The article then quoted Adam Serwer, an editor at The Atlantic, who had joked on Twitter that it wasn't just a game:  "The winner gets to run US foreign policy."

    JE comments:  For the Three Soccer Amigos at the Russia-KSA match, see below.  The author masterfully describes them thus:  "All three [are] comfortable rulers of morally questionable but nevertheless ascendant regimes."

    After Russia's 5-nil humiliation of the Saudis, it looks like Putin will get to call the shots in Washington.  One thing's for sure:  Infantino never had a chance.  Soccer is not a real sport in the US, it's what kids play.

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    • Putin-MbS Soccer Summit: Putin's English? (Paul Pitlick, USA 06/17/18 5:49 AM)
      John E wrote on June 16th: "It would have been fascinating to be the proverbial fly buzzing over the Putin-Mohammed bin Salman Soccer Summit. Where were their interpreters, I wonder?"

      When I saw the photo John posted, that was also my first thought. But then, probably they just spoke English...

      PS: Another WAIS post recently alluded to a Nobel Prize for Kim and/or Trump. Somehow, it seems that a single decent move by either man doesn't make up for a long history of past bad behavior. However, I can see where South Korean President Moon Jae In might be considered.

      JE comments:  I never knew that Putin speaks English (German yes), but Googled sources say he does.  Who can give us a knowledgeable appraisal of Putin's English?

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  • Putin, MBS, and Jeish al-Islam (from Gary Moore) (John Eipper, USA 06/16/18 7:33 AM)

    Gary Moore writes:

    I've archived Helen Pitlick's (June 15) useful reminder on demonization and geopolitics:

    "Russia the government and Russia the people aren't always one and the same....the Russians I know are...not right-wing bots like Americans now think they all are."

    Helen mentioned the World Cup match between Russia and Saudi Arabia, in whose audience Prince
    and Putin sat amicably chatting. An irony in this is that Saudi Arabia has been the principal backer
    of the Jeish al-Islam rebel group in Syria, defeated in its city-fortress on April 8, largely by Russian
    bombardment (in the maze of the poison gas controversy of April 7).

    Al-Jeish, with Saudi roots, is a
    Salafist/utopianist movement less internationally aggressive than ISIS, though any "moderate" label
    shipwrecks on the group's secretiveness. Salafism demands a return to the days of the holy and pure,
    more than a millennium gone (though now, seeing Prince Salman's Saudi reforms, would they add
    drivers' licenses for women?).
    Al-Jeish was another product of the Arab Spring euphoria of 2011, when the distant Saudis backed
    this Syrian horse (as opposed to more frankly horrific Syrian rebel factions) in a push to take the Syrian
    capital by 2013 and get the whole thing over with--whereupon Al-Jeish, presumably, would have
    safeguarded Syria's Sunni majority from its Alawite/Shia minority that runs the Assad government.
    "It'll all be over by Christmas," as they said in the Guns of August.

    When Jeish's early offensive stalled,
    they withdrew to their fortress city, Douma, only six miles from Damascus, and settled into a highly
    mysterious bunker mentality, a city of 200,000, including perhaps 10,000 rebels, largely cut off from
    the outside world.
    The Saudis were then said to cool on Al-Jeish. What their exact role was, or wasn't, at the grisly end this
    year is another unknown. As of April 8, the now-defeated Al Jeish was bussed en masse to refugee camps
    run by Turkey, an enemy of Assad in Syria--and of Russia, and, intermittently, of the United States, while
    Iran and Russia cement a Persian bridge to Lebanon and the Mediterranean. Sounds as confused
    as the Balkan Wars of 1912.
    So that faint thunder. Is it the cheering football crowd? Must be. It's not August.

    JE comments:  Wikipedia transliterates the group as Jaysh al-Islam (Army of Islam).  It would have been fascinating to be the proverbial fly buzzing over the Putin-MbS Soccer Summit.  Where were their interpreters, I wonder?

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