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Russkiy Mir: The Role of Russian Orthodox Church in Cultural Diplomacy

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Russkiy Mir has its origins from the medieval Russian times but in post soviet era, it has its rebirth from the early 90s but post the annexation of Crimea it was brought to the spotlight as Putin referred to it as “reunifying Russia” and its policy of “near-abroad”. There are cultural and religious commonalities of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian foreign policy on the concept of ‘Near abroad’ as the Church and the state considers that current region of CIS and Slavic countries as the areas of primary interests. Russia’s cultural and religious diplomacy is under the control of the state as in it remains fairly autonomous institutional if it plays in favour of Russia’s national interest. Patriarch Cyril and Putin also share the common ideas of unipolarity in the Global context and they are against the idea of American domination as they primarily see it as a threat to global peace and stability. The Church’s interest against the americanisation or westernization of the world is due to the usage of American values like individuality, lack of family values and its sphere of influence of the same concerns it and it propagates an alliance of “traditional civilization” against westernization which ultimately favours Russia in the International arena.

The first sphere of influence that the Russian Orthodox Church can have is on the Balkan countries and the next sphere of influence can be with Muslim neighbourhood with its alliance of muftiates, especially in the international context where Muslims are seen as the enemy by the west and often ‘otherize’ and associate everyone with Islamic terrorism. Russia’s image for harmony between both the communities need to be portrayed and this can be only put in term of aspirational alliances of Muslim nations against the western civilizations.

The paper tries to be realistic in understanding the limitations of such diplomacy when it comes to praxis of the same. The cultural or diplomacy of Russia has brought out a newer dimension in the Russian policy that has been long suppressed during the Soviet era and despite of the suppression of religion by the state in the Soviet Union the large number of population in the CIS seems to have practice it in certain ways that reflects on the pew research survey of 2017 on CIS countries and Orthodox Christianity. The Orthodox Christian Church remains to one of the back-bone of the policy of Russkiy Mir and its advocacies have paradoxes when it comes to state’s understanding of it and the Church’s understanding but there seem to be an understanding between the both on the importance of Russia’s Identity, Language and Culture and bringing it out in the world Arena.

“the universal nature of the Christian teaching makes us interested in various spheres of the life of society. The Church acts on equal footing as a subject of relations with different states and with international public and political organizations. We defend our values and promote the rights and interests of our congregations”  – Patriarch Cyril


Understanding Russkiy Mir

The world Russkiy Mir plays an important role in Russia’s cultural diplomacy and it has its roots from the 11th century “Kherson and Russian World”. Although ideas like the russkii dukh – Russian Spirit, russki ideia– Russian idea, russkaia dusha– Russian soul were historically present. (Laruelle, 2015) Putin established the Russiy Mir foundation in 2007 for universalizing and promoting Russian Knowledge, Language and Culture and in the year 2009 the Russian Orthodox Church officially joined the foundation to construct the world view of the Russkiy Mir.Usually when we talk about the Russian World we usually refer roughly to the prime area of CIS states but more specifically to Ukraine, Belarus and sometimes Maldova and Kazakhstan. According to Patriarch Cyril Russkiy Mir States comprises of usage and development of Russian language, identity, culture and he is also of the opinion that the Nation-state boundary are the modern construct and the ideas of the Church predates all the existing boundaries today and that it transcends present boundaries and that it is a “project of integration”.

The construction of the the idea of Russkiy Mir is rather a biological one and writers world. Petr Shchedrovitsky, Efim Ostrovsky, Valery Tishkov, Vitaly Skrinnik, Tatiana Poloskova and Natalia   Narochnickaja are among the foremost authors of this concept post the disintegration of the USSR in the 90s. The idea of Russkiy Mir is also evolved at the World Russian National Council(WRNC) in 1993 under the theme of consolidating societies post the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Russkiy Mir in the present times is seen as an instrument of cultural and soft power through ‘compariots’ or the Russian Disapora and the 2001 speech of Putin reminds of the aspirational view on the concept of Russian world that claims the responsibility of Russians abroad and the same can be seen in National Security Strategy of 2015.

Russian Orthodox Church in Foreign Policy

After the disintegration of the USSR the Church found a new phase where it was able to interact with the stae and not be suppressed as before in the Soviet times. There were situations that claims how the Patriarch of Moscow was solely limited to it. Patriarch Cyril headed the Russian Orthodox Church’s Foreign Policy in 2009, immediately he visited Ukraine and Kazakhstan and there had been issues over the limitations of Russian Orthodox Church and Cyril emphasized on the borders are new creations and those should not be limited to the brotherhood of the orthodox Church and emphasizes on Russkiy Mir with former soviet republic flags on his throne and aims of integration of people and states. Few of the noted moments between the Russian Orthodox Churches diplomacy is recognizing good relations with the Ukrainian and Georgian Orthodox Churches and it had good relations with all the big leaders in the Ukraine and even supported the Georgian claims to the South Ossetia. Krelim’s support towards the Russian Orthodox Church is due to its similar policies in the neighbourhood and certainly ROC’s importance in the region is recognized by the Russian government despite minor discrepancies that is ROC usually accused of as well.


The ROC has given Russia a certain platform to regain its past glory by looking at imaginations of states from the traditional Russian Identity and the Russian Empire that is one the constant loggerheads with civilizational superiority than the West and the same has been implemented in certain ways today. The successes of its diplomacy in Ukrain and Georgia speaks on length for it and it provided the post Soviet Russia a banner to countries in the CIS under one banner. ROC and its connections with other national and local churches has beneficial for Russian strategies and in turn the Russian state despite its secular tendecies the ROC has challenged its seperation of powers especially in terms of soft power and diplomacy.

Conclusion

The cultural diplomacy can only boast many successes but few important amongst those would be promoting the so called expansionist policy of Russia through cultural and historical background that has been backed by the Russian Orthodox Church that has a significant diaspora abroad that reasonates to it. The Orthodox Church in collaboration with the Department of external Church Relations (DECR) has relations with Inter-governmental and International organizations as well that promotes the Russian interest in the Global Arena and the observer status at the OIC and extending relations with Iran is one of the vital success that gives it a doorway to the Islamic countries as the scope of United States and other western countries in matters to such cooperation is very limited.

The role of Orthodox Church in slavic nations and the CIS is incredible although though one of the major limitation for the Church is to construct a proper identity for itself that does not always reflect the ideals of Krelim that creates trust deficit especially when there are situations like Crimean annexation. Although there are various limitations for cultural diplomacy and the ideas of Russkiy Mir but it can be attributed in creation of alternative world that does not have to be necessarily dominated by the west and its hegemonic ideals. There are other important criticisms for the same Russkiy Mir that it propagates the idea of Russians being superior to everyone and creates enthno-nationalist claims that possibly seem redudant in the current International context that was obsessed with Nation-State boundaries and ideals.

Cultural Diplomacy and religion involved in Foreign Policy has been used since histories to establish relations with other states and to make alliances but in this neo-liberal world, Russia seems to have gone to the roots of civilizations and religion and want to tackle the western hegemony through it. Although the Russian World’s appeal is weaker outside the CIS, post the disintegration of the Soviet Union enhancing such alternative practices in Russian Foreign Policy indeed despite all its limitations.

Bio: Bhagya Raj is a post-graduate student of International Relations at Jawaharlal Nehru University, India.

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The Digital Diplomacy Revolution

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The way people communicate with one another has changed dramatically. The term “networked society” is used to describe how society has developed, where data is freely transmitted. Knowledge is obtained, contained, interpreted, controlled, and exchanged in almost entirely different ways than previously done. The use of technology, especially the internet and other ICT-based technologies, in the conduct of diplomacy is referred to as digital diplomacy. Covid-19 has ushered in a new age of digital diplomacy, also known as e-diplomacy. It has evolved as one of the instruments for advancing foreign policy. The days of strict government oversight are long gone. Information has a greater impact in today’s “networked” society because it can spread in a matter of seconds or minutes.

For many people, Twitter has been the go-to platform for modern diplomacy. We’ve seen how social media helped the Arab Spring revolution in countries like Tunisia, Yemen, and Egypt. The word “Twiplomacy” was coined to describe diplomacy conducted through Twitter. There are close to 300 Twitter accounts dedicated to heads of state. More recently, during the populist boom, we’ve seen how leaders like Modi and Trump’s Twitter presence aided their electoral performance. Not only governments but also non-state actors, such as terrorists, have used social media to further their goals.

The Rise of Digital Diplomacy

Between March 2020 and the end of 2020, the United Nations headquarters in Geneva hosted 1,200 important international conferences online. The UN has been able to continue its operations on the ground as a result of this. In terms of digital diplomacy, the United States now leads the way. Since 2003, the US State Department has had an e-diplomacy branch, but it was Hillary Clinton who brought it to a whole new dimension. She introduced “21st Century Statecraft,” in 2009, a program aimed at complementing conventional foreign policy techniques with statecraft technologies that completely harness the network and technologies of an interconnected world. The US State Department employs 150 full-time social media workers in the e-diplomacy office.

India’s Use of Social Media in Public Diplomacy

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) sent out its first tweet in 2010, managed by Ambassador Navdeep Suri, then joint secretary and head of the public diplomacy section. Many distressed Indians stuck abroad found Twitter to be a helpful crisis management tool, facilitating the safe evacuation of over 18,000 Indian people from Libya during the civil war in 2011. India aspires to be a trailblazer and is working hard to pave the way for itself to become a global leader. For a nation like India, social media allows for constructive communication about the country’s coming of age as a result of scientific progress, technical advancements, and new ideas advanced by initiatives like digital India. The government should take advantage and expand their public diplomacy agenda more engagingly. The government can intensify its initiatives – even on the foreign policy agenda – in a perfect digital diplomacy setting, and the public can have a more direct channel to communicate with their government. In the age of digital diplomacy, it is critical to address policy context relevant to a world where political views are developed based on knowledge from tweets and social media accounts. As, Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher, put it: “The only thing that is constant is change”. Countries must take advantage of the latest digital diplomacy framework to develop the skills needed for the future and to create stable digital channels for future diplomats.

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Ramifications of The Pandemic In International Relations

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coronavirus people

Ever since the global spread of the COVID-19 virus, claims have been made of the pandemic causing a massive impact in global politics and international relations. In the pre-pandemic era, international relations were defined by increasing bipolarity, greater isolationism, greater trade protectionism and increasing nationalism. While the West led by the US was gradually adopting a protectionist attitude, the East led by China in particular, was looking towards increasing multilateral cooperation. Alongside this, international organizations were seeing their roles diminishing. Moreover, populist leaders and authoritarian governments were gradually gathering influence globally, in stark contrast to a decline in democracy and neo-liberalism. These trends could be seen most clearly in the US/China conflict that has dominated most international relations rhetoric of the 21st century.

Although China had been hit with the pandemic first, through extreme lockdown measures, quick responses, mass screenings, targeted monitoring and an effective socio-political response, the country quickly reversed course and had flattened its curve by March, depicting the resilience of the country. With a mere 87,000 cases as of December 2020 in a country of 1.4 billion people, China’s effective policies to deal with the pandemic can hardly be sidelined. Nevertheless, as the virus had been identified in China first, this triggered a massive backlash from the West, particularly the US, where President Trump blasted China for covering-up details about the virus. Rumors were spread by the White House itself about the virus originating from a Wuhan lab, and the virus was labeled the Wuhan Virus – a move discouraged by the WHO. This inflammatory language worsened relations between the two countries. Going even further, President Trump terminated US involvement in the World Health Organization, claiming it to be controlled by Chinese authorities.

With this move the influence of the world’s most important health organization was weakened, further showcasing the decline of the liberal international world order, due to a diminishing trust in international organizations. Thus, the pre-Covid trend of a lack of trust in international organizations, continued during the COVID-19 pandemic as well. With Trump advocating for closed borders with his “We need the wall more than ever” expressions  on Twitter, and similar far-right leaders like France’s Le Pen ruing the “religion of borderless-ness” for the pandemic, the West’s protectionist, nationalistic ideas showed no signs of abating even during a global crisis.

In stark contrast, the East led by China continued on its path of greater cooperation and interdependence, through bilateral and multilateral engagements. With the US leaving a void in the global leadership spot for handling the pandemic, China stepped in and offered to assist other countries in handling the outbreaks in their respective countries. China’s foreign ministry’s spokesperson,  Hua Chunying, even stated that they would like to share China’s good practice and experience.

Furthering its charm offensive, China started shipping out masks and ventilators to countries that were very badly hit by the pandemic, like Italy, Spain and Serbia. With the countries of the European Union shutting down their borders and hoarding domestic supplies, despite Italy’s pleas for help, Italy turned to China for aid in fighting the coronavirus pandemic. This “mask diplomacy” along with China’s Health Silk Road has served to strengthen global public health governance, as envisioned by China.

Undeniably, the pandemic’s effects in the short-term have been wide-reaching, especially in the social and technological domain. However, expecting global politics and international relations to undergo a transformational change in the long-term, solely due to the COVID-19 pandemic is relatively far-fetched, especially if current global trends are assessed.

The virus may or may not have taken its toll on international diplomacy in the traditional context, but it has certainly shaken many things if not stirred them completely.

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Diplomatic Fiasco: PTI Government’s Failure on the Climate Diplomacy Front

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“Think about this: terrorism, epidemics, poverty, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction – all challenges that know no borders – the reality is that climate change ranks right up there with every single one of them”.– John F. Kerry

The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and United Nations Security Council (UNSC) have both declared that unrestrained climate change poses a threat to international peace and security. Presently, climate change is the biggest threat facing humanity. We all will witness its impacts, making it a critical foreign policy and diplomatic issue. Climate change will overturn the 21st century world order and characterize how we live and work. Even so, in the midst  of a global pandemic, it is evident that climate change will be the major issue of this century. As countries will move toward rebuilding their economies after COVID-19, recovery plans will shape the 21st century economy in ways that are clean and green, safe and healthy, and more resilient. Over the last decade, foreign policymakers have taken measures to better understand climate risks. To date, foreign policy responses to climate change have primarily centered on the security repercussions of climate change.

To chart a fresh course ahead, in order to initiate a global fight against climate change, President Joe Biden welcomed a diverse set of leaders from around the globe to explicate the connections between climate security, climate change and broader foreign policy objectives. The list of invitee included world leaders like President Xi Jinping of China and Russia’s Vladimir Putin, PM Modi of India, Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh to attend the two-days meeting to mark Washington’s return to the visible lines of the fight against climate risks. Though, Pakistan have its place in the same region, and fifth-most vulnerable country to climate change, it has been disqualified from the summit. Likewise,  Biden dispatched his climate envoy, former secretary of state John Kerry, to prepare the ground for the summit in meetings with global leaders. The U.S. invited the leaders of the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate, which includes the 17 countries responsible for about 80-percent of global emissions and GDP, along with, heads of countries that are unambiguously vulnerable to climate impacts or are representing robust climate leadership.

The current global efforts towards mainstreaming of climate change in development policies and programs are getting more traction due to expanding avenues of domestic and international climate diplomacy. For developing countries, climate diplomacy is undoubtedly becoming a key incentive to integrate climate change issues into their foreign policy. Pakistan is also a relatively new player in the climate diplomacy arena with a nascent institutional setup. The climate diplomacy adaption experience of Pakistan is still at the embryonic stage. The main problem is the gradual decline in the aptitude and capacity of institution to develop a clear policy route. The policy decline is much more rapid under the PTI government. Pakistan’s ambassadorial clout has eroded over the years due to political unpredictability and economic timidity. Similarly, the government has failed even to built a national narrative on climate change issue. Imran Khan has been warning the world of catastrophe if the climate problem is not addressed, but has failed to come out with a clear policy direction on the issue.

Among the many challenges fronting the Imran Khan government will be tackling the notoriously dysfunctional U.S. – Pakistan relationship. The Biden presidency has designated climate change as a critical theme of its foreign policy, and indeed aware of Pakistan’s deep climate vulnerability. For the first time since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Pakistan is not a foreign policy priority for U.S. administration. Many high-ranking Biden government officials, including climate change envoy John Kerry, know Pakistan well. When Kerry was Obama’s secretary of state, co-chaired US-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue that counted renewable energy. Anybody familiar with how Islamabad and Washington have interacted over the last 74 years will resort to weary metaphors: a roller-coaster ride, the dynamic between an overbearing mother-in-law and daughter-in-law. Biden and his experienced team of ex-Obama administration officials are likely to press Pakistan – for Islamabad, it is a catch-22 situation. In the indigenous context, internal political strife in Pakistan and economic dependency on other countries have raised questions about our ability to effectively fight our case in international arena. The latest diplomatic fiasco speaks very loud and clear about the government’s inability to deal with fast-changing geopolitics. Washington’s broader interests in Asia, including relationships with China and India, will determine its policy at the Leaders’ Summit on Climate. It seems, Pakistan has no friends in the Biden administration. Thus, out-of-the-box thinking is required for Pakistan’s foreign policy decision makers.

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