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SBD Global/May 1, 2014/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Russia's Elite Using KHL As Means To Circumvent Sanctions, Increase Influence

Russian President Vladimir Putin using KHL to get around sanctions over Ukraine.
As the U.S. and Europe "widen sanctions on Russians and companies they control for failing to defuse a crisis in Ukraine," the Kontinental Hockey League may allow President Vladimir Putin "to expand his influence abroad," according to Winfrey & Ponikelska of BLOOMBERG. Michael Romancov, a political scientist at Charles University in Prague, said that in the aftermath of its annexation of Crimea, the KHL "may be a way for Russia and its political and financial elite to increase their wealth and influence through 'soft power,'" said Michael Romancov, a political scientist at Charles University in Prague. He said, "This is one of the most successful Russian attempts of spreading their soft power beyond their borders. So far, economic and sport relations between the EU and Russia are exempt from any sanctions, but the future will depend on how the situation in Ukraine unfolds." Agnia Grigas said in a Chatham House paper published in '12 that sports is a "form of popular culture that reinforces Russia’s soft power." Grigas characterized Russia’s use of soft power as "the creation of loyal interest groups that involves co-opting decisions makers through financing and valuable connections and contracts." Grigas said, "Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League, which since 2008 has united teams from the former USSR, is one such mechanism." Arkady Moshes, head of the EU’s Eastern Neighborhood and Russia research program at the Finnish Institute of Int'l Affairs, questioned "whether Russia’s hockey diplomacy has improved its standing in countries still simmering with resentment over Kremlin-backed Communist rule." Moshes: "I believe that the KHL is not an effective instrument of soft power. I do not think that it helps Russia to make others want what it wants without resorting to coercion or money, which is the classical definition of soft power" (BLOOMBERG, 4/30).
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