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Sports As Diplomacy: Gulf Countries See Big Time Sports As Ticket To Global Influence

Offering instant citizenship and huge salaries to star athletes, maneuvering for major sporting events are a way for small Gulf nations to aim big on world stage.

Qatar's Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani
Qatar's Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani
Mustapha Kessous

QATAR - Pride is visible in the windows at the Souk Al Waqif. The shop fronts in this touristy area are covered with posters of the Emir of Qatar and his son raising the World Cup in triumph. Plaster replicas of the golden sculpture can be bought at the souvenir stand for a cool $27.

This desert kingdom will host the 2022 Soccer World Cup. The decision by the International Football Federation (FIFA) to grant Qatar the world's most watched sporting event came as the crowning of a policy of "sports diplomacy" initiated nearly two decades ago.

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Geopolitics

Our 'Emotional' Divide: How The Ukraine War Reveals A World Broken In Two

Russia's invasion has created a stark global divide: them and us. On one side are the countries refusing to condemn Moscow, with the West on the other. It's a dangerous split that could have repercussions far into the future.

Protesters against the war in Ukraine demonstrate in front of the Russian embassy in London

Dominique Moïsi

-Analysis-

PARIS — "The West and the Rest of Us." That's the title of a 1975 essay written by Nigerian essayist and critic Chinweizu Ibekwe. I've been thinking about his words as the war in Ukraine both reveals and accelerates divisions of the world that I believe are ultimately "emotional" in nature.

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With war returning to Europe and the risk of escalation, there is a gap between the Western view and that of the "others," a distinct "us and them." This gap cannot be explained in strictly geographical, political, and economic terms.

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Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

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