While Moscow has contributed to much of the Russian public’s distaste towards the United States, Washington has focused on resetting relations with Russia’s government rather that its people. Yesterday, a panel hosted by The Heritage Foundation, “Russian Anti-Americanism: A Priority Target for U.S. Public Diplomacy,” focused on U.S. public diplomacy efforts in Russia.
According to a Pew Foundation 2009 public opinion poll, 62 percent of Russians regard the influence of the United States as bad, compared to 15 percent who regard it as good. While Kremlin-supported youth organizations, think tanks, documentaries and movies, and a robust media campaigns according to Daniel Kimmage, Senior Fellow at the Homeland Security Policy Institute, often blame the United States for Russia’s declining international power, the United States has done very little to counter these measures. The first step towards addressing this problem should be to create an account of Russian information operations in the United States.
In other words, the State Department needs to conduct extensive research on Russia’s activities and find out how effective they are. Once this is completed, according to Kimmage the U.S. must push back and counter these efforts. It also must be kept in mind that reaching out and engaging the Russian public, rather than the Kremlin is the public diplomacy objective. The U.S. should focus on launching internet campaigns, increasing international broadcasting and print media as well as revamping academic, student and business exchange programs. Furthermore, as U.S. public diplomacy is meant to promote democratic values abroad, the Obama administration should continue to fund those programs committed to promoting liberty and equality. The U.S. should work with an audience willing to listen rather than one which merely rebuffs advances in relations.