Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Why splashing the cash can’t buy China love

Gordon Watts,; on love and soft power, see.

Image from article, with caption: A mosaic of The Beatles at the Hard Rock Hotel in Penang.

Reshaping Diplomacy for the Digital World

Ana C. Rold,

uncaptioned image from article

We live in an era of mind-bogglingly easy global connectivity the likes of which has never before been experienced. Thanks to information and communication technologies (ICTs) such as the internet and social media, state leaders and non-state actors are now able to connect with each other, with their citizens, and with people from other countries in a powerful and direct way. This allows for real-time communication and the opening of new dimensions in diplomacy, such as the ability to solve social problems and mediate relations with foreign states. It is easy to see how digital diplomacy as a new discipline—despite the obvious challenges it faces—has revolutionized public discourse in the 21st century. Leaders now talk directly to their people. So, what does this mean for the future of public diplomacy?
While there are many definitions of digital diplomacy, at its core digital diplomacy is simply the use of social media and other new technologies as a tool to further the aims of traditional diplomacy. In this way, states and state actors can use social media platforms—such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Periscope, and Snapchat—to communicate and disseminate ideas to their constituents, foreign peoples, other state actors and non-governmental organizations, as well as further the aims of public policy and manage the spread of information and knowledge and their own “social media brand”.
Nations can use digital diplomacy not only as a means by which to communicate their ideas but also as a way to help citizens through the coordination of disaster response efforts, for example, such as Belgium’s Twitter account @CrisiscenterBE, which is used specifically to communicate with citizens on potential terrorist attacks and natural disasters as they unfold in real time. Similarly, digital diplomacy can be used as a means to overcome traditional limits of diplomacy and bring about social change, such as the Virtual Embassy Iran, which was launched by the U.S. State Department in order to facilitate interactions between the U.S. and Iranian citizens due to a lack of traditional communication lines between the two. Ultimately, digital diplomacy is not a new form of diplomacy—it is traditional diplomacy with a new toolset.
A recent Twiplomacy Study found that there are currently 178 countries—or a whopping 92 percent of all UN member states—that are represented by heads of state and foreign ministers on Twitter, with a grand total of 356 million followers between these accounts. In fact, the study found that out of all social media platforms, heads of state and government had the biggest presence on Twitter with a total of 856 official accounts, with Facebook and Instagram as the second and third most popular platforms, respectively. Unsurprisingly, U.S. President Donald Trump’s often-controversial Twitter account (@RealDonaldTrump) is the most followed world leader in 2017 with over 45 million followers, followed by Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India (@NarendraModi, 37.5 million followers) and Pope Francis (@Pontifex, 33 million followers).
The number of followers a leader enjoys does not necessarily translate into effective digital diplomacy strategies. For example, while President Trump may have the most Twitter followers, he follows very few other world leaders and has little engagement with his followers. The European Union’s External Action Service (@EU_EEAS) and the Foreign Ministry of Russia (@MFA_Russia), on the other hand, are mutually connected to 128 and 127 other world leaders and government institutions, respectively, while 95 percent of tweets the government of The Netherlands (@Rijksoverheid) and the government of Nepal (@Hello_Sarkar) send out are direct replies to their followers.
Indeed, these Twitter accounts and more demonstrate that engagement is crucial to effective digital diplomacy. For example, tagging Twitter users in pictures, a method used by the Russian Foreign ministry and the French government, is an effective way to ensure that relevant stakeholders are notified about important issues and have the ability to increase engagement surrounding the issue, either through retweets or replies. Conversely, diplomats can also use social media to connect to non-state actors, such as Israel’s frequent use of direct message campaigns to connect to key influencers and request certain tweets to be amplified by these followers, in addition to their #IsraelRetweetedMe campaign, which asks followers to discuss Israel in a positive light in order to be retweeted by Israel’s official Twitter accounts and spotlight these specific Twitter users.
Despite the opportunities digital diplomacy presents, there are also major challenges to be dealt with, key among them: contesting realities. During the beginning stages of the Crimean crisis, for example, Russian digital diplomacy accounts denied the presence of Russian troops in Ukraine—while the United States digital diplomacy accounts argued the opposite. Similarly, the simultaneous insistence by Russian Twitter accounts that Aleppo has been liberated while UK Twitter accounts argued that Aleppo remained in a state of emergency has led to confusion on both sides and a decrease in trust by followers of both accounts. This confusion, perpetuated by real-time rapid spread of misinformation and the creation of conflicting realities, demonstrates the very mechanisms that make digital diplomacy so successful also have the potential to stifle and block off authentic communication.
While many challenges exist due to the novelty of digital diplomacy—former U.S. President Barack Obama was the first leader to create an official presidential Twitter account as recently as 2007—the possibilities of digital diplomacy have only just begun. In addition to social media, revolutionary advances in artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented reality and the Internet of Things are beginning to open new avenues into even more interactive public diplomacy campaigns, as well as connect digital diplomacy to the physical realm. Indeed, crude AI systems such as chat-bots are already being implemented in an effort to assist with registration processes, visa applications and legal aid for refugees, and Internet of Things capabilities such as satellite remote sensing have been able to aid the World Health Organization and other diplomats in analyzing and implementing strategies for natural crises and disasters, such as the Ebola outbreak in 2014.
About the author:  Ana C. Rold is Founder and CEO of Diplomatic Courier, a Global Affairs Media Network.  She teaches political science courses at Northeastern University and is the Host of The World in 2050–A Forum About Our Future. To engage with her on this article follow her on Twitter @ACRold.

State Department touts counter-propaganda funds without mentioning Russia

Nicole Gaouette, CNN; article contains video, "How did the Russians allegedly interfere?"; see also (1) (2 - Tass report) (3) (4 - "Pentagon Just Pledged Millions to Pay Media Companies to Wage a Massive Information War" ) (5, under category "manipulation")

image (not from article) from

Washington (CNN) The State Department will get $40 million in new funding to fight disinformation from foreign countries, the agency said Monday in a long-awaited announcement that avoided mentioning Russia by name.

The funding for the State Department's Global Engagement Center had been a source of tension between Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and lawmakers -- not because it wasn't available, but because Tillerson waited months before requesting the money from the Department of Defense.

Congress had mandated the initiative to counter propaganda and disinformation after Russia's meddling in the 2016 US election. Lawmakers and career foreign service officers were deeply critical when Tillerson didn't move to use any of the funding, and cited his inaction as another example of the agency's dysfunction.

In Monday's announcement, the State Department said the $40 million will be used, in part, to create an Information Access Fund that will support public and private partners who focus on fighting back against foreign disinformation.

"Civil society groups, media content providers, nongovernmental organizations, federally funded research and development centers, private companies, and academic institutions will be eligible to compete for grants" from the GEC to counter propaganda and disinformation, the department said in a statement.

Senior US officials have repeatedly warned that Russia is already targeting the US midterm elections in November, while Tillerson has spoken of Russian attempts to interfere with elections in Europe and warned Mexico about Moscow meddling in elections there set for July. President Donald Trump still hasn't publicly and unequivocally accepted the unanimous findings of US intelligence agencies that Russia worked to interfere in the 2016 race.

"This funding is critical to ensuring that we continue an aggressive response to malign influence and disinformation and that we can leverage deeper partnerships with our allies, Silicon Valley, and other partners in this fight," said Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Steve Goldstein.

"It is not merely a defensive posture that we should take, we also need to be on the offensive," Goldstein said in a statement.

The GEC is a multiagency effort created in 2016 and housed at the State Department. It replaced an earlier group that was charged with fighting online messaging from terror groups such as the Islamic State, but was frequently criticized for being ineffectual.

In its new form, and with this new funding, the State Department will initially award $5 million in grants from the Information Access Fund, and will consult with Congress about $1 million in "seed money" from a public diplomacy account "to kick start the initiative quickly."

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Public Diplomacy for the 21st Century: How to Talk with Russia

Via scholar NC -- Thank you!

Vasily Gatov [see below bio],; original article contains informative footnotes.

 Image from article [JB - please note the Putin facial expressions on TV, as shown (unshopped?) on the pix]

Americans once knew how to effectively communicate with Russian audiences, and they in turn wanted to engage with Western voices. What went wrong, and how can we fix it?

On January 1, 1986, millions of Soviet citizens turned on their TV sets to be addressed by their greatest enemy.

“Good evening, this is Ronald Reagan, the President of the United States…”

After years of lobbying, Reagan had convinced Mikhail Gorbachev to allow him to speak to the Soviet people directly. His pre-recorded, æve-minute talk saw him use his acting gifts to the full. He spoke not as a man of power, but as a regular American, troubled by years of confrontation, able to differentiate between the Russian people and the Communist party and government. He urged a partnership for peace and spoke in Russian when he looked forward to a future of “clear skies.” He also insisted on his values, saying “Our democratic system is founded on the belief in the sanctity of human life and the rights of the individual.” He described as “a sacred truth” the conviction that “every individual is a unique gift of God, with his or her own special talents, abilities, hopes, and dreams. Respect for all people is essential to peace.”

This address—which was coupled with a similar opportunity for Mikhail Gorbachev in the United States—demagnetized the confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union, and lent a human element to the pre-existing military and diplomatic avenues of communication between the two superpowers. Soon after, Margaret Thatcher went one step further, when in a live interview on Soviet television she deftly inspired the audience to examine the problems inherent in the Soviet system. “Nothing like this had ever happened on Soviet TV screens,” remembers Boris Kalyagin, one of her interviewers. “We… let her tell our audience what she thinks about our domestic politics.”

Thatcher and Reagan’s breakthrough appearances took place during a wave of well-funded and concerted public diplomacy towards the people of the USSR. Millions of Soviets tuned in to Radio Free Europe, Voice of America, and the BBC, which were censored and muted but all the more trusted for that, spreading the gospel of human rights, individual freedom, and access to information. Meanwhile, Western cultural and commercial products—jazz and soap operas, jeans and chewing gum—had an almost magical appeal. Soon after, the barriers between the USSR and the West crumbled, and the world seemed to be celebrating a new era of convergence and mutual understanding.

Today we live in an age where the internet and cable channels allow countries and cultures to communicate to an unprecedented extent; where the relative freedom to move and exchange goods and services was meant to lead to a “global village,” an interconnected world of peace and prosperity. Yet for all this openness, the psychological barriers and divisions within countries and between states are more marked than at any time since the end of the Cold War.

Today there is no iron curtain. Russians have at least some access to an alternative information flow if they want it. The Kremlin, however, has been very effective at making the population not want to access alternative sources of information.

The challenge for anyone who wants to speak to the Russian people—whether states engaged in public diplomacy, international broadcasters, NGOs, companies or individuals—is therefore to stimulate the desire to seek out high-quality information. The central issue is not the flow of information as such, but motivation, developing the “reason” to talk in the first place. But to understand this we need to investigate why Russians were prepared to engage with Western voices before—and what went wrong.

Defining Public Diplomacy

Public diplomacy is often associated with Joseph Nye’s concept of “soft power.” Soft power is the “ability to affect others to obtain the outcomes one wants through attraction rather than through coercion or payment.” A country’s soft power “rests on its resources of culture, values and policies.” As Nye argues, public diplomacy has a long history as a “means of promoting a country’s soft power and was essential in winning the cold war.”

A good starting point for understanding 20 -century public diplomacy is Alexander Wendt’s theory that the state can be understood as a person. States have recognizable personalities, which affect how they are perceived and their behaviour. These personalities are consciously constructed to reçect what elites believe their country stands for. According to Alexander Wendt, “state personalities” may mimic human behavior patterns: Some states are friendly, extroverted and loud communicators, while others may be melancholic and slow.

Public diplomacy, however, should not be confused with propaganda, strategic communication, or PR. As Nick Cull, Professor of Public Diplomacy at USC Annenberg, demeans it, “Propaganda is about dictating your message to an audience and persuading them you are right. Public Diplomacy is about listening to the other side.” I would expand this definition to “listening to the other side and ænding causes for communication.” In the age of social media and interactive technologies the need to understand and listen to your target audience is more important than ever. Public diplomacy becomes even more of a self-critical conversation rather than a lecture.[JB -- see also]

This conversation can be explained with the language—if not the theory itself—of memetic culture, ærst articulated by Richard Dawkins and later taking on a life of its own. “Memes,” in Dawkins’s original formulation, were units of cultural transmission like “tunes, ideas, catch-phrases” and fashions, which spread by “leaping from brain to brain” in a process of “imitation.” Whenever an idea—or a meme—travels, it is transformed by the process of traveling to a new political context. For an individual to remember an idea, it needs to be relevant to their own political circumstances. For an individual to adopt the idea into their thinking and to thus transform it, the idea needs to be able to æt into a pre-existing individual narrative and fill a pre-existing individual need.

State Personality: From the Cold War to 2018

During the Cold War, the United States’ “personality” was based around the concept of freedom. The roots of this freedom narrative can be found in Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms—freedom of speech and worship and freedom from fear and want—which had been articulated in 1941 as the basis for a democratic and peaceful world. With the onset of the Cold War, the United States quietly dropped the idea of “freedom from want” as a right: It was difficult to uphold while denouncing the Soviet provision of social housing. Instead the United States emphasized civil, political, and cultural rights. The “freedom personality” was packaged in support for “free-form” arts 
such as jazz and abstract expressionism; promoted through the allure of economic freedom and its material beneæts such as Western cars or cosmetics; institutionalized in political freedoms such as religious rights and the right to travel; and expressed through freedom of information. This “personality” also gave reasons for engagement: Russians would tune into Radio Free Europe or the BBC World Service because they provided information which Russians had no access to domestically; and they broadcast music and cultural products which were censored in the USSR.

Today the Kremlin has co-opted and spun many elements of this “freedom” personality. Western cultural symbols such as pop music and reality television sit next to Kremlin hate speech and renewed authoritarianism on Russian television, proving that you can watch MTV while spurning democracy, drive a Mercedes while imprisoning dissidents. Freedom of movement and religious freedom have been granted, while Kremlin propaganda works hard to undercut the allure of other political freedoms.

The Kremlin puts forward the narrative that democracy and human rights are, at best, irrelevant to success, and, at worst, a tool of the duplicitous West used to justify intervention in domestic affairs. Kremlin propaganda reiterates the idea that Western democracy is a sham; that the democratic revolutions of 1989 led to unhappiness in Central Europe; that Western polities are governed through conspiracies and cabals. The Kremlin may have failed to provide a strong “Russian idea,” but it has been successful in promoting the concept that the whole world is rotten: Cynicism has replaced communism. Meanwhile the West has abandoned human rights as a priority, preferring trade and security, making its talk of “values” easier to attack. The West has continued to do business with autocratic rulers, even in the face of evidence of corruption and worse—something Russian audiences are very aware of.

Back in the Cold War, the Kremlin jammed and censored foreign broadcasts. Today the Kremlin’s approach could be deæned as “white noise jamming”: No physical technological device is used to disturb foreign messaging, but a mental block does the work instead, as all foreign criticisms are discredited as a symptom of Russophobia.

The overarching conspiracy narrative of the whole world being opposed to Russia is highly  successful. After Putin’s return to the presidency in 2012, 30 years of good will towards America were ruined when the Russian President commanded his mass media to describe America as an existential enemy. Media outlets responded with enthusiasm. Positive attitudes to the United States, which were usually in the 60 percent range and had rarely fallen lower than 50 percent (during the 1999 NATO bombing of Belgrade, for instance) decreased immediately. By 2015, only 15 percent of Russians had a favorable opinion of the United States. NGOs and educational ties were cut. When Western media predictably responded with Cold War-style projections of Vladimir Putin as an all-powerful Bond villain, they walked straight into the Kremlin’s narrative trap by helping the Kremlin deæne itself as under attack.

Russia can be described as a state wearing a propaganda Walkman, inside a permanent loop where any Western criticism is now interpreted as part of an “information war” against the country. Thus the Panama Papers leak, which showed how members of President Putin’s closest entourage were laundering money, or the investigation into state-sponsored sports doping by the Kremlin and subsequent ban on Olympic Russian athletes, only helped reinforce the sense that Russia is under attack.

The challenge, then, lies in breaking through the cynicism. So far, Western statesmen, editors, and journalists have responded to Russian propaganda defensively: pointing out lies, rebuffing accusations, disclosing hidden motives, and demonstrating the ugliness of the Russian regime. But while such responses are natural, they are also by nature reactive, and risk helping the Kremlin by reinforcing its messaging.

We need to move from reaction to a positive approach, which means rethinking the old freedom brand—and deliberately choosing the new personality, communicators, and and deliberately choosing the new personality, communicators, and content to fit our present moment.

A New Model

1) The Personality

The original “freedom brand” the United States built up in the Cold War long ago lost its coherence. The challenge for today’s public diplomats and broadcasters is to find aspects of the American idea that are still powerful and resonate with Russian audiences. To understand this will require consistent and in-depth social media sentiment analysis and target audience analysis. However, the over-arching idea should be the Pursuit of Happiness, with a sequence of supporting themes.

Progress and The Pursuit of Happiness: The positive, progress-orientated, future-envisioning nature of the United States and European Union contrasts with illiberal regimes like the Kremlin’s, which feed on nostalgia and cynicism and are never concerned with progress. Open societies embrace change and are quicker to adapt and grow; autocratic societies tend to reject unplanned development for institutions and humans alike. Autocracies inevitably limit the potential of their citizens.

Whether the messenger is Elon Musk, Bill Gates, or Sergey Brin, there is no more powerful message for U.S. public diplomats than the message that anything is possible.

Imagine the Future:
The future has disappeared from the Russian regime’s public discourse. A cynical society cannot imagine a way forward. Economic modernizers with coherent plans for the future have been banished. Focusing on Western ideas of the future, from urban planning to economic policy, technology, and teaching can stimulate a discussion inside of Russia about where its own regime is leading it.

Silicon Valley represents American dynamism. For all their efforts, Russia has not been able to create its own version or boost its nanotechnology sector as trumpeted by former President Medvedev. Even more painfully, many successful American tech entrepreneurs have Russian roots, a clear case of the Russian state’s failure to empower its own people.

Health, Social Welfare, and Charities:
Some of the most important activism in today’s Russia is around the subject of health provision. High-proæle charities focus on cancer care for children and adults, hospices, finding a cure for cystic æbrosis, and so on. The elite’s access to Western medical care outrages ordinary citizens and undermines the official anti-Western line: When “patriotic” Russian politicians head to Germany for treatment, they show their utter hypocrisy. The lack of provision for the elderly, and the early age of death, highlight the weaknesses of the Russian model. By supplying constant and accurate information about health care in the West, public diplomacy can stimulate a conversation around a subject that reveals the Kremlin’s false equivalence to be a sham.

Education: Even Kremlin elites who pose as anti-Western send their children to study in the West, especially the United States. This is a clear case where American achievements are admired.

Consumer Culture and Commercial Culture:
States in propaganda Walkmans are still very much exposed to the Western consumer culture; this is a weak spot of all developing countries with authoritarian rule. Domestic content cannot match that created in Hollywood or London; domestic goods are not of high enough quality to satisfy demand. Autocratic states are incapable of producing relevant “import 
substitutions” for the iPhone and Tesla, nor do they have the creative powers and professional capacity to churn out Avatar or Star Wars. Despite the rapid development of its entertainment sector, the Kremlin is still reliant on Western stars and products, from soap operas to arthouse cinema. These remain a strong conversation starter. If ælms and programs with Western stars were made about themes that resonate with a Russian viewer, they will be watched. If Western stars engage Russians in communication, they will be listened to.

2) The Communicators

The United States and European countries need a pool of communicators whom Russians will immediately listen to, who command respect above the barriers and who can cut through the mess of digital media. Most State Department ofæcials, democracy promoters, and human rights activists will immediately be pigeon-holed as out to subvert Russia. “Russia experts” can come with baggage.

America (and the West in general) needs a “dream team” of communicators, who would be involved in a consistent way, making timely and emotional interventions at critical junctures. Cultivating such a group would demand effective interagency coordination and strategizing—but it would also demand that these communicators maintain some distance from official U.S. government hierarchies, and can operate independently from ofæcial government policy.

There is some precedent for such a mandate. During the Cold War, the State Department (and later the now-defunct United States Information Agency) effectively leveraged the appeal of non-political artists, seeking to export the best of American culture abroad. The “jazz diplomacy” that shared the works of Louis Armstrong and Oscar Peterson with Warsaw Pact countries did not just introduce audiences to a particularly American art form; it also sent a positive human message about African-Americans’ own “pursuit of happiness.”

Apart from positive cultural messaging, the U.S. government also developed a coordinated strategy to fight back against Soviet disinformation. The Active Measures Working Group, an interagency organization that functioned between 1981 and 1992 to confront and mitigate Moscow’s informational warfare, could provide a blueprint for a new effort along these lines. Such an initiative should lie outside the State Department and Pentagon, and cannot be coupled with the Broadcasting Board of Governors, as Voice of America and RFE/RL should maintain their legacy operations.

Instead, the group should have a mandate that allows it to engage people and institutions that have a leverage in the information space—from Hollywood stars to Silicon Valley tycoons, from SpaceX to CNN—in order to coordinate messaging and monitor its effects.These communicators would have to brave the battles of Russian television, but could also talk directly through social media, whether YouTube or Twitter. Effective messages are sent over multiple platforms and targeted to multiple audiences—with messengers carefully chosen for the task.

An A-list selection might include:
  • The Innovator: Elon Musk, who appeals to Russian ideas of the visionary scientist. 
  • The Soldier: High-ranking U.S. military ofæcials like James Mattis and H.R. McMaster are highly respected in Russia, even in the present environment, and are rarely ridiculed on Russian media (unlike their political counterparts). Senior offocers known for their combat and strategic achievements could make more effective spokesmen than commonly understood.
  • The Movie Star: George Clooney, who combines star status with a social conscience and commitment to journalism, would be a strong candidate.
  • The Philanthropist/Activist: Melinda and Bill Gates, or digital activists like Eli Pariser or Beau Willimon (who is also greatly respected as the showrunner of House of Cards) could be included in this category. Russians are sensitive to the issue of social justice, while they are generally powerless to achieve it in their own country. It is crucially important to demonstrate how personal actions and investments in social change may make the world better place.
This might all sound fanciful, but if one considers how effectively the UK has used David Beckham as a spokesperson, or how the French government can talk through Bernard Henri-Lévy, then it comes to seem not so speculative.

3) Content:

Beyond the News: The Russian mass media, controlled and orchestrated by the government, offers a mix of home-grown and imported high-quality entertainment to attract viewers towards its own propaganda. If the West wants to compete with Kremlin channels, they would ideally need to invest in entertainment with an underlying social message relevant to Russian audiences. This means creating fictional ælms and documentaries especially for Russian audiences. This sort of investment is probably only possible if Western countries deliberately pool resources through a mechanism akin to the Nordic Film Board. Current funding is tragically fragmented, making any kind of impact minimal.

At the very least, existing Western cultural assets which embed core democratic values as a part of their message should be made more readily available. That means translating everything from the foundational works in liberalism, social justice and ethics, to relevant modern scholarship in communications, political science, international relations, history and philosophy, to classic movies and TV series. Relevant articles in magazines, think tank reports, TED talks and so on should be immediately available in Russian, as should press releases from state institutions and NGOs. Relevant archives which relate to Russia-West relations should also be translated into Russian. There are already some EU-based initiatives (like the Adenauer Foundation or Adam Smith Institute) which support this kind of work for a narrow group of social scientists and students. But a more broad-based approach is needed, and could be conceived and developed by the interagency group mentioned above.

Such efforts may not yield immediate results, but in the long run they are key.

The News: When broadcasting news into Russia, Western public broadcasters are faced with a dilemma. On the one hand, accurate information about such issues as Ukraine and Syria is part of any news agenda. On the other hand, providing that information can play right into the Kremlin’s propaganda strategy, which portrays all Western voices as part of a campaign to discredit Russia. Western broadcasters cannot pretend they are not voices from the United States or European Union; Russian audiences instantly see them as such and Kremlin propaganda will always frame them as following a hidden agenda. The more they attack Russian foreign policy, the more it reinforces the Kremlin’s message that the West is out to get Russia.

This rejection of direct criticism is borne out in the social media interactions of  Russian viewers on the Facebook page of Current Time, Radio Free Europe’s premier Russian language TV news program. Posts about the war in Ukraine usually receive less engagement than more human stories about Russian lives beyond Moscow. The highest amount of interactions were for stories about Karelian villagers defending their forest and about the provision of laundry for the homeless. In order to pursue an effective news strategy, international broadcasting needs to differentiate between Russian language audiences. One could estimate that Ukrainians, for example, need reassurance that the West cares about their (military) security and reforms; Baltic Russians that they belong in the European Union; while Russians in Russia want to hear about examples of positive change throughout Russia and beyond. Programming needs to move beyond mere Kremlin bashing and an obsessive focus on Moscow political intrigues to include constructive and solutions-based news, which gives viewers concrete examples of how to improve their lives.

Crowd-Sourcing a New Deal

Post-Soviet Russians feel they never received a true deal from the West. Whether fair or not, symbolic gestures such as G8 membership on the one hand and lectures about democracy on the other did not a “new deal” make. Russians were offered nothing of the sweep and scale as the EU membership given to Central European countries.

Today’s challenges demand an open dialogue with a broad array of Russians on the “terms of coexistence.” The U.S. and EU governments must decisively articulate their goals towards Russia. There is no need to sugarcoat the message or pursue a false balance in interests: Russians expect America to penetrate every aspect of their life and many believe the West is out to destroy Russia’s very existence. Notwithstanding the groundlessness of such convictions, they will probably not disappear even when Vladimir Putin vacates the stage. And with Putin’s inevitable fourth (and last) presidential term approaching, it is only growing more urgent for Russians and the West to start asking what life will look like without him. It is also crucial to keep the dialogue as broad as possible, reaching out to ordinary Russians and not elites only, and engaging the most indoctrinated social groups, like the military and law enforcement.

Crafting a comprehensive public diplomacy strategy of this kind is a tall order.  However, the enduring popularity of Western culture and way of life shows that Russians are not intrinsically opposed to the West. With the right communicators, new media can open up the space to create a transnational conversation with the ultimate promise of freedom, security, and prosperity for all. Such an effort will not be easy, and it will no doubt be attacked by trolls and cynics—but ultimately, it is the only way forward.


Vasily Gatov: Forgive Me If You Can 

After Apologizing for Genocide of Crimean Tatars, Vasily Gatov Attacked by Russian Channel One Employees
15 Minut
May 20, 2016
Well-known journalist and media manager Vasily Gatov, grandson of Ivan Sheredega, the NKVD Internal Troops commander who, in 1944, oversaw the deportation of the Crimean Tatars, has been targeted by his former colleagues at Russia’s Channel One after publishing a post on Facebook.
On May 18, Gatov wrote the following on Facebook.
“Today is the anniversary of one of the most shameful events in the history of the Soviet Union, the deportation of the Crimean Tatar people. I don’t find it so easy to write these words: my own grandfather commanded this ‘operation.’
“In May 1944, the Soviet Army was in the midst of liberating the lands of Europe from the Nazi genocide machine, and the concept of ‘death camps’ was clear to the soldiers and officers. During these very same days, Stalin decided that another entire people, from its children to its heroes, was the ‘enemy.’
“As it is euphemistically called in the relevant documents, the ‘expulsion’ of the Chechens, Balkars, Volga Germans, Crimean Tatars, Lithuanians, Latvians, and Estonians is nothing but a form of genocide. A genocide that has never been recognized, that has never been mourned, and that has never been paid for.
“The Crimean Tatars, Chechens, and Ingush are nations that have suffered at the hands of both the USSR and Russia.
“It is not only a shame. It is not only a sin.
“It is a crime that has been committed twice, an aggravated conspiracy by a gang whose objectives completely fall under the definitions of the crime as laid down by the International Court.
“And until a trial takes place in one form or another, any reasonable and sober person will have to repeat the same words:
“Forgive me if you can.”
Gatov also published his comment on the condemnation of his actions by his former colleagues on his Facebook page.
“Towards evening, I read the [minutes of] the long-distance Party meeting held on Facebook by Channel One employees and a few invited guests in order to condemn me. My thanks to Ksenia Turkova and Arina Borodina for their efforts to defend me in circumstances in which I cannot even reply to Svetlana Kolosva (director of Channel One’s documentary films department) and her fellow Party members.
“As for the claims made there, I have the following to say. Only a complete raving lunatic whose head was chockablock with propaganda and had been made insecure by continually lying to himself and others could have read into what I wrote yesterday everything my former friends and acquaintances discovered there. Basically, that’s all I have to say.
“Actually, it’s not quite everything. I discovered several interesting likes from people I didn’t expect to see on the list of invitees to the Party meeting. However, upon reflection, I concluded that the people who left those likes also completely fit the definition written above.”
Vasily Gatov is a Visiting Fellow at the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy. Photo courtesy of 15 Minut. See my translation of Gatov’s recent essay on the dismantling of RBC and the demise of the free press in RussiaTranslated by the Russian Reader

Monday, February 26, 2018

Website Live now, CSIS (2/26/2018: 1:19 pm) History of Modern Public Diplomacy; for a direct link,

clink on

History of Modern Public Diplomacy

The Origins of the Founding of the United States Information Agency (USIA)

The United States Information Agency (USIA) took the lead in the war of ideas between the United States and the Soviet Union following World War II. The Cold War was arguably won because the United States had a better economic system and because the United States had better ideas and values. USIA helped present those ideas and values and it’s public diplomacy campaigns around the world carried great influence. Although USIA no longer exists, it is important to reminisce about the origins of its founding and how it has played a role in modern public diplomacy. The lessons of the past should be understood and presented for the benefit of those on the future front lines of U.S. public diplomacy.
CSIS is hosting a public event to examine USIA’s experience in the 1950s and 1960s, and will build upon previous conversations and a commentary that talked about the lessons learnt from the agency’s merger with the U.S. State Department in the 1990s. 
Please join us on February 26th for this important discussion. 
This event was made possible by general support to CSIS.
Gregory M. Tomlin