Russia shifts from soft power to hard-line


A new — and likely more aggressive — chapter in Russian diplomacy is about to begin in Washington with the departure of Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, whose soft-power approach to D.C. will be taken over by noted hard-liner Anatoly Antonov, POLITICO reports.

“It’s the continuation of a trend we’re seeing throughout Europe, where Moscow is putting in hard-line, almost Soviet-style diplomats,” said Heather Conley, who runs the Europe and Eurasia program at Brookings Institution.

Russia’s international information warfare draws on the multifaceted information (and disinformation) campaigns the Kremlin and the media it controls have waged against perceived domestic adversaries, PBS reports (above).

Russia is actively promoting an authoritarian world order and a re-assertion of itself as a dominant geopolitical force on the international stage, note analysts Gregory Alonso Pirio and Robert Pittelli.* For U.S. policy in Africa, this requires a re-examination of pro-democracy and human rights strategies that have been core pillars of American policy in Africa since the end of the Cold War, they write for Eurasia Review:

The current aggressive Russian propaganda war mocks U.S claims of upholding democratic ideals and seeks to negatively highlight any and all shortcomings in the American social fabric. The anti-American tenor of Russian propaganda can be seen from even just a quick viewing of Russian state-owned Russia Today (RT) TV. Russian diplomats are also carrying the message to African leaders that they should find their own solutions to African problems and not be forced to model themselves on the systems of non-African countries, a clear effort to encourage a rejection of liberal democratic ideals.

Ways Forward

In response to the challenges of Russian soft power aggressiveness and the rise of gangster capitalism in Africa, Pirio and Pittelli suggest the United States should:

  • Redouble health, education and good governance assistance carried out by United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and publicize the difference this assistance is making in the lives of real people across the African continent…..
  • Revitalize the Fulbright Hays program to increase research and teaching opportunities for American and African professors and students; provide generous scholarship to African students with a stress on providing opportunities based on merit rather than focusing on the children of the elites.
  • Create a Voice of Africa dedicated to the promotion of open societies; this new media outlets should have a strong social media and television presence.
  • Strengthen the National Endowment for Democracy in its efforts to promote good governance and expose corruption…..RTWT
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