“Soft power is a form of political power, the ability to achieve desired results on the basis of voluntary participation, sympathy and appeal, as opposed to “hard power”, which implies coercion,” is the definition provided by Wikipedia.
The word was first introduced into international usage in the 1990s by American politician and researcher Joseph Nye.
In modern macro-politics, the effective use of “soft power” is one of the criteria of diplomatic success.
On October 31st, the meeting of the Russian Public Council for International Cooperation and Public Diplomacy of the Open Society Foundations was dedicated to the ways of developing this resource in Russia’s foreign policy.
“The post-Soviet territory should become a priority region for the use of soft power instruments,” said the head of the Council, member of the Public Chamber Sergei Ordzhonikidze.
In his speech he emphasized the need to preserve the common language and information space, the consolidation of compatriots and the development of “exports” of Russian education (note: an analytical paper on the practice of “soft power” in Russian politics was prepared especially for the meeting at the OP).
“It is necessary to make our ministries and departments understand that funds invested in soft power are not wasted, they are investments in the future of the country”, – said Ordzhonikidze. In his opinion, now is the “right time to focus on creating a positive image of Russia abroad.
According to Rossotrudnichestvo chief Konstantin Kosachev, Russia does not yet have a full-fledged “soft power” concept.
Kosachev noted that the difference between “hard power” and “soft power” is that in the first case, it is the subjugation of territory, and in the second – the possession of the minds of people who dispose of the corresponding territories.
“He said: “During the Cold War, the Soviet Union and the United States had relative, if not absolute, parity in hard power and soft power. – Today, Russia is definitely not in the lead in terms of soft power. Kosachev referred to the data of various ratings, according to which Russia ranks 28th or, at best, 10th in this regard.
“Today Europe is not only engaged in the development, but also in the practical application of the theory of “soft power” no less actively than the Americans,” said the head of Rossotrudnichestvo. – About five years ago the Chinese joined this work. He asserts that “the concept of “soft power” in its present form does not yet exist in Russia.
“There are many versions of what could be the factors specific to Russia that could become attractive to foreign observers,” he said. – “The range of opinions is enormous, from references to great Russian culture to pristine ecology and the mysterious Russian soul.
“It would be wrong for Russia to try to catch up with its rivals who have gone ahead, be it the Americans with their ‘American dream’ or the Europeans with their model of democracy and prosperity,” Kosachev said. In this regard, he proposed a concept of “soft power” for Russia, which would be based on three key points.
“It is a model of equal cooperation, where we are ready to work with partners without imposing preconditions, it is security, where we consistently advocate the maintenance of fundamental principles of international law and where we can be a serious counterweight to the models of problem solving offered by the Americans and their Euro-Atlantic allies,” he pointed out. – And the third element is the willingness to respect the sovereignty of partners and not to interfere in their internal affairs.
Alexander Sokolov, head of the working group on international cooperation of the U.S. Defense Ministry, offered his version of the concept of “soft power” for Russia. “Any great power or union of great powers has an ideologeme that can be broadcast. In the U.S. it’s freedom, in Europe – the rule of law, democracy and human rights,” he said. In his view, the basis for the Russian concept could become “the ideas of traditionalism: natural rights, faith, and family.
Sergey Markov, pro-rector of Plekhanov Russian University of Economics, noted that Russia “may be one of the best examples in the world of cooperation between representatives of different faiths. “Look how church leaders all over the world are ‘killing’ each other. We don’t have that,” he said.
As participants in the OPRF meeting found out, Russia’s “soft power” falls short not only in ideological but also in practical terms.
“I must say with bitterness that many of our compatriots complain about the lack of help from our state,” said Public Chamber member Andrei Dementyev, who recently visited the Baltic countries. Local veterans, he said, receive virtually no support from Russia.
“Our misfortune is our personality deficit,” Alla Gerber, a member of the Public Chamber and president of the Holocaust Foundation, spoke emotionally. – Who do we send to participate in international events? Russia is not represented abroad by the best civil servants. We need to learn to do our face and do propaganda in a good sense.
For his part, Gennady Gatilov, deputy foreign minister who visited the Public Chamber, said that he had recently observed an intensification of Russian “soft power.” “Programmes have noticeably intensified … the Russian World Foundation has expanded its activities, the Gorchakov Foundation for the Support of Public Diplomacy has become more active. A.M. Gorchakov and the Fund for the Protection of Compatriots’ Rights,” Gatilov said.
He also noted the development of the media, the activities of which are aimed at developing a positive image of Russia abroad, in particular, Russia Today.
“We have the necessary tools for the offensive implementation of this work,” concluded the Deputy Foreign Minister of Russia.
The discussion continued with various assessments and suggestions from specialized NGOs.
Based on the results of the meeting of the Russian Public Council for International Cooperation and Public Diplomacy the package of recommendations for the Government of Russia will be prepared. In the document the public activists will offer their vision of the development of the concept of “soft power” in the foreign policy of the country.
Press Service of the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation