(Moscow Times) (Co-authored with C. Walker) President Vladimir Putin's impassioned defense of FIFA and its once-defiant leader is a reminder of the strong link between autocrats and high-level international sports. Since the FIFA story broke, the Kremlin has sought to portray this episode as an example of U.S. overreach. Putin has invoked the principles of "sovereignty" and "non-interference" in the face of the initiative to arrest and extradite corrupt FIFA officials, arguing that such moves are "another blatant attempt by the United States to extend its jurisdiction to other states."
But a far more persuasive explanation for Putin's vocal defense of the indefensible FIFA is that the Russian regime — and other autocratic ones like it — have come to rely heavily on lucrative international sporting events as important engines for "grand patronage." […]
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