At the end of each year, the Global Counsel team has a tradition of sharing among ourselves a selection of our favourite articles (or podcasts) from the past year. Last year, we decided to risk sharing the tradition. The response was positive enough to encourage us to do so again.
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.)