Some may be familiar with Stephen Cohen, recently emeritus at NYU and Princeton. I have read him for decades, but in recent weeks find most helpful his commentary on the political turmoil in Ukraine, and Western/Global Northern responses to actions by the Ukrainian and Russian governments. Because we have discussed the PD implications of these dynamics, and some have blogged on the topic, I thought you might like a link: http://jordanrussiacenter.org/author/scohen/ .
As folks who study IR well appreciate, the politics are very complicated. I think that the media that we most tend to turn to (NYT, WP, NPR, WSJ, Economist…) are providing superficial if not inaccurate coverage. Analysts including Cohen are much more reliable sources. Whether, as recent class readings suggest, his blogging will have an effect is another matter, but I am going to turn increasingly to him and other analysts (easy enough to identify via the AU library databases/reference librarian’s help).
Is it possible that some governments came to a conclusion that granting citizens of other countries special benefits is a good technique for winning hearts and minds? It sure looks like it in two news pieces that drew my attention this week- Germany and Russia.
This week Chancellor Angela Merkel arrived with an official visit to Israel. The biggest headline of this visit was a signing of two very progressive agreements- one gaining young Israeli citizens an automatic provision of temporary working permits when visiting Germany and the other offering Israeli citizens consular services through German embassies in countries with which Israel doesn’t have diplomatic relations (unfortunately there are quite a few). Though officially marketed as a mutual progressive agreement between the two governments, to me it looks much more as a “Forget all the bad we did and come and like us!” call for young talented Israelis with potential to contribute to German economy, who might still have their doubt due to historic residues.
Second somewhat similar act appeared on the website of one of the largest Russian News agencies (unfortunately I can’t seem to find a source in English for now): Russian Parliament is considering a bill granting automatic citizenship to every Ukrainian citizen who chooses to claim one. Here it seems like an even more brutal act of reaching out directly to citizens and trying to attract them to the country. Of course the long shared history of these states and the predominant nature of Russia in this history explain the case.
So could this become a phenomenon? I think that this is actually a genius technique of reaching out to people directly even if it’s done by signing agreements between governments. As opposed to other PD techniques we explored that usually target specific audiences within a nation, here we are witnessing acts that reach out to the whole population creating potential for a more significant and direct impact.
And here are the articles:
I fear this might be one of a dozen Sochi posts this week but I just wanted to try and look at the current media attention surrounding the event in the context of this week’s soft power (henceforth SP) readings.
A lot of the time, when we look at a country’s image abroad, we focus on things such as that country’s foreign policy and stance on human rights. However, I would like to bounce off Nye’s text and say that a state’s competence is equally valuable.
What I mean by this is that morality aside, people are drawn towards states that can provide for their citizens and somehow excel on the world stage. In the case of the United States, it has the world’s largest military, a high GDP/capita and the epicenter of the English-language entertainment industry, among other things.
While I’m still a big proponent of geopolitics and the ‘hard’ elements of power, I would argue that public perceptions of state competence has a great potential to shape interstate relations. Rumblings of a ‘Beijing consensus’ came about to a large part due to the near-collapse of the U.S. financial system.
So back to Sochi. Putin could have chosen one of so many other ski-friendly places to hold the Olympics but chose a place a stone’s throw from where it went to war with Georgia during the 2008 Olympics. Was this an attempt to show how far the country has come since its embarrassing struggle to put down Islamist militants in the 90s? And what does it mean if the (so far) violence-free games are overshadowed by shortcomings in basics like accommodation and infrastructure?