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Russian annexation of Crimea – Public dipomacy in context

by on March 31, 2014

Russia has annexed Crimea in lightning speed and despite the international condemnation there is little chance of Russian relinquishing its hold on Ukrainian territory even though in 1994 it signed an agreement with the Ukraine guaranteeing Ukrainian territorial sovereignty after the Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons. As a justification a number of arguments have been put forward which include Ukrainian fascists threatening Crimea, protection of Russian peoples and even NATO’s bombing of Serbia in 1999.

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During Soviet times there was no freedom of the press and propaganda was used whilst the truth was regarded unimportant which led to information manipulation. In order to remove these perceptions, Russia financed an array of projects specifically geared towards improving public diplomacy. ‘Russia Today’ (later rebranded RT), a 24 hour English satellite news channel was set up on in late 2005 which later became available in Arabic and Spanish. Unlike its rival news channels such as BBC World News or France24, the channel was not set up to be dispassionate or cover news stories on their merits. The primary purpose behind RT was to explain Russia to the world. Therefore an emphasis has always been placed on domestic issues at the expense of international events.
The channel airs different political views however it is argued it has been susceptible to state control, especially during the Georgian war in 2008 and during the current crisis. The channel has recently received widespread criticism from both internal and external sources. In March, Liz Wahl resigned during a live broadcast after claiming the network ‘whitewashes the actions of Putin’ .

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In America, several opinion columns praising Russia’s leadership can be found on websites belonging to the Huffington Post and CNBC. These posts were thought to be posted by independent professionals however they were in fact placed on behalf of the Russian government by its public relations firm, Ketchum . The Foreign Ministry has also been a recipient of millions in an attempt to revitalize the organs of foreign diplomacy such as the Russkiy Mir foundation.

 

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Furthermore Putin has been attempting to utilize and harness soft power in the region by highlighting Russia’s attractiveness to foreigners including its, mass media, economy, familiar language and religion, family ties and electronic products. Putin has made many statements referring to the ‘historic unity of people’ in the region and creation of a special department for Interregional and Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries at the Kremlin show that Russia is eager to tap into the soft power benefits .
However despite all these attempts, polls suggest that western perceptions of Russia are still negative and distrustful, whilst Russian attitudes to the West have also become worse . Recent British altercations also show that diplomacy is not one of Russia’s key strengths, in the murder case of Alexander Litvinenko, 2006, a former KGB spy was the prime suspect but despite repeated attempts by the British, extradition failed. In retaliation Moscow forced the British Council to close two of its offices in Russia , a clear attack on the cultural and public diplomacy rather than using traditional diplomacy.

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In conclusion, public diplomacy involves cultural and transnational communications which by default entail some degree of incompatibility. However Russia has failed to emphasize the salient issues and framed others in less discordant terms and has alienated itself by attacking foreign countries such as Georgia in the past and now Ukraine. Furthermore it has not recognized the impact of its actions on foreign public opinion and the importance of incorporating this factor in its foreign policy decision making process; this is in clear contradiction to Cull’s ‘Golden Rule of Diplomacy’ . Russian public diplomacy efforts highlight one of two things. The first is that a considerable amount of time is needed before any observable impact on public attitudes in foreign countries becomes visible, or secondly, Russia’s approach to public diplomacy and the West is adequate and will never succeed.

 

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.References

BBC, 2014. Crimea crisis: Merkel warns Russia faces escalating sanctions. Available at <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-26659578&gt;. Accessed [31 March 2014].
BBC, 2014. Ukraine crisis: US and Russia ministers end Paris talks. Available at <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-26809625&gt;. Accessed [31 March 2014].
Chatham House. 2013. The Next Chapter: President Obama’s Second-Term Foreign Policy. Available at <http://www.chathamhouse.org/publications/papers/view/188587&gt;. Accessed [31 March 2014].

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4 Comments
  1. alip2013 permalink

    Great piece on Russia’s sabre rattling resurgence and the politics of annexation/secession (depending on your point of view) and its place in international law. If anything the Crimean crisis sends out a bad message to less scrupulous states: that this wouldn’t have happened had Ukraine still had nuclear weapons.

  2. jonssonigul permalink

    Vladimir Putin is still using himself of hard power or maybe it should be called smart power. What do you think Joseph Nye would say?

  3. As with your earlier piece from October, it isn’t clear how this post addresses the central themes of the module as it currently stands and needs significant revisions or shifting of focus before being included in your portfolio. For example, you could focus on evaluating Russia’s public relations offensive on the issue of Ukraine (not ‘the Ukraine’, incidentally) and the tools the Kremlin has used, such as the RT news station. Or you could pick up on the comment of ‘jonssonigul’ about hard and soft power and what Nye would predict about the damage Russia is doing to its long-term interests. Reworking the post along either of those lines would make it more relevant to the module and score you a better mark in the portfolio assignment.

  4. Kick the tires and light the fires, problem oflfaicily solved!

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