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Our purpose is to encourage the knowledge and the debate of issues connected with art and military science. Selection of articles attempts to reflect different opinions. Beyond any ideological ascription. In order to impulse critical thought amongst our readers.

lunes, 1 de junio de 2015

La FIFA contra el resto del mundo.

FIFA Scandal Reflects ‘West vs. Rest’ Divisions in Global Governance.

By Richard Gowan, June 1, 2015, Column 

Sepp Blatter should make a bid to be the next secretary-general of the United Nations: The Swiss septuagenarian has proved he is a master of multilateral diplomacy. Last week, he won a fifth term as president of the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), despite the corruption scandal engulfing the organization. Blatter has exploited political divisions among the West, Russia and the developing world to protect his position. The FIFA affair is a microcosm of wider tensions plaguing international institutions, and it offers some especially hard lessons about the limits of Western appeals to morality and the rule of law in shaping global public opinion.

Former Secretary-General Kofi Annan once joked that the World Cup, FIFA’s flagship event, “makes us in the U.N. green with envy.” The competition is, he noted, “one of the few phenomena as universal as the United Nations.” But the 209 national soccer associations that make up the FIFA Congress seem to be just as sensitive to geopolitics as the diplomats who sit in the Security Council and the General Assembly.

In 2010, FIFA’s executive committee awarded the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 tournament to Qatar. Other bidders had included England, Spain and Portugal. FIFA’s choice was widely interpreted as evidence that non-Western powers were gaining leverage over the world of soccer. Since U.S. prosecutors indicted 14 FIFA officials for corruption last week, Blatter has suggested that Washington and its European allies are out for revenge. He now often sounds like a conspiracy theorist. But he has an advantage: Many non-Western observers agree with his version of events.

American and European sporting grandees and politicians frame the situation in moral terms. British Prime Minister David Cameron argued that Blatter should quit and allow someone else to sort out “the ugly side of the beautiful game.” The FIFA president’s allies, by contrast, see this as a matter of power politics. Russian President Vladimir Putin dismissed the American indictments as “another clear attempt by the USA to spread its jurisdiction to other states.” African soccer officials, who are grateful to Blatter for investing heavily in their continent, warned that European countries were using the affair as a pretext for a power grab at FIFA.

International officials are sadly familiar with this pattern of argument and counter-argument. Putin may have been motivated to defend Blatter out of fear that Russia could lose the 2018 World Cup. But this also fits in with his far broader critique of Western powers’ post-Cold War efforts to impose their rules on sovereign states. As Kadri Liik notes, Putin believes that the West has specifically targeted regimes and leaders favorable to Moscow, like former President Viktor Yanukovych in Ukraine. On this logic, the American investigation of FIFA is part of a bigger anti-Russian plot.

For many other non-Western observers, it is simply the latest example of the U.S. and its European allies trying to keep their grip on international institutions despite shifts in the global balance of power. The Blatter affair comes at a moment when Washington and its friends are becoming increasingly blunt in defense of their right to set the rules of the multilateral game. Washington has been spooked by China’s decision to launch the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), a possible first step to challenging American-led bodies like the World Bank. Arguing for a Pacific trade pact with Congress, U.S. President Barack Obama declared that “we have to make sure the United States—and not countries like China—is the one writing this century’s rules for the world’s economy.”

Now it looks like the U.S. wants to write the rules of global soccer. But the FIFA Congress, which re-elected Blatter by 132 votes to 71, is one multilateral forum Washington does not dominate. Every member has a single, equally valuable vote. Non-Western countries have long used such forums as platforms to bash the West.

Some other one-member, one-vote international forums, like the UNESCO General Conference, have become instinctively anti-Western. Vastly fewer people care about UNESCO’s decisions than FIFA’s, but Washington cut off U.S. funding to the body after it admitted Palestine as a full member in 2011. The Obama administration has actually done its best to work through U.N. forums where it is at a disadvantage, like the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council. Despite these gestures, non-Western officials are not going to surrender their privileges in the forums that they dominate. Western powers are hardly, after all, rushing to trade away their leverage over the Security Council or the International Monetary Fund in return for better ties.

From a non-Western perspective, the U.S. charges against FIFA officials look like an attempt to short-circuit the organization’s government. If Washington and Europe cannot depose Blatter through formal governance procedures, why not force him out by creating a timely scandal? And if FIFA’s president could be ousted through a well-crafted scandal, why couldn’t the U.S. and its allies remove other senior international officials through similar methods? This is not a totally idle question. American critics of the U.N. nearly drove Annan into a dishonorable early retirement in 2005 by hammering the then-secretary-general over corruption charges.

We are getting back into conspiracy theory territory. It is probably safest to assume that U.S. prosecutors are pursuing FIFA officials on corruption charges because they happen to think the individuals involved are corrupt. Believe it or not, the U.S. is unlikely to invest serious political capital in fomenting a leadership coup for a sport that, despite the long-standing international dominance of its women’s team, is still not exactly its national game. But there is a lesson from last week’s shenanigans. U.S. prosecutors and European politicians may think that fighting corruption in international institutions is a high-minded pursuit. But their non-Western counterparts have deep-seated political reasons to ignore their legal arguments and moralizing. Blatter may or may not have benefited directly or indirectly from corrupt practices over the years. But he has certainly benefited from the mistrust and posturing that surrounds multilateral rules and institutions today.

Richard Gowan is research director at New York University’s Center on International Cooperation and a senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations. His weekly column for World Politics Review, Diplomatic Fallout, appears every Monday.

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