Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Found on the Web: Whither Obshestvennaya Diplomatiya: Assessing U.S. Public Diplomacy in Post-Cold War Russia (Spring 2013)

Author: Margot van Loon, School of International Service

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Although a substantial amount of literature analyzes American public diplomacy in the Soviet Union, the level of scholarly interest in the region appears to have fallen with the Iron Curtain. There exists no comprehensive account of U.S. public diplomacy in Russia over the last twenty years, or any significant discussion of how these efforts have been received by the Russian public. This study addresses the gap in the literature by reconstructing the efforts of the last twenty years, providing an important case study for scholars of public diplomacy and of U.S.-Russia relations. Twelve policy officials, area experts, and public diplomats who had served in Moscow were interviewed to create a primary-source account of events in the field from 1989-2012. The taxonomy of public diplomacy, originally defined by Dr. Nicholas Cull, was then used to categorize each activity by primary purpose: listening, advocacy, cultural diplomacy, exchanges, and international broadcasting. These accounts were contextualized against the major events of the U.S.-Russia bilateral relationship in order to identify broad trends, successes and failures. The resulting narrative illustrates that U.S. public diplomacy in Russia suffers from a lack of top-down support from the U.S. government, from a restricted media environment that limits the success of advocacy and international broadcasting, and from the incongruity of messaging and actions that characterize the last two decades of the bilateral relationship. Other findings include that: 1) listening among public diplomacy practitioners in Russia is improving; 2) cultural diplomacy and exchange programs have been the elements of public diplomacy most immune to the kind of political fluctuations that have obstructed advocacy and broadcasting efforts; 3) an increased reliance on digital platforms is expanding U.S. public diplomacy practitioners’ ability to act as facilitators in Russia, but concern remains among practitioners that this will create an overreliance on social media as the “silver bullet” to all problems. ...

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