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?