Invasion Leads to Global Repudiation of Russia with Cold War Echoes


LONDON — In Switzerland, the Lucerne music festival has canceled two symphony concerts featuring a Russian maestro. In Australia, the national swimming team said it would boycott a world championship meet in Russia. At the Magic Mountain ski area in Vermont, a bartender poured bottles of Stolichnaya vodka down the drain.

From culture to commerce, sports to travel, the world is fleeing Russia in myriad ways to protest President Vladimir V. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Not since the frigid days of the Cold War have so many doors closed on Russia and its people — a global repudiation driven as much by the impulse to show solidarity with beleaguered Ukrainians as by the hope that it will force M Putin to withdraw his troops.

Boycotts and cancellations are piling up alongside sanctions imposed by the United States, Europe and other powers. While these grassroots moves do less damage to the Russian economy than sweeping restrictions on Russian banks or mothballing a gas pipeline, they deliver a mighty symbolic punch, leaving millions of ordinary Russians isolated. in an interconnected world.

Among the most visible targets of this opprobrium are cultural icons like Valery Gergiev, the conductor and long-time supporter of Mr. Putin. He’s been dumped by Lucerne, Carnegie Hall, La Scala in Milan, and faces imminent dismissal from the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra, of which he is conductor, unless he disavows the invasion of Ukraine.

Russia has been banned from this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, which it last won in 2008, with Dima Bilan performing his power ballad, ‘Believe’. The Formula 1 Grand Prix of Russia, scheduled for September in Sochi, has been canceled. St. Petersburg lost the Champions League football final, which was transferred to Paris.

Russia’s World Cup hopes were dashed on Monday after a dozen countries joined Poland in refusing to play its national soccer team in the qualifying rounds. Under intense pressure, football’s two main governing bodies, FIFA and UEFA, decided that Russia was ineligible to play in their tournaments. In Germany, football club Schalke broke a sponsorship deal with Russian oil giant Gazprom. The National Hockey League has also suspended trade relations with Russia.

Also on Monday, Greece announced that it would suspend all collaboration with Russian cultural organizations. A former French ballet star, Laurent Hilaire, has resigned as director of the Stanislavksi theater company in Moscow, saying “the context no longer allows me to work calmly”.

“The cancellation of all of these cultural exchanges and sporting events will be felt by the Russian people,” said Angela E. Stent, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and author of the book “Putin’s World.” “Unfortunately, at the level of the Kremlin, this will be seen as just another example of the West trying to put us in a corner.”

“It will be part of the narrative of victimization, which we have heard from Putin time and time again over the past few weeks,” Ms Stent said. “Boycotts affect the people involved in these events, but we are talking about Putin and the few people around him. I’m not sure that’s going to make him change his mind.

The last time the country’s leaders provoked such a global reaction was in 1980, when the United States, West Germany, Japan and Canada boycotted the Moscow Olympics in protest against the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union. The Soviets retaliated by skipping the 1984 Games in Los Angeles.

It was in the depths of the Cold War, when Hollywood released jingoistic films like ‘Red Dawn’, about a fictional Soviet invasion of Colorado, and more than 100 million Americans watched ‘The Day After’, a TV movie on a calamitous nuclear disaster. exchange between the United States and the Soviet Union.

The boycott of the Olympics had a major impact on popular sentiment, Russian experts say, because then-Soviet leader Leonid I. Brezhnev portrayed them as a sham of Soviet power and influence, just like Mr. Putin framed the invasion of Ukraine in terms of regaining Russian greatness.

“The Soviet government had to explain why the United States and other countries weren’t there,” said Michael A. McFaul, former US ambassador to Russia. “It started to affect how Soviet citizens perceived themselves in the world.”

Although Russian villains remained a Hollywood staple, the country’s black hat image faded after the collapse of the communist regime. Young Russians grew up in a relatively open, albeit restless, society. Those with money had access to overseas education and European vacations, where hosts catered to spendthrift Russians.

In Jerusalem, Russian-speaking Israelis flocked to the popular Putin Pub, whose name seemed like a lark — no more problematic than the bar’s late-night Russian karaoke. On Thursday, the Russian-born owners removed the gold letters “PUTIN” from its facade and announced they were looking for a new name.

“It was our initiative,” said Yulia Kaplan, one of the three owners, who moved to Israel from St. Petersburg in 1991. “Because we are against war.”

Israel, in its own way, serves as an example of the limits of such boycotts. For years, critics of his occupation of the West Bank have tried to pressure the government through the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement. Although he had successes, he antagonized people on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian divide and failed to pressure successive Israeli leaders to change their policy toward the Palestinians.

“Such boycotts will certainly not change Putin’s mind,” said Martin S. Indyk, former US ambassador to Israel. “But it will lift the spirits of Ukrainians to know that people around the world are on their side. And that will put the oligarchs on the spot in a way that I suspect financial sanctions will not.

Yet the backlash will also hit ordinary Russians hard. Already they cannot fly to London and large swaths of the European Union due to the Russian flight ban. Canada closed its airspace to Russian planes on Sunday and announced it was investigating the Russian carrier, Aeroflot, for violating restrictions.

“Middle-class Russians have been vacationing in Turkey for a decade,” McFaul said. “Now they will have to ask themselves: will their credit card work? Will their money be worth anything?

In capitals from Madrid to London, tens of thousands marched in solidarity with Ukrainians and against the Russian invasion. In Ottawa, the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill, the backdrop for three weeks of trucker protests in the Canadian capital, lit up in the colors of the Ukrainian flag.

In Rio de Janeiro, where the invasion coincided with the start of the annual Carnival festival, people wore costumes and carried signs related to the conflict. “Drop acid, not bombs,” read a sign in English.

“The totality – the sanctions, the football fans cheering for the Ukrainians, the crowds marching in Berlin and Prague – I think is important because Russians feel isolated,” McFaul said.

This is likely to deepen some Russians’ opposition to the invasion, he said, especially among urban and educated elites. These people have access to the Internet and are aware of the contemptuous reaction to Mr. Putin’s attack. But among those living in more provincial areas, where the media is tightly controlled by the government, the backlash against Russia could breed more resentment.

Some cultural institutions have tailored their actions against people known for their close ties to Mr. Putin. The Metropolitan Opera, for example, said it would no longer work “with artists or institutions that support Putin or are supported by him,” Met chief executive Peter Gelb said in a video statement.

This provoked a show of defiance from some Russian artists. Star soprano Anna Netrebko, who is due to perform at the Met in Puccini’s ‘Turandot’ in April, has tried to distance herself from the Russian invasion. But she also posted on her Instagram account, “forcing artists, or any public figure, to express their political views in public and denounce their homeland is not fair.”

Not all cultural exchanges have been severed. A successful exhibition of French and Russian paintings at the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris remains open.

The exhibition – featuring 200 works collected by two 20th-century Russian textile magnates – grew out of high-level discussions between French President Emmanuel Macron, Mr Putin and LVMH chief executive Bernard Arnault. The two leaders signed contributions to the exhibition catalog and Mr. Putin signed loans for the paintings.

For many, however, the idea of ​​supporting Russia is simply intolerable. Pennsylvania, Utah, Ohio, New Hampshire and other states, as well as Canada, have pulled Russian-branded vodka from liquor store shelves.

In some cases, the gesture is out of place: Stolichnaya, although historically a Russian brand, is made in Riga, Latvia. In Brazil, a bar in São Paulo has renamed its Moscow Mule – a drink concocted in the United States and made with vodka, ginger beer and lime – as UN Mule.

“We are not too happy with what Moscow has done, with what Russia has done,” said bar co-owner Maurício Meirelles, a well-known comedian and TV host in Brazil. “And then we thought about changing the name,” he added. “The UN Mule: the drink that doesn’t attack anyone.

The report was provided by Jack Nicas in Rio de Janeiro, André Spigariol in Brasilia, Aurelien Breeden in Paris, Raphael Minder in Madrid, Elisabetta Povoledo in Rome, Carlotta Gall in Istanbul, Niki Kitsantonis in Athens, Vjosa Isai in Ottawa, Livia Albeck-Ripka in California, and Isabelle Kershner in Jerusalem.


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