Saturday, January 13, 2024

Moscow’s ‘Soft Power’ Very Different from That of Other Countries, Pakhalyuk Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Jan. 10 – Most countries around the world understand and use soft power to promote a positive image of themselves in other countries, something almost inevitably a long-term process. But the Putin regime both understands and uses soft power in a different way, one with short-term goals close to propaganda, Konstantin Pakhalyuk says.

            The Russian historian now based in Israel  that “if we consider ‘soft power’ as a means of promoting the Russian model, then we must admit that today that does not exist.” Instead, Moscow is transforming all elements of what is thought of as soft power into propaganda narrowly understood (

            What this means is that the Kremlin reduces “history, culture, Orthodoxy, and the Russian-speaking diaspora solely to the status of “resources” for immediate profit rather than for the development of longer-term relationships that can elevate the status of Russia. If these “resources” don’t serve immediate needs, they are dismissed as “of little significance.”

            Despite the Kremlin’s approach, one that has become ever more propagandistic since the start of the expanded war in Ukraine, there are still three areas in which the Kremlin could still use soft power methods of a more conventional kind and achieve success. And despite everything, there is some evidence that it is succeeding in this regard, Pakhalyuk says.

            First, Moscow is continuing to rely on the Soviet nostalgia many residents of the non-Russian part of the former Soviet space still feel. Second, Moscow is playing to the anti-Western sentiments of people and governments around the world who don’t like Western dominance. And third, Moscow’s promotion of a strongman image is attractive to some authoritarian regimes.

            Moscow could continue to use such themes to good advantage, the analyst says; but reducing its messaging to propaganda alone is very likely to prove counter-productive not only because it makes what the Russian government do so transparent but also because it offends the sensibilities of most of these audiences.

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