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Russian Review: What is soft power and how to use it correctly?

This ‘book review’ is being pushed by the ‘soft power’ (information warfare) folks at the Russian Foreign Ministry.  

This is not ‘just’ a book review as much as it is also a commentary on soft power and the influence of nations from a Russian perspective of US efforts.  While the author does not outright state as much, he appears to be urging Russia to adopt the US model of influence according to Nye. 

Unfortunately, the author appears to ignore how influence and soft power have developed in the past five years. 

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<Translated from Russian by my Chrome browser)

The “soft power” of the state consists of three resources: culture, political values and foreign policy

The book by Joseph Nye, published in 2004 and describing the concept of soft power

1. Soft power soft power ) – a form of foreign policy strategy, which implies the ability to achieve the desired results on the basis of voluntary participation, affection and attraction, as opposed to “hard power”, which implies coercion. According who introduced the term American political scientist Joseph Nye ( Joseph the S Nye Jr . ), Language and culture of the state – a “soft power”, which plays a key role in international relations, affecting directly or indirectly, on global politics and business connections .

American political scientist Joseph S. Nye, Jr. at the Royal Institute of International Affairs Chatham House

The term “soft power” was first introduced into the circulation by the professor at Harvard University George Nye in his book published in 1990 “Inevitably: the changing nature of American power” ( Bound to Lead: The Changing Nature of American Power ). Subsequently, he developed this concept in his 2004 book, Soft Power: Means to Success in World Politics .

With the onset of the era of globalization, the system of international relations has changed radically. On the world stage came new actors who were able to exert a powerful influence on the course of world history. The new composition of international actors faced completely new problems and challenges that they had not encountered before. Also, new dimensions of power and new sources of power appeared in the struggle for world domination. One remained unchanged – the goal of all international actors remained power, power and influence in the world arena.

The multifaceted nature of the process of globalization has reduced the space for the use of traditional power mechanisms by states and has led to a change in the model of global competition. In the new era, economic success, ideological persuasiveness and the cultural attractiveness of the state, in other words – “soft power” became a more important factor of influence than military power and the possession of nuclear weapons.

Today, the concept of “soft power” and the possibilities of its application acquire special significance for Russia. The events of recent years – the situation in Ukraine, membership in the Russian Federation of the Crimea – prove that instruments of “hard power” can ensure the implementation of foreign policy goals only in the short term. For a long-term, mutually beneficial international partnership that is capable of ensuring stable domestic economic development, other mechanisms are needed. The policy of “soft power” makes it possible to create an attractive image of the state, which will contribute to this.

The Russian leadership recognizes the need to update the foreign policy toolkit. Today, Russia is at the highest political level working on the conceptualization of the Russian model of “soft power”, and practical steps are being taken to build a system of “soft impact” on participants in the international dialogue. The concept of “soft power” received legal and regulatory support in official foreign policy documents, institutions were created, for which the coordination of the use of instruments of “soft power” in Russian foreign policy was revived.

For a deeper analysis of the Russian policy of soft power, one should familiarize oneself with the official acts regulating the activities of the supreme bodies of state power in the sphere of foreign policy and international relations, among them the Foreign Policy Concept of the Russian Federation approved by the Decree of the President of the Russian Federation of 30 November 2016 No. 640, the Plan of Activities of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation until 2018, approved on July 13, 2013, and the Concept of State Policy of the Russian Federation in the The measure of assistance to international development, approved by the Decree of the President of the Russian Federation of April 20, 2014 No. 259.

The theme of power and influence has always been at the center of attention of the theory of international relations. Representatives of various schools – realism, liberal tradition, geopolitics, structuralism, addressed to it in their works. The nature of power in international relations was written by G. Morgenthau, R. Dahl, K. Waltz, K. Norr, G. Kissinger. In the study of the phenomenon of “power”, which underwent changes in connection with the onset of the era of globalization, contributed to the work of R. Cohen and J. Nye.

A significant contribution to the theoretical development of “soft power” was also made by the following Russian researchers: P. Parshin, O. Leonova, S. Pestsov and A. Babylo, M. Neimark, T. Zonova, F. Lukyanov, M. Lebedeva, G. Filimonov, E. Panova, N. Tsvetkova and A. Kubyshkin.

Important for the issue under consideration were the following works: Joseph Nye’s works “The Future of Power”, “Soft Power: Means of Achieving Success in World Politics”, “Inevitably Lead: the Changing Nature of American Power”, as well as his articles, MA’s monograph. Neimarka “Soft Power” in World Politics “, a collection of scientific articles” The Question of National Identity in the Context of Globalization “edited by A.N. Chumakova, collective monograph “Soft power. Soft power. Interdisciplinary Analysis “, edited by Ye.G. Borisova.

A significant number of dissertations (Ph.D. and Doctoral) on “soft power” as a foreign policy tool of the United States, China, Turkey, as well as the specific features of the implementation of the Russian model of “soft power” (on the “soft power” an example of Russian-Brazilian relations).

The problem of influencing has always been a central problem in the foreign policy of any state. Today, when the world is in the zone of “geopolitical turbulence” – it is shaken by local and regional conflicts, terrorist attacks are being committed, the threat of nuclear weapons proliferation is increasing, and Russia and the “collective West” states are again confronted, this problem becomes even more urgent. The competition between states now occurs not only in the military and economic fields, but also “increasingly embraces values and models of social development, human, scientific and technological potentials.”

The intellectual elite of the entire world community is looking for new ways out of the crisis, new ways of influencing the participants in international relations. In this connection, the concept of J. Nye “soft power” is of particular importance.

Robert Alan Dahl, who teaches political science at Yale University

2. Before turning to his theory, it seems necessary to consider in more detail one of the basic categories of the theory of international relations – force. The classical definition of such a category as “power” in political science is the definition given by Robert Alan Dahl , according to which “strength is the ability of one actor to force another actor to act as in any other case he would not act.” However, this definition is quite broad and in the course of changes in the system of international relations approaches to understanding the category of “forces” have changed and as a result several approaches have been taken in the framework of the established schools of international political thought.

For representatives of the school of political realism, force is the basis of the whole system of international relations, and international politics is a policy of power. Since for realists the international system is chaos, the “war of all against all”, in which there is no arbitrator and set of rules, then states have the strength and their main goal is to use their power to expand their living space (geographical boundaries, economic influence) and thereby gain new sources of power for the state. The idea of G. Morgenthau, the founder of the school of political realism, that power is both a means and a goal of the state, was later supplemented by another prominent representative of this school, Raymond Aron. For him, “the eternal goals of the state”, along with force, are also safety and glory.

Representatives of the school of geopolitics focused their attention on the geographic and geo-economic factors of the state’s might. Friedrich Ratzel and Rudolf Cellen believed that the world influence of the actor is determined by its geographical location. Thus, for them the territory of the state, its natural wealth, its proximity to world powers were the main resources of its power.

In the liberal tradition, war is not a natural state of the international system. Supporters of the liberal school see the “arbitrator” of international relations in international organizations and international law, which are designed to prevent the outbreak of war.

The twentieth century radically changed the system of interaction between international actors and provided the supporters of the school of liberalism with new evidence that the era of undeniable domination of military methods in world politics has ended. From now on, international actors have become interconnected through new means of communication, common economic interests, joint commitments within the framework of international organizations. In the context of interdependence, military instruments faded into the background, giving way to new tools. Researchers from the liberal school were the first to draw attention to the fact that the main rivalry and at the same time cooperation between actors moved from the military sphere to the sphere of economy and finance. Thus, the strength of the state began to be considered in a much more rosy palette.

The end of the cold war, the change in the international system, the beginning of the era of globalization made many theorists of international relations think about the transformation of power in international relations. The merit of Joseph Nye is that he classified as one of the basic concepts in the theory of international relations, the ability to influence other actors of international relations with the help of factors not belonging to the military-political sphere.

Of course, Joseph Nye was not the first to pay attention to non-military methods of influence. According to S. Pestsov and A. Bobylo, the concept of “soft power” “was formed as a result of numerous previous discussions on the essence of power and power, their various forms and manifestations in world politics.” The first reflections on the effectiveness of non-violent methods in both domestic and foreign policy can be found in the teachings of Lao Tzu, who developed the idea of ideal power as non-action without violence, pressure and coercion. Similar reflections are present in Confucianism, which proclaimed the principle of moral authority. The Chinese philosopher Xun-tzu argued the legitimacy of the principle of victory in a war without a battle. It is also possible to draw a parallel with Greek classical philosophy: with the idea of the ideal state of Plato, with Aristotle’s assertion that, that war and trade are the two only possible forms of international political interaction. Later, Blessed Augustine said that violence can be justified only if the ideas of Christianity are protected. Blaise Pascal advocated the inadmissibility of using force mechanisms in relations with other peoples. It can also be said that the “progenitors” of the concept of “soft power” were the theories of nonviolence developed by Hugues de Groot, Immanuel Kant, Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi.

Joseph Nye himself admits that the theory of “molecular aggression”, developed by the Italian political figure-communist Antonio Gramsci, influenced the development of his theory.

Thus, it can be concluded that the concept of “soft power” is the result of theoretical developments of earlier researchers. However, the authorship of the theory is not questioned, because it is thanks to the works of Joseph Nye in the theory of international relations that a new term and concept appeared.

3. Joseph Nye is a professor at the School of Management. John F. Kennedy at Harvard University, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Diplomatic Academy. In addition, Nye was a senior member of the Aspen Institute (USA), director of the Aspen Strategic Group and a member of the Executive Committee of the Tripartite Commission, a participant in a number of meetings of the Council on Foreign Relations. At the same time, for a long time he was also the protagonist of American foreign policy. Between 1970 and 1990, he held high government posts in the US government, an assistant to the US Deputy Secretary of State for Security, Science and Technology; Chairman of the National Security Council of the United States on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons; the chairman of the US National Intelligence Council; Deputy Secretary of Defense for International Security. During the presidential campaign (in the USA) of John Kerry in 2004, J. Nye claimed to be the adviser to the US president for national security. Similar transitions from politics to science and from science to intelligence are quite common in the US practice. An example of this is such figures as Zb. Brzezinski and G. Kissinger.

The fact that the presentation of his book “Soft power: the means of achieving success in world politics” in Russian was held at the Carnegie Moscow Center with the support of the US Embassy in the Russian Federation in 2006 is of great practical importance for the US government.

The term “soft power” was first used by him in 1990 in the book “Inevitably leads: the changing nature of American power” and was later developed in the book published in 2004 “Soft power: the means of achieving success in world politics”, and also in various articles.

Before turning to the concept itself, I would like to note that many researchers criticized J. Nye for failing to formulate a clear consistent logic for the definition of “soft power”, its resources, tools, and so on, and he does not give the example of ” soft power “of one or another state that could be taken as a model.

In response to criticism from the academic community, the author of the concept himself argued that there is no single universal concept of “soft power” – each state has a unique culture, history and traditions, which means that each state has its own set of “soft power” resources, which primarily depends on its foreign policy objectives, the target audience and historical experience in the international arena.

J. Nye gives this definition: “soft power” is the ability to obtain the desired results in relations with other states due to the attractiveness of one’s own culture, values and foreign policy, rather than coercion or financial resources. One of the first definitions of “soft power” is: “Soft power” is the ability to make your partner want what you want. ”

One of the most complete definitions of “soft power” he cites in his other book, “The Future of Power”: “Soft Power” is the ability to influence other states in order to realize their own goals through cooperation in certain areas, aimed at persuading and forming positive perceptions ” .

According to the concept of J. Nye, the “soft power” of the state consists of three resources: culture, political values and foreign policy.

Speaking about the cultural resources of “soft power”, J. Nye noticed that it is important those components of culture that could be attractive to others, and also shared a popular culture and high culture. Resources of high culture, such as classical literature, painting, music, as well as contemporary art not intended for a wide audience, can be successfully incorporated into the “soft power” strategy only for foreign elites. In addition, not every actor in the international space has such resources, in view of historical reasons or special political attitudes. The products of mass culture, on the contrary, are intended for the widest sections of the population of the most diverse states, because of their simple content and accessibility for understanding.

Regarding political values as one of the resources of “soft power”, J. Nye emphasizes the importance of realizing the values declared by the government and conducting appropriate domestic policies. In the context of the concept of “soft power” political hypocrisy can be very expensive for the state and even completely discredited. In the article “Soft power and American foreign policy,” J. Nye writes that “problems with” soft power “arise when we do not realize our own ideals.”

Such a resource, as foreign policy, according to the concept of J. Nye can be effective if the foreign policy of a state is legitimate, that is, it receives approval from other actors of international relations through established international institutions. “When our policy is legitimate in the eyes of the world, our soft power is growing.”

Also, the author of the concept points to certain instruments, the use of which can make the “soft power” of the state more successful. Such instruments include public diplomacy, radio and television broadcasting, exchange programs, development assistance, disaster management, cooperation between the armed forces.

According to J. Nye, public diplomacy is “an instrument that states use to mobilize resources in order to interact and attract more audiences of foreign states than their governments.” Public diplomacy works through radio and television broadcasting, the Internet, the export of cultural products, and exchanges. J. Nye notes that when implementing Internet projects of public diplomacy, one should bear in mind that in the case of many states that are of strategic interest to the US, such internet projects mostly affect the elites of these states, since in developing countries, broad segments of the population have virtually no access to the Internet. The researcher also points out that public diplomacy is precisely an instrument of foreign policy, and not a panacea for solving image problems of the state.

Professor Nye considers programs of professional and academic international exchanges to be one of the most effective instruments of “soft power”. In 2007, in the report of the Center for Strategic and International Studies on the eve of the elections, he urged the future US president to increase such exchanges, and to expand the Foreign Visitor Program of the State Department, which was attended by about 200 former and current leaders of foreign countries.

4. He wrote about programs of assistance to other states in the article “Becoming smarter by combining soft and hard power” that the United States will be able to maintain its leading position in the world arena if they resume investments in public goods needed by people and their governments in different parts of the world .

Joseph Nye emphasizes that the “soft power” of a particular state will be most effective only if it finds its expression in a comprehensive strategy that includes a comprehensive and in-depth analysis of international relations in which foreign target audiences are clearly identified, specific goals and tools . This strategy is implemented only in a dialogue with partners. The strategy is based on a concept that includes an understandable and interesting cultural and political message, and an attractive economic and social model.

Speaking of “soft power”, J. Nye points to a critically important element, without which all efforts to promote his own “soft power” are useless – this is a narrative that should thread the foreign policy of an international actor in a red thread. A narrative is a set of ideas and ideas about the world and events in it, which the actor represents to the world community as the most faithful and through which he interprets events in the world. In the article “A smarter superpower,” the researcher argues that in the modern world, every participant in international interaction must have a narrative.

Having determined resources and narrative, it seems important to consider the question of actors who could adopt “soft” instruments. In connection with the profound transformation of the system of international relations that began after the end of the cold war and the collapse of the USSR, actors who had previously had no opportunity to influence international relations and the course of history emerged on the world arena. First of all, these are transnational corporations, international public organizations, influential international and national scientific centers. According to J. Nye, this is connected with the following processes: the growth of economic interdependence, the activity of transnational actors, nationalism in weak states, the spread of technologies and changes in the political agenda, the technological revolution in information and communication processes,

However, J. Nye does not claim that the state has lost influence in international relations – it still leaves the leading role for states. Nevertheless, it is difficult to deny the growing power and significance of non-state actors. The researcher writes: “Dependence on information systems supporting economic and military activities creates new vulnerability points for large states that non-state actors can use.”

Thus, it can be said that the state loses its sole control over the use of “soft power”. An example of this can serve as cultural figures who are independent of the state, but interact independently with foreign audiences and whose activities can be a component of the “soft power” of the state. Undoubtedly, cultural figures of free, democratic states are meant in states with restricted freedom of speech or with a totalitarian regime – their freedom of activity is very limited. On the other hand, points out J. Nye, public diplomacy still remains in the sphere of state influence.

In the concept of “soft power” there are some paradoxes, for example: can the economic sphere be considered a “soft power”? And the economic model of the development of the state? It turns out that one and the same sphere of activity can be both a “soft power” and a “hard” one. Economic power, like economic sanctions, certainly refers to the “hard power”. While the economic model of successful development of the state will be a powerful resource of “soft power”. The same goes for the military sphere. Military power, the threat of using weapons, conducting exercises on the border with the enemy state will, of course, add points to the treasury of the “hard power” of the state, while joint exercises or cooperation programs, as well as a well-organized army, are the resources of “soft power”.

I would like to note that J. Nye never denied the necessity of using “hard power”, he considers it legitimate to use it in certain international circumstances.

Speaking of “hard power”, it seems necessary to say about the term that J. Nye introduced in 2003 – about “smart power”. The researcher gives this definition of “smart power” – this is the balance of “hard” and “soft power” in foreign policy. A more detailed definition is given in the article “Smart Strength: In Finding the Balance Between Hard and Soft Strength”: “smart power” comes from the realization that “soft power” is not necessarily better than “hard” and that they both must be complementary components of an effective strategy “.

5. As it was said above, the concept of J. Nye was criticized by the representatives of the academic community. One of the reasons for criticism was that J. Nye did not specify criteria for evaluating the effectiveness of the strategy. However, it seems important to study those parameters that may indicate the effectiveness of “soft power”.

First of all, J. Nye calls to understand that, as in any strategy, the policy of “soft power” can have short-term and long-term goals, but unlike the policy of “hard power”, one can observe a deferred effect and the results may appear in the deferred perspective.

Also one of the criteria for the effectiveness of “soft power” can be the “Nobel index” – the number of Nobel laureates in a particular state. J. Nye points out that the United States is leading in this respect in the field of chemistry, physics and economics.

Another parameter of the effectiveness of “soft power” can serve as the results of exchange programs. However, here the role is not the number of participants, but the professional heights, which they later achieved. The US is also leading in this area – more than 200 graduates of exchange programs are current or former leaders of states, among them Anwar Sadat, Helmut Schmidt and Margaret Thatcher.

Attractive to others, the political and economic model is also one of the parameters of the effectiveness of “soft power”.

However, the most important parameter for assessing the effectiveness of “soft power” J. Nye calls her positive perception by broad audiences of foreign countries. In his opinion, every international actor should closely monitor public opinion polls conducted in partner countries, since they can give an objective picture of the perception of foreign policy activities of the state.

Each state has its own “soft power”. The content of the “soft power” of the state depends on its economic, political and socio-cultural characteristics.

National varieties of “soft power” of various actors can be called as follows:

– dominant power of the USA (dominant power of the USA);

– Attractive power of Europe (attractive power of Europe);

– wise power of China;

– sophisticated power of India (sophisticated power of India);

– mystical power of the East.

The effectiveness of the “soft power” of a particular state can also be judged by the ratings of “soft power”. One of the most popular ratings of “soft power” is annually compiled by the British magazine “Monocle”.

Russia was not included in the list of 25 states, whose “soft power”, according to the authors of the rating, is developed.

In another rating compiled by the London Institute for Management, The New Persuaders III – A 2012 Global Ranking of Soft Power, Russia took the 28th place.

It seems advisable to study the experience of those states that have the greatest “soft power” resources, according to the above ratings, namely, the United States, the United Kingdom and the PRC. Although the PRC is not a leader in these ratings, studying its experience can be useful because the PRC is an eastern state, in the formation of a “soft power” which plays a big role in the state, as in Russia, which means that its experience will be it is more convenient to apply it to us in practice.



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