Articles by Benjamin Wegg-Prosser on the GC Blog and GC analysis
What connects Jean-Claude Juncker with Netflix? House of Cards? Perhaps, but no. Orange is the new black, certainly not. Mathias Döpfner. Maybe. Back in 2014, at the peak of the horse-trading during the Spitzenkandidaten process, legend has it that this article in Bild (owned by Axel Springer, whose CEO is Herr Döpfner) played a decisive role in encouraging Angela Merkel to back Juncker for the role of President of the European Commission. The reason? Because Herr Döpfner, the most powerful media mogul on continental Europe, had been assured by “Team Juncker” that a new European Commission under his leadership would take the fight to the FAANGs (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google).
The torrential downpour which greeted President Putin as he walked onto the turf at the Luzhniki Stadium as the final whistle brought the 21st World Cup to an end was the only cloud over a tournament graced with many footballing silver linings. His counterpart at FIFA, President Infantino, had declared before the final that the championship was “changing the perception of Russia, particularly in the west.” For observers in the Kremlin totting up the cost of the tournament, judging whether the FIFA President is right is their next task.
The twenty-three men of the England World Cup squad in Russia have done more to restore respect for Britain abroad than any number of ministerial visits, soft power exchanges and cultural tours. The irony of this turnaround taking place in Russia, at a low-point in Anglo-Russia relations, something which the death of a British citizen yesterday linked to the nerve agent attack in Salisbury is only likely to exacerbate, has not been lost on anyone in Moscow, Samara or Kaliningrad (I write having watched England’s last three matches in these cities.)
The election to choose a new Ukrainian president is scheduled for 25 May. Instability in the country’s east means it is not yet certain that the vote will take place at all. The election is a crucial test for post-revolution Kiev, which needs to produce an administration capable of representing all parts of the country, delivering a painful reform agenda and presenting a united front to Moscow. But there are powerful internal and external forces agitating against this.
Later this week Moscow will go to the polls to choose a new mayor in an election for control of a city that is both the centre of the Russian political economy and not quite like anywhere else in Russian politics. The Russian President, Vladimir Putin, appointed the current mayor, Sergei Sobyanin, and he released from jail his chief critic - charismatic lawyer and anti-corruption blogger, Alexey Navalny. The fact that Putin has chosen to stage a showdown between a long-time critic and a long-time Kremlin loyalist may be further evidence of his power to pull all the strings in Russia, but it is also a serious concession to Muscovites’ expectations of a different kind of politics in Russia. It may be a sign of things to come.