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Opinion

Does Public Diplomacy Matter?

Claudiu Sonda

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Introduction

We hear about ‘public diplomacy’ virtually on a daily basis as if it has been around forever but as a matter of fact, this precise term is only circa 50 years old, having been coined in 1965 by Edmund Gullion. In what follows, I will make an attempt at clarifying the meaning of this notorious notion and at understanding it significance in contemporary international affairs.

My proposition is to set a distinction between two forms of public diplomacy, only the first of which will then be analysed under the meaning/content, and relevance aspects. The first type I label as ‘top-down public diplomacy’, which contrasts with the second type, ‘bottom-up public diplomacy’.

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Source: Maxime Benzi @ Flickr

Before going into more detail, I want to make a general assessment of the topic. The whole business of diplomacy can be considered as representation and communication. Public diplomacy goes even further into influencing the ‘public attitudes on the formation and execution of foreign policies.’ By ‘top-down’ I am referring to a relation of communication or influence that has a national government (state) as the transmitter and the general public (non-state) as receiver. ‘Bottom-up’ I conceive to be exactly the opposite, a relationship that reflects the communicative and influential input of the public for achieving a certain political output from a government. This can be done either directly, public – foreign government, or indirectly: public – foreign public – foreign government.

Top-down public diplomacy

This typology of public diplomacy refers to all the actions that a government takes to communicate to foreign publics and influence their thinking and behaviour. Also, the spread of a good image of the country worldwide is a task of public diplomacy. What sort of actions do governments undertake in this sense?

A first one could be the direct address by high officials. Representative is George W. Bush’s speech on the war on terror. He thanks ‘on behalf of the American people…the world for its outpouring of support’. His recipients are not foreign government officials, but the general foreign public made up of ‘South Korean children gathering to pray outside our embassy in Seoul’, others who pray in the ‘mosque in Cairo’, and those who kept ‘moments of silence and days of mourning in Australia and Africa and Latin America’. Bush addresses through this speech the Taliban openly, asking for the release of foreign nationals and the delivery of Bin Laden. He also speaks ‘directly to Muslims throughout the world’, claiming to respect their faith. Even though President Bush is only talking to his immediate audience, the Joint Session of the 107th Congress, he is in fact aware that the whole world is watching. He is holding a one-way ‘diplomatic meeting’ with the foreign public via media broadcasting.

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Source: Beverly & Pack @ Flickr

One more instrument of public diplomacy is the spread of governmentally-funded NGOS and foundations around the globe with the aim to endorse the image of the country of origin, its values, and to facilitate the execution of foreign policy by preparing foreign audiences into being more receptive. One illustrative example is the Romanian Cultural Institute, which has the mission to promote ‘national culture and civilization in Romania and abroad’, therefore acting as a ‘crucial complementary instrument’ for achieving ‘Romania’s strategic objectives’. Its work is structured around a number of ‘programs, project, and activities’ which mainly focus on identity issues like language, traditions, and artistic and intellectual creations. This case fits more with the prestige of a country function of public diplomacy. States like Romania and Bulgaria who have been admitted lastly into the EU, could benefit from this kind of tool to approach an EU public that has been since critical of the last wave of enlargement ever since it started.

What about the relevance of public diplomacy ? I would argue positively. Both from the theoretical perspective and from the practical side. Regarding the conceptual relevance, this notion of public diplomacy manages to explain a behaviour that would in its absence be harder to grasp. Why would President Bush address people who are not present in the room while holding his speech? Was it merely rhetoric for influencing the members of the Congress and for getting into the graces of the American people? It is more. I would argue it is part of a larger diplomatic effort meant to build up that coalition of 49 countries willing to participate in Operation Iraqi Freedom. The participation to the war in Iraq can be justified by a feeling of empathy to the American sufferings of 9/11 and by a fear of terrorism, both instilled in the foreign audience initially by Bush’s public diplomacy.

On a practical level, public diplomacy is very relevant in the age of globalization and under the dominance of a liberal/democratic international order because state actors’ actions are under more scrutiny. Legitimacy is a higher priority. The amplification of global interaction together with the impact of Internet and social media leads to more interdependence, which in turn distorts the line between domestic and foreign policy. When a Christian fundamentalist burned the Qur’an in the US (2011), the Muslim world immediately reacted: this event transgressed boundaries from a domestic event into a foreign policy instance. A confined episode turned into a threat to US reputation. Respectable reputation along with legitimacy revolves around the idea of soft power, a vital ingredient for decreasing hostility and earning the confidence vote to lead internationally.

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The seat of international law: The Peace Palace (The Hague) Source: Ferdi de Gier @ Flickr

The international legal order is constructed today on the basis of the UN Charter. The United Nations is officially the main source of lawfulness and legitimacy on the world scene, argument proved by the intention of Palestine to be recognized by the UN as a member state. A current affairs instance of the role of international law is the Russian annexation of Crimea or the unification of Crimea to Russia, depending on the political position. Article 1 and Article 2 offer different decisions to whether this situation was legal or not. Namely, the right to self-determination of the Russians in Crimea against the right to territorial integrity. Political legitimacy also plays a part in this debate: was the interim government legitimate or not? Regardless of the answer, what matters is that the debate around international norms and principles sugar-coated realpolitik. Why? Because states need to be acting in accordance with what the public opinion sees as right, which in this case is prescribed in the UN Charter.

An overlooked characteristic of public diplomacy is its domestic variation, namely the engagement of the domestic public. The context of democratization in foreign policy-making is valuable in emphasizing the role of the local population in consenting to, embracing and disseminating the principles and goals of the national leaders in an environment where, as mentioned earlier, the boundaries between what is domestic and what is international are fading. Let’s take an example. The People’s Republic of China is established under the ‘people’s democratic dictatorship’. The domestic facet of the public diplomacy in this country has the exact target of promoting the principle of ‘governing for the people’ in foreign matters as well, and it is implemented through constant interaction between the general public and the foreign ministry (conferences, online discussions, visits).

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Chinese public diplomacy: Beijing’s Bird’s Nest Source: Earth Hour @ Flickr

Conclusion

To sum up our discussion, we can positively affirm that public diplomacy is relevant in contemporary international relations due to a number of characteristics of the global arena. These are:

  • the states’ need for legitimacy both from the foreign public and domestic one;
  • the higher role of reputation and soft power;
  • the requirement to be compliant with international law which makes states justify their actions to the public;
  • high global interaction and access which leads to more scrutiny of state actions:
  • an ever more blurry line between domestic and foreign issues;
  • increasing involvement of domestic constituencies in foreign policy-making both in democracies and illiberal states;

All these features determine states to consider the international public opinion in the process of decision-making, especially in matters of external affairs. This effort to communicate more, influence more, involve more, promote more to the foreign public complementary to foreign governments is the task of a public diplomacy that is here to stay.

List of references

(Tr.) Sultan C., April 18, 2005, Europe Union: How Fit Are Romania and Bulgaria for the EU?, at Spiegel.de, website: http://www.spiegel.de/international/spiegel/europe-union-how-fit-are-romania-and-bulgaria-for-the-eu-a-352874.html ;

Armitage R, Nye J. (2007), CSIS COMMISSION ON SMART POWER. A smarter, more secure America, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC & INTERNATIONAL STUDIES, The CSIS Press, Washington DC;

BBC.com, 30 November 2012, Q&A: Palestinians’ upgraded UN status, website: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-13701636 ;

Carlsnaes W, Risse T., Simmons B. (2002), Diplomacy, Bargaining and Negotiation, in Handbook of International Relations, pp. 212-235, SAGE Publications Ltd;

Constitution of the People’s Republic of China (2004), website: http://www.npc.gov.cn/englishnpc/Constitution/2007-11/15/content_1372963.htm ;

Kerr P., Wiseman G. (2013), Diplomacy in a globalizing world. Theories and Practices, Oxford University Press;

Operation Iraqi Freedom, March 27, 2003, at whitehouse.archives.gov, website: http://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2003/03/20030327-10.html ;

The Fletcher School and Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University (2014), What is Public Diplomacy, website: http://fletcher.tufts.edu/Murrow/Diplomacy

Passionate student of IR and European politics with an interest in developing a high-level expertise in International Security and geopolitics.

Opinion

On the issue of cyber security of critical infrastructures

Alexandra Goman

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There is a lot of talk in regards to cyberattacks nowadays. A regular user worries about its data and tries to secure by all means necessary. Yet, no one really thinks whether the power plants or nuclear facilities are well secured. Everyone assumes that they should be secured.

The reality, however, differs. According to many reports of cyber security companies, there is an increased risk of cyberattacks, targeting SCADA and ICS. Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) is used for the systems that control physical equipment – power plants, oil and gas pipelines, they can also control or monitor processes such as heating or energy consumption. Along with Industrial Control Systems (ICS) they control critical elements of industrial automation processes. Exploiting vulnerabilities of critical infrastructures can lead to the consequences of unimaginable scale. (These types of attacks are actually used in a cyberwar scenarios and hypothetical military settings).

Source: Fortinet, 2015

There are many reasons why these systems are vulnerable for attacks. First of all, the main problem is that these systems have an old design; they were built before they were connected to any networks. They were later configured to connect via Ethernet, and that’s when they became a part of a larger infrastructure. The more advanced SCADA system is becoming, the more vulnerabilities are these to exploit. The updates should be regular and on time. Secondly, there is a lack of monitoring. New devices that are connected allow remote monitoring, but not all devices have the same reporting capabilities. There are also authentication issues (weak passwords, authentication process), however, this is supposed to restrict unauthorized access (See Common SCADA Threats and Vulnerabilities at Patriot Technologies, Inc. Online).

In these scenarios, there is no certainty to know what is going to backfire because of the complexity of communications and power networks. This is also called a cascading effect of attacks. Not knowing who is connected to who may cause major disruptions. The example of the US East Coast power blackout in 2003 proves this point (a failure in one element of the grid spreads across other electrical networks). However, given this, it is also complicated for an attacker to predict consequences, if an attack executed. This kind of attack can easily escalate into more serious conflict, so it might not be the best option for states to employ such methods.

Moreover, there is a risk to damage a critical infrastructure unintentionally. That is if a virus or worm did not intend to target SCADA but happen to spread there as well. The uncontrollability of the code may seriously impair the desire to use it, especially when it comes to nation-states. For instance, in 2003 a worm penetrated a private network of the US Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station and disabled a safety monitoring system for 5 hours. In 2009, French fighter jets could not take off because they were infected with a virus.

Indeed, a scenario where an attacker gains access to a SCADA system and manipulates with the system, causing disruptions on a large-scale, might be hypothetical but it does not make it less possible in the future. However, the only known case so far, which affected an industrial control centre, is Stuxnet. It did not result in many deaths, yet it drew attention of the experts on the plausibility of future more sophisticated attacks. These potential upcoming attacks might cause the level of destruction, comparable to that of a conventional attack, therefore resulting in war.

Further reading:

Bradbury, D. (2012). SCADA: a Critical Vulnerability. Computer Fraud & Security, 4, p. 11-14.

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Opinion

Briefly about the Russian Political Discourse

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As you may have noticed, the recent international discourse has been rotating around Russia and its relations to other countries for a long time. Needless to say that after the events in Georgia/Ukraine, this discourse is far from friendly. Some even say that rhetoric of the Cold War has returned. What makes people abroad wonder is why Russia chooses to respond to its foreign partners in this particular way? Why is it the way it is?

To begin with, there are several reasons that shape Russian rhetoric. First of all, they are historical and cultural values. Russia sees itself as a defender of its rights and identity and someone who is not going to follow someone else’s rules. Back to the 13th century, the grand prince (rus. knyaz) Aleksander Nevsky only accepted submission  to the Golden Horde to protect the Russian culture and belief, therefore depriving the West of the opportunity to take over its territories.  This mentality still governs the minds of people. Today, current political rhetoric is doing the same by refusing the Western pressure and external interference into its business.

After the Golden Horde, Russia has managed to maintain its unity. Back then, the East saw the country to be an heir to the great Byzantine Empire. Meanwhile, the enormous size of the country was rather intimidating; and even more, when it started acquiring new territories (remember reaction to the situation with Crimea).

On the one hand, Moscow tries to present itself strong when it communicates with the Europe; on the other hand, the Western neighbours seem to use the same old-fashioned strategy to isolate the big neighbour. Since the time of Ivan the Terrible, no one really has wanted strong and stable Russia and there were steps before to prevent the unity of Eurasia.

The long history of Russia plays a big role in forming the modern mind of the citizen and current political rhetoric. Russian people and the government would not admit defeat and would do anything possible to prevail, even if it means to live in humble circumstances for some time (think of the continuous sanctions).

The tough policy of Peter the Great, the emperor of Russia, has brought the country to a new level in comparison to others. At that time already, all the international questions were only resolved with the help of Russia. In the following years, the power of the country kept growing only to solidify during the rule of Catherine the Great. The famous grand chancellor of Russia and the chief of foreign policy Bezborodko used to say, “I don’t know how it will be at your time, but at this time not a single gun is allowed to fire without our permission”[1]. Now, Russia tries to achieve similar influence.

The period after the World War II proved to be fruitful for the development of the European countries. While the US and USSR were competing, Europe was free from deciding on serious issues, so it could absorb and enjoy the time of quiet development.

Nonetheless, there has been a clear confrontation between the two ideologies, Nazism and Communism. Even though the USSR did not try to exterminate the nations, the scary ghost of the USSR keeps frightening the rest of the world. The impression of “evil USSR” flying over the international relations is still there and penetrates the minds of the people.

After the collapse of the USSR, there was a chance to promote peace and peaceful coexistence.  Russia has repeatedly expressed its interest in it, yet the Western partners have chosen another way:  NATO enlargement to the East (which is believed to be a broken promise).  Interestingly enough, George Kennan, the so-called creator of containment policy of Soviet expansion, considered the NATO expansion a tragic mistake.

All in all, abovementioned factors play a significant role in shaping the Russian political discourse. Cultural and historical values, national pride (and therefore negative feeling towards the Western sanctions) as well as the use of state symbols to unite the country are the most important rhetoric tools in the Russian language arsenal. Its constant and regular transmission through the media and other communication channels make this rhetoric influential and persuasive.

[1] [URL: http://www.istmira.com/istoriya-rossii-s-drevnejshix-vremen-do-nashix/290-kakovy-itogi-i-posledstviya-vneshnej-politiki.html] [дата обращения: 20.05.2016]

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Opinion

Yes, You Should Start Caring About Politics!

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One of the most common things that you hear from people a lot of the time is something along the lines of “I just don’t really care about politics.” In fact, you might have even said something along those lines yourself. And it can be tempting to fall into this line of thinking. After all, politics are hardly the most exciting or exotic things in the world. However, the truth is that they impact your life in different ways every single day and if you choose to ignore politics, then that just meant that you’re going to end up falling victim to policies that harm you and the people around you. With that in mind, here are some ways that you can start being more politically minded right now.

Know the issues

Do you know where you stand on many of the most important issues of the modern day? Do you know what most of those issues are? The truth is that many people would rather ignore a lot of the problems that society and the world at large face simply because it can feel as though they’re too big to deal with. Things like the economy, climate change, and social justice aren’t just abstract concepts; they’re things that impact the lives of real people every single day. Being more informed about the issues will allow you to have a much better understanding of your own political views.

Know who to speak to

Do you know who your senator is? Your representative? Most people tend to only know major politicians who have held office at one point or another. Sure, you probably know the president or a senator like John Mccain. But what about all of the other senators like Doug Jones or Mike Crapo? These are the people you can actually contact if you want to start making some changes in the world. Getting to know who you can contact can help you feel much more involved in the modern political process.

Forget about personalities and focus on policies

Modern politics has become as much of a game of personalities as anything else. But the truth is that the personalities of individual politicians are far less important than the policies that they and their party want to enact. After all, the policies are the things that will actually make a difference in people’s lives. You should never vote just because you like or dislike the way that a particular politician talks or what their personality seems to be like. Always vote on policies, not personalities.

Now, this doesn’t mean that you should suddenly let politics take over every conversation that you have or that you need to be constantly thinking about it. But trying to bury your head in the sand and ignore the things that are going on around you isn’t going to do you any good. The only way that you can start to make some genuine changes in the world is if you face up to the realities of the modern world and try to do something about it.

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