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You're reading: Nothing soft about Russia’s ‘soft power’

This militantly ironic line from
the repertoire of English comedian Eddy Izzard always gets a good laugh from his
audience. But, as recent Olympic events have shown, flags are no laughing
matter. Neither is language, culture, collective memory, religion or feelings
of belonging to the territory of one’s nationhood. These are all soft-power components
of national security. It is impossible for a state to exist as a sovereign
actor in the international playing field without them.

The spokeswoman for the Russian
Olympic squad, Maria Kiseleva, named the identification of its athletes who
were born in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia,
Kazakhstan and Ukraine as being born in regions of Russia a
“technical mistake” which shall be rectified within a few days. Some may desire
to accept this explanation. Security analysts all over the world are well aware
of the gravity of this “mistake” as it pertains to international security
relations. In fact, members of Georgia’s
and Ukraine’s intelligence
services and (as it pertains to Ukraine,
oppositional government) perceive this “technical mistake” very differently.
Apart from security tactics, there is very little which is technical about it.

This “mistake” has targeted
components of these state’s soft power security, particularly, the collective memory
and feeling of belonging to the territory of one’s nationhood. Moreover, this
“mistake” has also targeted the soft power security of the rest of the world by
propagating a falsified account of Russia’s geographic history.

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