RSC ASSESSES RUSSIAN “SOFT POWER” IN ARMENIA

RSC ASSESSES RUSSIAN “SOFT POWER” IN ARMENIA

As part of a wider series of analyses focusing on “Russian soft power: At home and abroad” for the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), Richard Giragosian, the Director of the RSC, published his own assessment, entitled “Soft power in Armenia: Neither soft, nor powerful,” on 12 August 2015. 

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www.ecfr.eu/article/commentary_soft_power_in_armenia_neither_soft_nor_powerful3094 

The ECFR series on Russian soft power (available at: www.ecfr.eu/debate/russian_soft_power_at_home_and_abroad), notes that “Russia’s actions in Ukraine have sparked renewed interest in – and fears over – Moscow’s ability to manipulate media and political discourse reaching both foreign and domestic audiences. In this series, a range of experts considers the changes in Russia’s deployment of its soft power, both at home and abroad, and explains the impact that this has had in various countries.” 

Some of the insightful analyses published in that ECFR series included “Fighting back in the information war,” a commentary published on 29 July and authored by Dániel Hegedűs, a Research Fellow at the German Council on Foreign Relations, and a commentary by Tornike Sharashenidze, who serves as a professor and the head of MA programme in International Affairs at the Georgian Institute for Public Affairs (GIPA) where he lectures on the history of diplomacy, entitled “Russian soft power in action: South Ossetia's wandering border,” published on 28 July. 

In the “Fighting back in the information war” piece by Dániel Hegedűs, he argued that “the EU and the NATO’s ability to act in concert against the Russian security challenge is being hard hit by Russian information warfare,” adding that such “passivity leaves important strategic advantages unutilised. The EU, shocked by the Russian offensive against it, has hardly taken into account the idea that information warfare - a tactical tool in the Kremlin’s hands - could be a strategic tool for the West. The West disposes of far greater soft power - the key resource in an information war - than Russia does, and the balance of possible outcomes is heavily weighted in Europe’s favour. 

Taking the second point first, the risks of a full-blown information war are far greater for Russia than they are for Europe. For the EU, a mutual exchange of blows in an information war could do little more than undermine unity within the EU and raise hurdles in the way of European decision making on the issue of sanctions or other steps against Moscow. For Russia, such a confrontation could present an existential danger for the existence of the current regime in Moscow, as the colour revolutions have previously shown. Russia has, therefore, far more to lose in a reciprocal hybrid war than the West. 

On the issue of soft power, there is no comparison between the Russian and Western positions. Even though the EU has lost tremendous soft power resources since the economic crisis, the attractiveness of the European model far outreaches that of its Russian counterpart. Russia’s capability to attract countries into its orbit without military and/or economic pressure is questionable, while the Maidan events clearly show the attractiveness of the European model, even without a clear European commitment to candidate status. 

Last but not least, the West should not forget its strategic advantages in the ‘information war’. Should the EU abandon its unproductive victim mentality and go onto the ‘information offensive’, the odds would not be on Moscow’s side.” 

For the full piece, see: www.ecfr.eu/article/commentary_fighting_back_in_the_information_war3083 

And in the “Russian soft power in action: South Ossetia's wandering 'border’ commentary by Tornike Sharashenidze, the author assessed “how Russian soft power is deployed in Russia. There are two narratives at play here. One is the openly pro-Russian and anti-Western one encapsulated by the content of the new sympathetic Georgian-language media outlets. The other is more subtle, but a no less pro-Russian one. The Russians cultivate the impression that the West fears Russia. In this paradigm, Georgia must be submissive and neutral: the US is too far away and too fearful to protect Georgia if the Russians decide to attack. 

But now, Russian soft power disorients and demoralises, rather than galvanises, any opposition. As a result, Moscow does not anticipate any harsh or coordinated Georgian response. Indeed, the Russian foreign ministry was surprised and furious in equal measure when a group of Georgian journalists visited the ‘border’ and uprooted the newly-erected ‘border post of South Ossetia’. Perhaps they believed that there was no-one left in Georgia to protest.” 

For the full piece by Sharashenidze, see: www.ecfr.eu/article/commentary_russian_soft_power_in_action_south_ossetias_wandering_border3081