“Soft power is the ability to get what one wants by attracting others rather than threatening or paying them. It is based on culture, political ideals, and policies. When you persuade others to want what you want, you do not have to spend as much on sticks and carrots to move them in your direction.
Hard power, which relies on coercion, grows out of military and economic might. It remains crucial in a world populated by threatening states and terrorist organizations. But soft power will become increasingly important in preventing terrorists from recruiting new supporters, and for obtaining the international cooperation necessary for countering terrorism.”
Joseph S. Nye, Soft Power and the Struggle Against Terrorism
The world has been changing quite fast. Just 80 years ago, war was considered a normal means for solving disputes, and there had been aggressive, religious, colonial and other wars. After adoption of the Kellogg-Briand Pact in 1928, the situation changed notably. The Pact singed on 27 August 1928 in Paris by the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Japan, Germany, Belgium, Poland, Ireland and other states, had been proposed by the U.S. Secretary of State Frank B. Kellogg and French foreign minister Aristide Briand. By late 1938, the Pact had 63 signatories – almost all state existing at that time. Importantly, the Kellogg-Briand Pact became one of the legal grounds for the Nuremberg trial against the Nazi leaders. Later on, the key ideas reflected by the Kellogg-Briand Pact shaped the UN charter adopted in San Francisco in 1945, which, besides the equality of the states, involved another key international principle – abstaining from the use of force or threatening such for solution of international disputes.
Certainly, Europe had to be the first to generate such an idea, as Europe in 20th century had seen two disastrous wars unprecedented by the scale of destruction of human lives and property. The idea of the European Union was generated then as well, becoming the ground for the economic cooperation between France and Germany in the 1950s. That model of cooperation suggests that the states abstain from the use of force for resolution of disputes and conflicts (including the historical ones) and begin cooperating in such spheres where they have mutual interests – economy, energy production, culture, education, etc. – and only later return to the discussions, when there are more favourable conditions.
The Cold War
After the World War II, the international situation was rather complicated. Formally, the anti-Hitlerite coalition was still there, but the discord between the USSR and the Western powers was growing. The communists were taking over Eastern Europe. In Greece a civil war between the communists and their opponents erupted. Winston Churchill, a devoted anti-communist, viewed such tendencies very unfavourably. He understood that the Western European countries, devastated by war, could not withstand the communist influence and Soviet pressure effectively. Only the U.S., the country that had suffered the least and was the only state gone nuclear, might contain the USSR. Thus, Churchill’s Fulton Speech on 5 March 1946 started the resistance to the worldwide communist expansion. In the USSR, the Fulton Speech was understood as a signal for beginning of the Cold War.
The Cold War was a global political, military, economic and ideological confrontation between the USSR and its satellites, on the one side, and the U.S. with the allies, on the other side. One of the main components of the confrontation was the discrepancy between the capitalist and socialist models of development. Despite the 1961 Berlin crisis and the Cuban missile crisis, there was no large-scale war between the two superpowers, particularly because in the post-war world in international ‘rules of play’ worked out in Potsdam and Yalta and reinstated in the UN Charter, did not approve the use of military force as a means of problem resolution. Peacekeeping operations approved by the UN Security Council had become the only legitimate way for using the armed forces.
It should also be mentioned that although the U.S. and the USSR were not involved in a direct military action against each other, their competition for the spheres of influence often resulted in local conflicts around the world. Besides, both superpowers used force intentionally – the U.S. in Vietnam in 1965, and the USSR in Afghanistan in 1980. But the attitude towards such kind of wars had become negative, so we may recall the anti-American and anti-Soviet feelings because of the wars in Vietnam and Afghanistan.
The post-war world could not rest on the standoff between the two political systems and superpowers infinitely. Since 1987, Mikhail Gorbachev’s ‘new way of thinking’ let to lead the standoff to an end. In the Soviet foreign policy, a turn towards ‘socialist pluralism’ and ‘priority of universal values over class interests’ occurred. From that moment, the ideological, political and military confrontation between the two blocs began weakening.
The new USSR foreign policy doctrine was based on the political development towards rejection of the communist ideology, and also on USSR’s dependence on Western technologies and loans. The sharp decrease of the oil price in the 1980s, as well as the growth of military spending due to the armament race, became unbearable for the Soviet economy, and the USSR had to make concessions on foreign policy issues.
In 1988 the withdrawal of the Soviet troops from Afghanistan began. In December 1988, Gorbachev addressed the UN General Assembly with an idea of weakening the confrontation, and declared about reducing the number of Soviet troops. The concessions made by the USSR were not limited by that. From the autumn of 1989, the communist regimes in Central and Eastern Europe began falling, and the USSR did not interfere. The democratisation of the satellite countries resulted in dissolution of the Soviet bloc and to the end of the Cold War. The so-called Charter for a New Europe was signed in Paris on 21 November 1990, announcing the end of the half-century confrontation and the beginning of an ‘era of democracy, peace and unity’.
Joseph Nye and his ‘soft power’ idea
The USSR itself was in a deep crisis. The central authorities were losing control over the republics. In the country’s outskirts interethnic conflicts erupted. In December 1991, the USSR was officially dissolved.
The profound change in global political and military power balance influenced also the meaning of war in international affairs. Naturally, after the end of the Cold War, the mankind made another large step towards understanding that war is not an optimal way of dispute resolution. In 1990, Harvard University professor Joseph Nye proposed the idea of ‘soft power’, as an opposite to ‘hard power’ – involvement of military and economic pressure for changing the way of action of other states.
Nye, in particular, invited attention to the Cold War lessons:
- bloodshed is not an unavoidable instrument for resolution of global or regional conflicts;
- possession of nuclear weapons played an important containment role, as there was an understanding of the possible consequences of nuclear weapons usage;
- military force plays an important, but not a decisive role (the U.S. were defeated in Vietnam, and the USSR – in Afghanistan); in the era of nationalism and the third industrial (information) revolution it is impossible to rule over the hostile inhabitants of occupied territories;
- under such conditions, the economic capacity, the adaptability towards the contemporary challenges and the ability for innovation become the most important;
- application of soft power, i.e. the capacity to get an agreement without intimidation or bribing, but rather by attractiveness, play a great role.
Now, the application of ‘soft power’ is one of the most important features of the American and European foreign policy. The ‘soft power’ is a state’s, or a coalition’s, capacity to get the desired results by persuasion, not enforcement. ‘Soft power’ induces the others to follow certain rules of international cooperation, and lets to practically remove the need for enforcement. Such new way of thinking let to prevent the danger of new conflicts.
The UN and peacekeeping operations
Here I would refer to the UN peacekeeping missions again. The peacekeeping forces are composed of troops deployed by UN member states in accordance with the UN Charter for prevention of threats to peace and international order, or for elimination of such threats, by means of joint military actions, in cases when political and economic sanctions prove inefficient. The end of the Cold War resulted, in particular, in a radical change of the type of peacekeeping missions. The UN Security Council started deploying larger and more complicated peacekeeping missions, often with the goal of helping the conflicting parties to keep the peace agreements. Moreover, peacekeeping missions have been including more and more non-military means, in accordance with Joseph Nye’s ideas mentioned above. The UN Security Council began sending peacekeepers to such areas where a seize-fire had not been reached and not all conflicting parties agreed to the deployment of peacekeepers (for instance, the peacekeeping mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina). Such extended opportunity for peacekeeping missions prevented or stopped some devastating wars. The UN operations in Darfur (Sudan) and Tchad in 2007, the mission in Afghanistan deployed by the resolution adopted on 28 March 2002, or the UNMIK set on 10 June 1999 have played an important role for war prevention and protection of the civilians.
Certainly, the world continues facing problems, as some states use force without a UN Security Council mandate. However, even in such cases the states initiating such actions have to consider that war is not accepted as an appropriate mechanism for solving conflicts. The U.S. has initiated a few military operations in the recent two decades, using ‘hard power’ without a UN Security Council’s concern (in Yugoslavia in 1999, in Iraq in 2003). However, new tendencies played a role here as well: In order to legitimise its actions the U.S. had to create wide coalitions. So, the operation in Yugoslavia was organised by the NATO, while in Iraq a coalition composed of 42 states got involved, and South Caucasian countries took part as well. The U.S. formed such coalitions because the UN Security Council had not agreed for military action in Yugoslavia and Iraq, but availability of wide coalitions somehow legitimised the application of ‘hard power’.
The U.S. and ‘soft power’
After the election of Barack H. Obama for U.S. presidency, there were some hopes that the U.S. would apply ‘soft power’ for resolution of international problems more often. Indeed, newly elected president promised to withdraw the American troops from Iraq (that promised has been fulfilled, although a little later than planned). The U.S. announced is readiness to negotiate with Iran and North Korea without preconditions, though the governments of Iran and North Korea have not reacted to such proposition. Obama also pledged to shut down the prison at Guantanamo (this promise has been fulfilled only partly). In September 2009, the U.S. rejected the plans to deploy interceptor missiles in the Czech Republic and Poland, and launched the NATO-Russia council. In October 2009, Washington moved beyond: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated that the U.S. wished to divide the responsibility for different regions of the world with its partners. In fact, the U.S. agreed with the Russian concept of multipolar world. Such initiatives of the new U.S. administration provided hope for reducing the international tension.
In addition, the White House proposed a ‘reset’ of relations with Russia that would not let to return to the Cold War era. Currently, the U.S. and Russia cooperate in the sphere of non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and nuclear technologies, and in anti-terrorist operations. However, the situation is not totally comprehensible here, as Russia has been moving to harsh authoritarianism, has been denouncing international agreements concerning its responsibilities in the military sphere, and does not show willingness to respond positively to the American initiatives. The troublesome stage of the U.S.-Russia affairs was demonstrated by Vladimir Putin’s interview during his trip to the Far East in summer 2010: As Putin stated, he did not observe signs of resetting the relations with the U.S. Putin expressed his concern, as the U.S. helped Georgia to rearm and planned to deploy interceptor missiles in Europe.
The U.S., in turn, took action seldom in the relations with Russia: The Department of State announced that the U.S. would discontinue providing Russia with information about the American military capacities in Europe, as Russia had denounced the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe. That treaty, signed in 1990 and amended in 1999, had been the root of diplomatic disputes. The NATO members rejected ratification of the amended treaty, demanding withdrawal of Russian troops from Georgia and Transnistria. In 2007, Russia denounced the treaty, claiming that some of its clauses had to be revised, and criticising the plans for deployment of American military bases in Bulgaria and Romania. Obama administration also stated that the deployment of anti-missile shield in Europe would be finished, no matter whether Russia likes it, and promised the European allies to protect them from the Iranian threat. Then, Syria became the most recent issue of discord. The West, led by the U.S. and France attempts to push the UN for harsher sanctions against the Syrian regime, but Russia opposes such attempts. So, the 2012 presidential campaign in the U.S. shows that not everyone accepts the ‘soft power’ approach towards Russia. One of the candidates, Mitt Romney, called Obama administration’s rapprochement with Russia a mistake; Romney categorised Putin together with Fidel Castro, calling them both tyrants.
The list of troubles in the U.S.-Russia relations may be continued. However, it is important that the ideas and principles specifying the unpopularity and unacceptability of use of force become more popular globally. The world expects the U.S. and Russia to act jointly, reducing the probability of armed conflicts.
Russia and its traditions in using ‘hard power’
Soviet and Russian tradition suggests solving problems mainly by military means, or, at least, by strong pressure. Unfortunately, the situation has not really changed even after the dissolution of the USSR. In the post-Soviet area, the region most important for Russia, ‘soft power’ is not an important tool of Russian policy. The Russo-Georgian war in August 2008 and Russia’s closing of overland and air connections with Georgia is the best example (before that, in December 2000, Georgia introduced visas for Georgian citizens because of the disagreement about the situation in the Northern Caucasus). But ‘soft power’ – working in such spheres as information, economy, education, etc. – could have become an important tool of Russian policies in the post-Soviet period. What could be said about the worsening of Russia, on the one side, and Belarus and Ukraine, on the other side, concerning the price of oil and gas supplied by Russia? The pressure applied by the Kremlin was obvious, and Belarus and Ukraine were required to reduce their sovereignty in exchange for cheaper hydrocarbons.
Currently, the only issue in the post-Soviet area, where Russia plays a restraining role aimed to prevention of armed conflict, is the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, where Russia acts in concern with other co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, the U.S. and France (this will be analysed in detail later).
Europe as the leader in using of ‘soft power’
Unlike Russia, Europe seems much more appealing as application of ‘soft power’ is concerned; in this sphere, Europe is America’s most serious competitor. European arts, literature, music, design, fashion and culinary art have been attractive for the world for long time. Many European countries are culturally appealing, and half of ten languages most widely spoken in the world are European languages. Spanish and Portuguese connect the Pyrenean peninsula with Latin America, English if the common means of communication the British Commonwealth, and there are near 50 Francophone countries. In general, Europe has an impressive ‘soft power’ potential:
- French writers have received the largest number of Nobel Prizes for literature;
- The United Kingdom is the largest destination country for emigrants and refugees, with Germany coming the second;
- Almost all European states use a larger percentage of their income for helping developing countries than the U.S.;
- The United Kingdom and France, much smaller than the U.S., spend almost as much on public diplomacy. Many Europeans consider that multilateral diplomacy is possible also without a multi-polar military power balance.
Regional players and the potential for applying ‘soft power’
Leading regional powers have often played an important role in reducing the tensions in international relations. In this respect, Turkey’s attempts to use ‘soft power’ for solution of problems with neighbouring states are worth attention. Humanitarian and economic cooperation prior to solving historical and other disputes is practiced in many conflict zones. As the experience gained from several interethnic and international conflicts shows, the problem of status definition may remain unsolved for years. That has happened in the Middle East, in Cyprus, in the Balkans. Starting cooperation in different spheres – scientific, cultural, economic, etc. – before solving conflicts or disputed issues means practical application of ‘soft power’.
Let us analyse Turkey’s attempts to solve the problems with Armenia from the viewpoint of ‘soft power’. Although the border is closed by Turkey and Ankara supports Baku’s demands concerning the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the contacts between Armenia and Turkey had started even before signing the protocols on normalisation of relations in October 2009. There had been contacts already before the official attempts to launch the normalisation process.
Already in 1996, direct flights between Yerevan and Istanbul were launched. Many Armenian tourists visit Turkish resorts, and the yearly trade turnover is, by different estimations, about 250-300 US dollars. Turkish government allowed reconstruction of the Armenian Holy Cross church on Akhtamar Island (the first mass after a 90-year break was held in 19 September 2010), and currently an Armenian church in Diyarbakir is under reconstruction.
Such are the ‘small deeds’ without which progress on large geopolitical issues is extremely difficult. What Armenia and Turkey would have reached if common people had no experience of conducting business via third countries, if there were no tourist visits, no cooperation between historians, journalists, students and NGO activists? Such contacts became the leverage that let to launch the negotiations, pushing historical problems to the backstage. And even as the protocols have not been ratified, the cooperation between civil societies goes on, and this cooperation provides a chance for getting gout of the political impasse.
Two years ago, Turkey made another step towards solution of the problems with neighbours, when foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu announced about the new concept of foreign policy, ‘zero problems with neighbours’ (which was an attempt to apply ‘soft power’ under new historical conditions. It should be noted that Turkey has been successful in humanitarian and economic spheres, for instance, regarding economic cooperation with Georgia and Russia or letting Greek Cypriots to visit the northern part of the island. However, little changed in foreign policy after declaring the ‘zero problem’ approach. During the recent year, Turkey attempted to act as a mediator in the processes concerning Iran’s nuclear problems, without success; there has been tension in Turkey’s relations with Israel; ratification of the Turkish-Armenian protocols was abandoned; Turkey delivered an ultimatum to Syria, concerning Syria’s internal crisis. As older problems are considered, the dispute with Greece because of Northern Cyprus goes on. So, old problems have been supplemented by new ones – with Israel and Syria.
Nagorno-Karabakh: the need to exclude war as an option of conflict resolution
Currently, the international community and the great powers pay serious interest to the South Caucasus region and conflict resolution. It is worth attention that during the two latest G-8 summits the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs adopted resolutions about Nagorno-Karabakh. The statement made by the presidents of France, Russia and United States in Muscoca on 26 June 2010 is worth special attention, as it reassured the co-chairs willingness to support an agreement between the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan on the main principles of conflict resolution (the Madrid principles), and, even more importantly, it demanded that the conflict should be solved peacefully, based on confidence building between the conflicting parties. The declaration adopted during the OSCE Astana summit on 1-2 December 2010, also demands that lasting conflicts in the OSCE area should be solved on the basis of norms of the UN Charter and the OSCE Helsinki Final Act. At the same time, a joint statement of the heads of delegations of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs restated the need to solve the conflict on basis of the principles adopted during the summit of presidents Medvedev, Obama and Sarkozy in l’Aquila on 10 July 2009 and confirmed in Muscoca 26 June 2010.
The negotiation on the Nagorno-Karabakh issue became more active since 2008; the meetings of the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan in the recent three years prove that. Seemingly, there are attempts to find a mutually agreeable solution. It is also important that the mandate of the OSCE Minsk Group is accepted by Armenia and Azerbaijan, as well as by the concerned international organisations – the UN, EU, Council of Europe and NATO).
For the first time since 1994, the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan signed a joint statement on 2 November 2008 – the Moscow Declaration. They declared that they would contribute towards an improvement of the situation in the South Caucasus, and declared readiness to solve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict by political means. They also noted the importance of the mediation efforts by the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs and stated the importance of confidence building measures. The sides agreed on the need to exclude harsh rhetoric and militarization of the region (‘hard power’) and to move towards creating conditions for confidence building, i.e. ‘soft power’, as stated in Article 5 of the Moscow Declaration.
The meetings of the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan in Sochi on 25 January 2010, in Saint-Petersburg on 17 June 2010, in Astrakhan on 27 October 2010 and in Kazan on 24 June 2011, by invitation of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, continued the process started on 2 November 2008. The meeting in Astrakhan was very important, and the sides again made a joint statement. The need for reinforcing the cease-fire regime and confidence building in the military sphere was stated. For that, two presidents agreed to exchange war prisoners and corpses of those deceased immediately with mediation of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs and the International Red Cross. They also agreed to apply such an approach in the future as well, keeping in mind the humanitarian issues. Such actions are very important, as there have been violations of the cease-fire on the line of contact. One more trilateral meeting of the presidents of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia was held on 23 January 2012 in Sochi. It resulted in a joint statement, which again stated the readiness to facilitate the dialogue between scientists and civil society institutions. So, the increasing role of ‘soft power’ in global and regional politics influenced the methods of solving the conflict.
Related to that, Armenia may temporarily suspend demanding a definition of the status of Nagorno-Karabakh, applying a ‘postponed status’ policy. It is more realistic to look for a solution by the principle ‘territories in exchange for security of Nagorno-Karabakh’, rather than ‘territories in exchange for independence of Nagorno-Karabakh’. In return, Azerbaijan might abstain from isolating Armenia from regional transportation and energy projects. Regional economic cooperation in parallel with conflict resolution might lead to softening of the sides’ approaches, some common interests would appear, which would then provide a basis for a mutually agreeable solution of the conflict. Besides, there is a need to increase the role played by civil societies of Armenia and Azerbaijan. Third states and international organisations cooperating with the South Caucasian states should cooperate with those political and civil players in the region, who favour peaceful solution of conflicts, compromise, mutual concessions and democratic reforms. An informal dialogue between the civil society institutions of Armenia and Azerbaijan might become a powerful tool for stimulating the governments to reach a mutually agreeable solution.
Certainly, Armenia’s and Azerbaijan’s approaches towards the key issues are largely different, so a final peace agreement may not be reached soon. Thus, 20 years after gaining independence by Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, the South Caucasus may be considered as a common unit only from the geographical point of view. Unfortunately, there is no shared regional political or economic identity. In fact, the South Caucasus develops a new framework for competition, with Azerbaijan and Turkey, on the one side, and Armenia and Russia, on the other side. That tendency was highlighted by the treaty on strategic partnership and mutual aid between Azerbaijan and Turkey signed on 16 August 2010. So, Turkey made a plea to guarantee the security and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. In turn, Russia increased the military and political presence in Armenia: During President Medvedev’s visit to Armenia on 20 August 2010, an agreement about extending the base-rights up to 49 years term was signed, and the functions of the Russian military base in Armenia were also increased.
We believe, however, that Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia need to change the situation and attempt to make the South Caucasus a united political and economic area, also by means of ‘soft power’. For that, first of all, democratic development is needed, as well as a rapprochement with the EU and NATO, and finding common interests, at least on some issues. It may already be observed that three countries often show similar reaction to global challenges and threat, and there is a chance that common approach to other issues may be developed as well. The principle of building good neighbourly relations and serious approach to regional cooperation (including agreed positions towards important international issues in international organisations, solving all disputes by means of negotiations, mutual solidarity, etc.) are the issues to be solved by the government and civil societies in order to withstand the negative tendencies developing in the South Caucasus and its neighbourhood.