July 01, 2008

A Metaphorical Net Game

As we report elsewhere in this issue, Russia this spring won a series of notable victories on the international stage. Maria Sharapova (see front cover) won the Australian Open, Russia won the UEFA Cup in soccer, and the Russian squad took the World Hockey Championships in Montreal. The women’s tennis Fed Cup team also advanced to the finals of that tourney, upstart Dinara Safina came in second in the French Open of tennis, and Bilan won the Eurovision song contest. 

The first thing to note is that all but one of these victories took place in sport. Russia has truly regained its prowess as a sports superpower, and it may rise further yet. It will surely be giving the U.S. a run for its money in the overall medals race at the Beijing Olympics in August (page 28). This is quite impressive when you consider that Russia has less than half the population of the U.S. and one-tenth that of China (which will likely place third in overall medals).

Second, this rise in sports achievement takes place against the backdrop of a Russia that, without putting too fine a point on it, has bumbled from failure to failure in foreign policy in recent months, from Georgia to the Baltics, to Iran, England, Ukraine, Poland and the U.S. (And don’t mention the Hague.) Or at least that is how their moves have been generally perceived by the majority of Western states.

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