A view of the 45,000-seat Samara Arena in Samara, Russia, Wednesday, March 21, 2018. FIFA says a World Cup stadium in the Russian city of Samara requires "a huge amount of work" to be ready on time. (AP Photo/Oleksandr Stashevskyi) Image Credit: AP

It’s a strange state of affairs. United States President Donald Trump, who has turned his former TV show The Apprentice into a governing method in the White House, and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who lets himself be photographed hunting bare-chested, showing off his muscles, who eliminates critical media, and who constantly saber-rattles on the international stage.

Russia’s presidential election clearly shows that the Putin era is not over yet. And his goal remains the same: Make Russia great again. The measures deemed appropriate to achieve this goal include, among others, the destabilisation of western democracies (for instance by bombing in Syria, which has led to making every other Syrian a refugee), the annexation of Crimea, threatening Ukraine, huge military manoeuvres on the eastern borders of Nato, new nuclear missiles, etc. Oh, and I almost forgot: The use of a nerve agent to poison a former double agent and his daughter in Britain earlier this month.

This nerve agent was developed in Russia, according to the British, and has now been used for the first time since the end of the Second World War. This was not just an attack against a double agent, but an attack against Nato. The unscrupulous use of poison can also affect entire armies.

Russia’s destabilisation strategy includes Germany as well. For one thing, Germany is becoming increasingly dependent on Russian natural gas. If Germany wants to make the transition to renewable energy, it needs natural gas. And this is what Russia provides via Gazprom, which is chaired by none other than Gerhard Schroeder, former German chancellor.

There’s also constant Russian interference in the German internet, as evidenced by the blatant disinformation campaign launched two years ago, following false claims that a 13-year-old girl was raped by a migrant. As it turned out, there are groups of hackers somewhere in St Petersburg who, acting as trolls, spread such rumours on the internet to fuel xenophobia and promote right-wing ideas.

And let’s not forget that of all the countries in Europe, Germany is impacted most by the wave of Syrian refugees that Russia’s bombing of Syria (in support of President Bashar Al Assad) has done so much to provoke. Just a coincidence? Putin leaves nothing to chance.

It’s time for the West to take a stand, to adopt a stronger defence line and tougher sanctions, because the sanctions imposed so far haven’t slowed Russia down or weakened its economy. The travel bans imposed on certain people and companies have had little effect.

It’s time the West prepared itself for a new Cold War with Russia instead of hoping that everything will be all right, because for Putin, this dillydallying is a sign of weakness. Europe must modernise its armed forces and find a common security policy to deter Russia from further ventures. It will take years before this is implemented, but a rotten Bundeswehr (unified armed forces) is certainly no deterrent.

There is, however, one signal that can and should be sent right now: A boycott of this summer’s Fifa World Cup in Russia (June 14-July 15). Europe’s national teams should forgo the event. They should stay home, and that is something that can actually be imposed on European football associations, with or without their approval.

— Worldcrunch, 2018, in partnership with Die Welt/New York Times News Service

Ralf-Dieter Brunowsky founded BrunoMedia GmbH in February 2002 and serves as its managing director.