Leading U.S. senators call for relocation of 2018 FIFA World Cup from Russia

13 U.S. Senators have written the head of FIFA requesting a special meeting of the International Olympic Committee to vote on relocation of the 2018 FIFA World Cup tournament to a country other than Russia, in view of its invasion and occupation of parts of the Ukraine.


Kevin Baxter, “U.S. senators ask FIFA to move 2018 World Cup out of Russia,” L.A. Times, April 1, 2015 (6:11 p.m.).

Niels Lesniewski, “Senators Want 2018 World Cup Taken Away From Putin,” Roll Call, April 1, 2015.

Beth Ethier, “A Bunch of Senators Just Asked FIFA to Take the World Cup Away From Putin,” April 2, 2015 (6:29 PM).

The text of the letter from the bipartisan group of 13 senators is as follows:

Dear Mr. Blatter:

Given Russia’s ongoing violations of the territorial integrity of Ukraine, we respectfully request that you convene an Extraordinary Congress of FIFA to consider stripping Russia of the privilege of hosting the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Allowing Russia to host the FIFA World Cup inappropriately bolsters the prestige of the Putin regime at a time when it should be condemned and provides economic relief at a time when much of the international community is imposing economic sanctions.

As you know, nearly a full year has passed since unmarked Russian troops and Russian-backed separatists began their dismemberment of Ukraine. Since then, more than 40 countries, all FIFA members, have implemented sanctions on Russia in an effort to end the conflict. It is unacceptable that while nearly half of the 2014 World Cup participants have joined the international sanctions regime to counter Russian aggression, FIFA would not even consider allowing its members to vote on moving the 2018 competition to a country that respects the shared principles of FIFA and international law.

With the goal of ending the crisis in Ukraine and ensuring a successful 2018 World Cup, we strongly encourage FIFA to deny the Putin regime the privilege of hosting the 2018 World Cup and make preparations for an alternate host country.

As we wrote on October 3, 2014,

The World Cup should not be held in a country which has launched a war of aggression against a neighboring state, annexed part of its territory seized through military conquest, and violated the fundamental human rights of the populations subjected to its control (e.g., freedom of expression, right to participate in free elections, right to life, integrity of the person, and not to be arbitrarily detained, right to due process and a fair trial),

–“If Putin invades Mariupol and seizes a land corridor to the Crimea, what will NATO, the U.S. and the EU do?” The Trenchant Observer, October 3, 2014.

There are precedents here. The 1936 Summer Olympic Games were held in Berlin only months after Adolf Hitler’s remilitarization of the Rhineland in March, in violation of key provisions of the Versailles and Locarno treaties. The remilitarization of the Rhineland led to a radical shift in the balance of power in Europe in favor of Germany.

In 1980, the U.S. and many other countries boycotted the Summer Olympics in Moscow, following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.

President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine proposed a boycott of the 2018 games last month. In a recent newspaper interview, hevnoted that while he preferred keeping politics and sports separate, at the moment the top team in Donetsk has to play its home games 700 miles away in Lviv, as Donetsk is under pro-Russian “separatist” occupation. So long as Russian troops remain in the Ukraine, he said, holding the World Cup games in Russia was “unthinkable”.

The Trenchant Observer

About the Author

James Rowles
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by James Rowles (aka "The Observer"), an author and international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. Dr. Rowles is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States OAS), in Wasington, D.C., , where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, Dr. Rowles has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. Dr. Rowles speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.=LL.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, Dr. Rowles has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on some the best articles that have appeared in the blog.