Monday, September 5, 2016

Quotable: Ryan Bauer on Russian concepts of soft power

Donald M. Bishop,"Quotable: Ryan Bauer on Russian concepts of soft power,"

Image (not from entry) from Alina Vladimirova, "Increasing Soft Power of Russia," Political Power Blog

Sunday, September 4th 2016
Russia’s Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces, General Valery Gerasimov, has defined a goal to develop a “’soft power’ strategy to counter the potential threat from ‘color revolutions.’”  Russian concepts were explored in an article by Ryan Bauer of the Center for Naval Analyses in an August 13, 2016, article, “Russia’s Soft Power Development in the 21st Century,” in Small Wars Journal.  Here are some wave tops:

  • In a speech earlier this year at the Russian Academy of Military Science, Valery Gerasimov, Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Russia, discussed the changing environment of modern warfare.

  • Noting the rise of hybrid conflicts such as color revolutions, General Gerasimov highlightedthe importance of, “leading military theorists and specialists as well as the defense industry and the government to jointly develop a “soft power” strategy to counter the potential threat from ‘color revolutions.’”

  • During the Cold War, there were two major battles for power occurring. The most notable was a battle of hard power, comprised of conventional forces and rising nuclear forces between the United States and the Soviet Union.

  • The other was a competition of soft power, including the battle for ideology, norms and influence between liberal and communist values. In the post-Cold War era, the West has sought to further expand its norms and influence throughout the international system through a variety of measures including soft power.

  • To a certain extent Russia has also sought to further expand its ideology and influence outside of its borders through the use of soft power. Examples of these efforts include organizations like the Russian World Foundation and Rossotrudnichestvo, which promote Russian language and culture abroad and media efforts like Russia Today (RT), which according to the website, broadcasts in over 100 countries.

  • One reason for the increased discussion around soft power, as Russia argues, is the decline of Western norms and influence globally.

  • As the appeal of American values decreases, which is true to some extent, its ability to conduct soft power decreases as a result.

  • Since 2014, there has been an increased shift in Russia’s efforts to create an alternative message to Western norms and practices. Russia’s ability to produce these messages at a rapid rate in comparison to the United States has led some to believe that Russia has begun to develop a unique and profound soft power strategy.

  • Rather than creating a constructive and appealing image of Russia abroad, these efforts are largely concerned with creating a division and alternative to the West. Through manipulative information influencing such as highlighting policy disputes in the European Union and disinformation practices focused on discrediting American organizations, Russia is attempting to defend its values by discrediting and dividing Western values.

  • . . . Russia traditionally relies on hard power, such as a large military, to maintain its security and project power and influence. This tends to be the case both in its backyard as the situation in Ukraine has demonstrated, as well as globally with its military efforts in Syria.

  • In light of the recent speech by General Gerasimov and the support it received at the Russian Academy of Military Science, Russia may develop a soft power strategy that addresses some of the identified deficiencies. With Russia’s image and partnerships damaged globally, an effective soft power strategy may be an increasingly beneficial tool for Putin and the federal government.

  • . . . it is interesting to see how in the case of Russia, the government is framing soft power in the context of a defensive tool. Still too early to tell, it will be fascinating to see whether Russia’s soft power strategy operates similar to the West or if it acts as a defensive tool against what Russia deems as exterior threats.

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