The country`s power in international relations rests upon various things and the principal distinction into hard and soft power displays particular means to influence the behavior of others.
Essentially, power applies to country`s ability to obtain the desired goals in international community, the main difference is therefore in the means to acquire them. In hard power, the name of the game is coercion; tactics and applied mechanisms include military and economic power, manifesting in threats to oblige to certain policy or succumb to undesired actions. Soft power applies to attracting others to co-opt specific goals and it rests on three different resources: country`s culture, its political values and its foreign policies. Soft power therefore depends on ability to create certain attraction to presented actions and stated goals. Many argue that whereas coercion has credible means to force compliant behavior, the means of soft power can be more long- lasting and cost efficient. As with propaganda, the best power is when you feel no power at all.
We can also connect both concepts to two prevailing blocks of theories on international relations: realism and liberal, constructivist (whereas there are clear distinctions to both when it comes to theoretical basics, we can apply soft power tactics to both of them). Realism emphasizes on the inevitable struggle of one country and its national security vrs the other, citing states as rational actors pursuing and acting in their self interest. Main means to achieving the ends are material resources such as rough military might, energy resources and population quota. Clearly, this is a nod to hard power and its role in the global political system. Liberal theories enunciate cooperation between different countries as the main characteristic of the international system and the benefits of such behavior for all the involved players, for increased interdependence supposedly eliminates the danger of resorting to aggressive means; on the other hand, constructivists indicate that people give means to different institutions and instruments by their compliance, aspiration to, defiance or ignorance to certain rules or institutions. We can see how soft power is synchronized with the latter two theories, emphasizing cooperation, attraction and struggle for similar interpretation of goals.
International community is a very dynamic entity, not comprising anymore just from nation states but also other players (multinational organizations, corporations, NGOs…) and at the same time exercising very strict codes of conduct when it comes to applying hard military power; (although arguably some conveniently like to forget that part in the US vrs them strategies) therefore, there is a vast scale of different means and different attitudes one player can adopt when it comes to reciprocal relations. Smaller actors often resort to soft power mechanisms, whereas great powers also often apply hard power in their grand strategies, which complies to the fact that one can only make use of what one has.
When it comes to Azerbaijan, the country has many different aspects of applicable power tactics. Since hard power relies on displays of military might and economic strength, we can argue that Azerbaijan displayed both in the armed conflict over the Nagorno- Karabakh region with neighbouring Armenia (at this point solely pointing out to the use of power, not the wider implications and causes of the conflict). The fighting officially ended in 1994 and the OSCE Minsk Group is now responsible for the peaceful resolution of the conflict. Although officially a frozen issue, in 2014 alone as many as 60 people were killed in border clashes, making it the worst annual record in two decades and evidently the matter far from over.
Azerbaijan also displayed hard power when it imposed full economic embargo on Armenia together with Turkey and closed the borders to the country. In 2012, Azerbaijani leadership expressed their desire to upgrade the army according to NATO standards, which would present a significant increase of country`s hard power, especially in the light of decades long unsuccessful peace talks with Armenia over the Nagorno- Karabakh region. Therefore, arguably, Azerbaijani military hard power relates to the conflict over Nagorno- Karabakh region and is standing at a little over 65 000 men strong navy, land and air forces. Otherwise, it is composed of economic strength, gained from energy- related profits, which are able to open a wide range of possibilities when it comes to various economic incentives, also part of the hard power repertoire.
Arguably, we could also interpret Azerbaijani pipeline diplomacy as a sort of hard power tactic, because it significantly decreases the economic gains for targeted players, mainly Armenia (with BTC and BTE oil and gas pipelines also Russia), another such project that diminishes the prospects of Armenia is the Trans- Anatolian pipeline. Undeniably helpful in this application of power is Azerbaijani strategic positioning in the Caspian region, sandwiched in the midst of Russia, Iran and Turkey.
Azerbaijani hard power was therefore applicable to neighboring Armenia in the past however, when thinking globally, the possibility spectrum of hard power diminishes to economic incentives, such as development aid, reduced tax policies, FDI etc. We could say that Azerbaijan offers mostly carrots, almost never sticks. When dealing with the broader international community, Azerbaijan is prone to think soft, presenting ways to co-opt their goals and attracting other countries with set of examples and agendas. With appeals such as a strong secular government, religious tolerance, orientation towards open, democratic society and independent energy, economic and security policies, Azerbaijan makes a strong case for a soft power spill- over to other countries, striving to achieve the same level of development. Surely so, Azerbaijan has also become a prominent model for Muslim- majority countries seeking to manage religious, cultural and ethnic differences in a productive and harmonious manner. Thanks to its secular policies and an embracing approach towards religious and ethnic diversity, the country has gathered substantial soft power as a role model for other (Muslim) countries to follow suit.
Besides setting the example, Azerbaijan is also very active in promoting its culture, education and people. With many student and university staff exchange programs, promotion of major cultural events (such as the first Islamic opera and first Islamic ballet in the US), hosting international conferences and round tables, Azerbaijan is following in the footsteps of other world countries. One of the latest significant public diplomacy efforts of the country was also participation in the Eurovision song context, most widely- watched non sporting event in the world, that awarded Azerbaijan victory in 2012 and consequently brought the competition to Baku in 2013. After successfully hosting the contest, Azerbaijan was prepared for another big undertaking: inaugural European Olympic Games, which will be held in Baku this June. Azerbaijan has taken this task very seriously and over the past two years, many state- of-the-art sporting venues were build in the country, to fit the requirements of top European athletes coming to the Games. When thinking about Azerbaijan, embracing the many cultural and ethnic differences as much on paper as in real life, arguably, Baku is the best place to host the first European Olympics Games.
Additionally, the hosting of games is aligned with Baku`s desire to successfully put Azerbaijan on the map of Europe and the world and surely, culture and sporting events are the best and most efficient way to do so. Baku is hoping to build an economic, political and diplomatic capital in the eyes of the global community and prepare for its future beyond just gas and oil sells. Accordingly, all will not be over after the European games; Azerbaijan is also set to host the first Baku Formula one race and four matches in the 2020 UEFA European Football Championship.
We can conclude that Azerbaijan is successfully implementing various soft power tactics to win the hearts and minds of world countries. Besides just setting examples, it is also very active with its cultural and public diplomacy, hosting away important events from many different specters of contemporary life. By continuously doing so, we can expect Azerbaijan to fix its position as a country to reckon with, expanding its activity from regional to global aspirations.
Soft Power Dynamics in Middle Eastern Conflict
The Middle East is synonymous with eternal conflict as being at the cross-point between Africa, Europe, and Asia.
The paper intends to understand how the power could be derived from the cultural roots in a world filled with pre-existing biases based on religious values, nationality, and interpretation of history.
Palestine receives strong international support through social media by sharing its pain and grievances increasing its soft power that hampers Israel’s international relations. A new question emerges can the soft power paradigm be used to resolve the problem?
The roots of the Middle Eastern problem are driven by historical-religious literature which shows the Middle East to be the historic homeland of Jews and they wanted to get back to their original homeland due to two-millennium long suppression that finally ended up as the holocaust.
Israel continues to emphasize and promote stories related to Second World War which help them gain the legitimacy to exist as a state. It is also remarked that the holocaust may have been a decisive condition for the creation of a Jewish state but this action would have occurred sooner or later.
One of the biggest strengths for Israel and its legitimacy comes from the Biblical literature which has some historical stories in it and mentions Israel and Judah in the Middle East providing American Christian Support which seems to be dropping as a result Israel needs to work on its soft power.
A similar strength can be found in Quran for Israeli as Surah Al-Ma’idah in Chapter 5 verse 12 states about the Children of Israel and verse 21 explains that they are “destined to enter and not to turn back else they will become the loser.” These verses motivate Israeli for their cause which raises an interesting phenomenon that some pro-Israeli media would use Quranic verses to gain legitimacy.
History needs to be studied to understand how and where the differences between Jews and Muslims started. Originally there was a peaceful relation between Jews and Muslims but Jews refuse to acknowledge Muhammad a non-Jew as one of the prophets of God which caused the relationship between Jews and Muslims to deplete.
Finally, Banu Qurayza a Jewish community allied with Qurashites against Prophet Muhammad that caused Medina to suffer a war-built hatred towards Judaism.
However, even after looking at the differences Muslims, Christians, and Jews are Abrahamic religions maintaining their base Judaic-monotheistic tradition as both Roman Catholics and Arab previously had polytheistic culture and Israel has indirectly benefitted from this historical fact.
Israel could benefit from various religions by showing show respect to the leaders of Abrahamic religions and even maintain an apologetic attitude on behalf of some of the members of the Jewish community which may have conducted villainous actions as per some stories based on other religious doctrines.
The tower of one’s ego can prohibit supporting the national interest which could only be achieved by becoming softer to gain soft power.
It is argued that the ancient Philistine is related to present-day Palestine. Palestine as a result gets associated with David and Goliath or Samson’s struggle with Philistine. However, the term Palestine is more complicated which had developed in the period.
There are also claims that the Syria Palaestina was constructed as a punishment for Bar Kochba Revolt in 135CE while the name Palaestina given to the region seems to be older than Bar Kochba Revolt and even older than the Roman Emperor Hadrian.
The image of the Israel and Palestine conflict is connected towards mythical combat between David and Goliath. David was an inexperienced youth who later became king of Israel and defeated a giant from ancient Philistine called Goliath.
Some actors who are sympathetic to the Palestinian cause have also connected Palestine with David who was weak at the beginning of the story while they perceive Israel as an unjust giant and the toughest fighter in the region.
The Middle Eastern conflict goes beyond religion and history as it has multiple dimensions due to multiple crimes against humanity causing people to be refugees that inflict social, political, and economic damages.
A medium to obtain soft power is by resolving the humanitarian crisis and Israel being perceived as a perpetrator tampered with its national image.
Israel as an economically advanced country with large spending power can establish economic institutions to raise funds in providing education, training, and employment to victims of that conflict regardless of their religion, ethnicity, gender, or political views who have been scattered around the world which would help Israel gain legitimacy.
The economic recovery of the war victims can minimize some damage enforced upon the national image but there is a strong opinion that the Palestinian community lacks legal rights as being in Israeli jurisdiction. So, political rights might have to be secured to the Palestinians while they have to live in Israel for Israel to create a positive national image.
The Israeli government also create an option for the Palestinian community to have the right to return, granting them protection in Knesset (Israeli Parliament), while promoting Arab Israeli politicians, and can even reflect how they have shaped the Israeli government in the international arena to build Israel’s soft power.
Finally, the last piece of the puzzle is the social affairs which are closely tied to the soft power paradigm.
There is a clear fear that the Jews are eclipsing the social identity of the Palestinian people but in reality, they are closely linked as Arabic language and Hebrew are Semitic languages, their scripts have common Aramaic ancestry, and Halaal and Kosher dietary cultures are also similar.
There should be an effort to study the similarities to build unity and to study unique qualities as to appreciate one another’s differences. Israel could also create Cultural Relations Centers around the world that promote both Jewish and Palestinian language, culture, and cuisine to create respect and solidarity.
There can also be the production of television programs, movies, digital applications which could allow people to understand the Middle Eastern community.
Tel Aviv is the center for the development of many technological advancements and carries great potential to build creative applications and visual storytelling that could help spread awareness about the Middle East.
On the other hand, the Palestinian Authority could request the Israeli government to provide scholarships in various Israeli Universities which could enhance their credential for making effort to create a peaceful world as well as proposing exchange programs by inviting Israeli students to visit regular Palestinian colleges and working spaces decreasing bitterness.
The Palestinian Authority could also pursue Israeli investment in core-Palestinian settlements that could create employment as well as mutual dependence allowing Palestine to grow with a greater bargaining power while maintaining a symbiotic relationship.
Culture, history, and institutions can be combined to create harmony. A key aspect to gain soft power and legitimacy is by becoming softer by showing respect to the opponents while appreciating and accepting others’ viewpoints.
Therefore, the study of religion, history has to be conducted from a neutral perspective that can be trusted by all international actors and could serve as a uniting factor while maintaining an apologetic attitude towards historic mistakes. There needs to be an effort to provide economic and political compensation for the victims which have caused notoriety in the international arena and finally the culture of the two competing communities needs to be celebrated through cultural institutions to build trust and harmony.
Biden-Putting meeting: Live from Geneva
19:00 The places of the flags on the Mont Blanc bridge on which President Biden and President Putin will pass to reach the meeting venue on Wednesday usually hold the flags of the different Swiss cantons. Not today. The American and Russian flags have been placed to welcome the two leaders.
18:00 A day before the Geneva summit: Hotel Intercontinental where the American delegation and probably President Biden himself is staying, how the city looks like a day before the meeting, what are the security measures like, why isn’t the UN involved and are the usual protests expected?
Iveta Cherneva with live video political commentary from Geneva one day ahead of the Biden-Putin Summit
Will the promotion of cricket in GCC add to its Soft Power?
In recent years, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, have been trying to bolster their ‘Soft Power’ in a number of ways; by promoting tourism, tweaking their immigration policies to attract more professionals and foreign students and focusing on promoting art and culture. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has taken the lead in this direction (in May 2017, UAE government set up a UAE Soft Power Council which came up with a comprehensive strategy for the promotion of the country’s Soft Power). Under Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman (MBS), Saudi Arabia has also been seeking to change its international image, and it’s Vision 2030 seeks to look beyond focusing on economic growth. In the Global Soft Power Index 2021, Saudi Arabia was ranked at number 24 and number 2 in the Gulf region after the UAE (the country which in the past had a reputation for being socially conservative, has hosted women’s sports events and also hosted the G20 virtually last year)
Will the promotion of cricket in GCC add to its Soft Power?
One other important step in the direction of promoting Soft Power in the GCC, is the attempt to popularize cricket in the Gulf. While the Sharjah cricket ground (UAE) hosted many ODI (One Day International )tournaments, and was witness to a number of thrillers between India and Pakistan, match fixing allegations led to a ban on India playing cricket at non-regular venues for a duration of 3 years (for a period of 7 years from 2003, Sharjah did not get to host any ODI). The Pakistan cricket team has been playing its international home series at Sharjah, Abu Dhabu and Dubai for over a decade (since 2009) and the sixth season of the Pakistan Super League is also being played in UAE. Sharjah has also hosted 9 test matches (the first of which was played in 2002).
Sharjah hosted part of the Indian Premier League (IPL) tournament in 2014, and last year too the tournament was shifted to UAE due to covid19 (apart from Sharjah, matches were played at Dubai and Abu Dhabi). This year again, the UAE and possibly Oman are likely to host the remaining matches of the IPL which had to be cancelled due to the second wave of Covid19. The ICC Men’s T20 World Cup to be held later this year (October-November 2021), which was actually to be hosted by India, could also be hosted not just in the UAE, but Oman as well (there are two grounds, one of them has floodlights). International Cricket Council (ICC) is looking for an additional venue to UAE, because a lot of cricket is being played there, and this may impact the pitches. The ICC while commenting on the possibility of the T20 World cup being hosted in the Middle East said:
, “The ICC Board has requested management [to] focus its planning efforts for the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021 on the event being staged in the UAE with the possibility of including another venue in the Middle East’
GCC countries are keen not just to host cricketing tournaments, but also to increase interest in the game. While Oman has a team managed by an Indian businessman, Saudi Arabia has set up the SACF (Saudi Arabian Cricket Federation) in 2020 and it has started the National Cricket Championship which will have more than 7,000 players and 36 teams at the school level. Peshawar Zalmi, a Pakistani franchise T20 cricket team, representing the city of Peshawar the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which plays in the Pakistan’s domestic T20 cricket league – the Peshawar cricket league — extended an invitation to the SACF, to play a friendly match against it. It’s owner Javed Afridi had extended the invitation to the Saudi Arabian team in April 2021. Only recently, Chairman of SACF Prince Saud bin Mishal met with India’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Dr Ausaf Saeed, to discuss ways for promoting the game in Saudi Arabia. He also visited the ICC headquarters at Dubai and apart from meeting officials of ICC also took a tour of Sharjah cricket ground.
GCC countries have a number of advantages over other potential neutral venues. First, the required infrastructure is already in place in some countries, and there is no paucity of financial resources which is very important. Second, there is a growing interest in the game in the region, and one of the important factors for this is the sizeable South Asian expat population. Third, a number of former cricketers from South Asia are not only coaching cricket teams, but also being roped in to create more enthusiasm with regard to the game. Fourth, UAE along with other GCC countries, could also emerge as an important venue for the resumption of India-Pakistan cricketing ties.
In conclusion, if GCC countries other than UAE — like Saudi Arabia and Oman — can emerge as important cricketing venues, their ‘Soft Power’ appeal is likely to further get strengthened especially vis-à-vis South Asia. South Asian expats, who have contributed immensely to the economic growth of the region, and former South Asian cricketers will have an important role to play in popularizing the game in the Gulf. Cricket which is already an important component of the GCC — South Asia relationship, could help in further strengthening people to people linkages.
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