British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has called for Russia to have the right to host the 2018 World Cup revoked in the wake of allegations that Moscow-backed separatists shot down Malaysian Airlines flight MH-17.
In an interview with The Sunday Times, Clegg said it would be “unthinkable” for Putin to benefit from hosting the global football tournament and demanded “tougher sanctions” on Moscow.
He said the Russian president’s actions had “reached a tipping point” and was “beyond the pale in this day and age”. He cautioned that neglecting to “pull the plug on the World Cup” would “make the rest of the world look so weak and so insincere."
“After this terrible, terrible downing of that jet, it is essential that the European Union gets tough on Vladimir Putin,” said Clegg.
“We’ve got to take tougher sanctions, but also we’ve got to make it quite clear that he cannot expect to get the privileges of being at the top table of world affairs if he’s not prepared to play by the basic rules of world affairs. If he carries on with this belligerent behavior . . . it’s unthinkable that he should have the privilege of hosting the World Cup in 2018.”
“You can’t have the beautiful game marred by the ugly aggression of Russia on the Russian-Ukrainian border.”
Clegg said Russia should also lose the privilege to host their first Formula One grand prix in October, a measure the sport’s godfather, Bernie Ecclestone, has excluded.
Clegg said that the targeting of wealthy London-based oligarchs- such as Roman Abramovich, the owner of Chelsea football club, and Alisher Usmanov, who has a large stake in Arsenal –was not out of the question.
Adding, “We’re looking at all options and we’ll do so without fear or favor.”
He said western nations should be willing to take an economic pinch to discipline Putin because “the stability of the European continent” was more significant than “short-term political damage to this economy or that sector."
Clegg added: “We cannot impose sanctions on Vladimir Putin and imagine there’s going to be no economic effect in this country or indeed other European Union member states.
“Let’s remember, Russia needs the rest of the world, and particularly needs the European Union and access to its huge markets, much more than the European Union in the long run needs Putin.
“What is the point of the economic clout that we have assembled in the European Union, as the world’s largest market place, if we don’t use it on occasions like this?” He said: “The World Cup is a huge, huge boost to Russia. It is an enormous advantage to Putin personally.
“The idea that the world should accord Russia that prestige is beyond belief. I don’t know how many people have got to be shot out of the skies before people say enough is enough.”
Clegg said there was a case for England to step in and host the tournament. “We’ve got the stadiums, we’ve got the infrastructure, and we’ve got the public backing and enthusiasm to host it. But that’s a decision for other people.”
Clegg’s stance puts him at odds with Cameron, who has stopped short of calling for the World Cup to be taken from Russia.