The United States should ramp up the use of “soft power” and public diplomacy through international broadcasts to counter Russia’s intentions in Ukraine, two experts on the former Soviet Union urge.
The Obama administration should expand U.S. television and radio broadcasts aimed at former Soviet states to ensure that ethnic Russians there receive information other than Moscow-controlled broadcasts, State Department veteran Paul Goble said at The Heritage Foundation.
“Russian national identity is extraordinarily weak,” Goble, a special adviser on Soviet nationality issues in the administration of George H. W. Bush, said at a Heritage panel April 21 dedicated to Russian political warfare, propaganda tactics, and disinformation.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “real crime” in swallowing Ukraine’s Crimea region, Goble added, is asserting that “ethnicity as he understands it is more important than citizenship.”
“Most of the statements that Vladimir Putin and his friends make today are outright lies,” Goble said, calling Russian disinformation campaigns a “much more serious threat.”
Also on the panel were John Lenczowski, president of the Institute of World Politics graduate school for national security and international affairs, and Ariel Cohen, Heritage’s senior research fellow for Russia and Eurasia studies. Helle Dale, Heritage’s senior fellow for public diplomacy, served as moderator.
Lenczowski said classic Soviet propaganda methods relied on the ability to “define the terms of debate.” In the case of Ukraine, he said, Russian officials labeled new Ukrainian government officials “as fascists and Nazis.”
“Blackening the image of their opponents is standard operating procedure,” noted Lenczowski, who was director of European and Soviet affairs at the National Security Council under President Reagan.
“We have to start getting serious about getting an alternative voice out there in the world,” he said.
Goble added: “If we do not promote soft power through broadcasting, through public diplomacy, we will eventually be driven to use hard power, and it will cost far more, be far more difficult and far more dangerous to our goals and our interests as well as everyone else’s.”
This story was produced by The Foundry’s news team. Nothing here should be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of The Heritage Foundation.