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Public Diplomacy Today: Lessons from Russia

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It has been just over a decade since “Public Diplomacy 2.0” was proclaimed as the new reality of the increasingly connected global society. However, our ever so globalized world is changing rapidly. In today’s mediatized and disintermediated society, individuals no longer need institutions to engage in the connective action of sharing personalized action frames via social networks, as it has now become a way of life. After a brief introduction of the post-modern context, key concepts and theoretical framework, this paper is going to highlight ideas-based public diplomacy as the most efficient public diplomacy component today by using the case study of the recent FIFA World Cup in Russia to illustrate our point. We shall then move on to the wider context of generating positive attitudes among the global publics and uncover other, more potent variables at play. At the end we are going to mention certain recent developments— the phenomenon of social media becoming agents in their own right—and make some recommendations in the light of the current context.

Introduction

The term “public diplomacy” (PD) has been around for several decades now, but its modern conceptualization can be attributed to the models developed by Nicholas J. Cull and Joseph S. Nye Jr. in the late 2000s. (2008, 2008) Over a decade later these frameworks are still relevant today, but the world has been evolving rapidly and we must therefore recognize a number of new developments. Hence, this paper is going to touch upon the relationship between PD and power, as well as ways of measuring the efficiency of PD. We shall explore the case study of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia through the lens of PD in order to demonstrate the best type of PD today. We are then going to broaden our context by uncovering other, more significant variables affecting global admiration that have rendered PD somewhat incomplete and insufficient. Finally, we shall mention Twitter’s recent transformation from a digital social medium into an agent in its own right by looking at its recent political involvement and make some final recommendations in regard to generating positive attitudes to one’s state in today’s world.

Public Diplomacy and Power

First of all, let us outline our conceptual framework by defining all the key concepts and models we are going to be working with. Seeing as public diplomacy is generally seen in the political science discourse as being connected to the concept of power, it may well be a good idea to begin by defining the latter.

We shall speak of “power” as the “ability to affect the behaviour of others to get what one wants.” (Nye 2009: 160) According to Joseph Nye power implies a causal relationship between the power actor and power target, whereby the former seeks to affect the behaviour of the latter by selecting power resources (e.g., culture, military, technology, etc.) to be mobilised and power behaviour (soft or hard) by which the aforementioned resources must be converted into behavioural outcomes in the power target. (Ibid. 2013: 1-2, 2011: 95)

ACTOR: RESOURCES + BEHAVIOUR > TARGET: BEHAVIOURAL OUTCOME

Speaking of power behaviours, they are essentially action modes that define the nature of power as either “soft” or “hard.” (Ibid. 2013: 6) As per Nye’s framework, attraction, persuasion and agenda-framing generate soft power (SP), while coercion, threats, payments and sanctions generate hard power (HP). Hence, it is the power behaviour that defines the nature of power (Ibid. 2011: 91-93, 2013: 6). Furthermore, power can only be judged ex-post (by the outcomes) rather than ex-ante (by the resources that may produce the outcomes). (Ibid. 2013: 2-3) Hence, power can only be claimed to exist when the desired outcomes are present once the power activity has taken place.

RESOURCES + HP & SP BEHAVIOUR > DESIRED OUTCOMES

Gradually moving from pure theory to applied theory, the power conversion model that we are interested in for the purpose of our research is the indirect “public diplomacy” model. The reason for the name is the slightly more complex (as opposed to the direct “classic diplomacy”) route whereby power resources combined with SP behaviour are mobilised via various PD agents to generate positive attitudes among the public of the power target state towards the power actor state, thereby creating an enabling environment for the target state’s ruling elites to make a decision in favour of the power actor state— i.e. behavioural outcome. (Ibid. 2011: 95, 102-3)

POWER ACTOR STATE’S RULING ELITES: PD ACTIVITY (VIA AGENTS) > POWER TARGET STATE’S PUBLIC: POSITIVE/FAVOURABLE ENVIRONMENT > POWER TARGET STATE’S RULING ELITES: BEHAVIOURAL OUTCOME

Measuring Public Diplomacy

When it comes to measuring the efficiency of PD, however, one must recognize that states tend to employ a combination of SP and HP activities as part of their “smart power” strategy. For this reason, it is difficult to isolate the effects of one from the other. (Ibid. 2009: 160, 2011: 97) With the aforementioned problem of attribution rendering the prospective of proving the effects of various PD activities on the final behavioural outcome difficult, the best we can do to assess the efficiency of a PD activity is to analyze positive attitudes it had generated in the target state’s public through the use of public opinion polls, surveys, etc.

A few years ago University of Southern California Center on Public Diplomacy and Portland Consultancy developed the “SoftPower30 Index” (SP30). Their methodology section specifies that SP30 “compares the relative strength of countries’ soft power resources” and combines this “objective data” with the “subjective” opinion polls conducted in 25 different countries, covering more or less proportionally every continent on the globe. (SoftPower30 2020) As we have already established, power must be measured ex-post, not ex-ante, and it is the behaviour modes rather than the resources that define the “soft” or “hard” nature of power; hence, their “objective data” on “SP resources” probably measures the SP potential in their own understanding of it. Nevertheless, their public opinion poll data, which fortunately can be viewed separately from the overall ranking, is a very useful tool for our framework as it measures the positive attitudes, which is the best indicator of PD’s efficiency today.

Ideas-Based Public Diplomacy

As far as PD taxonomy is concerned, Nicholas Cull’s comprehensive framework helpfully breaks it down into: listening; advocacy; cultural diplomacy; exchange diplomacy; international broadcasting; and PD-by-deed (e.g., humanitarian relief work). (2008: 32-6) While the aforementioned types tend to be to a greater or lesser extent controlled by the ruling elites, whether explicitly or implicitly, there is also another type of PD, which was first identified by Cull over ten years ago. It is the ideas-based PD, whereby an idea is cut off from its source of origin and “becomes a meme (an idea, behaviour, style or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture).” (2008: 49) These memes essentially form the basis for decentralized connective action as personalized content shared across media networks by individuals. (Bennett & Segerberg 2012: 739) We argue that this ideas-based PD is the best type of PD strategy in today’s context and here is why.

First of all, our society has become “submitted to… [and] dependent on the media and their logic’ with the media becoming the primary medium of social interaction, as per Stig Hjarvard’s mediatization theory. (2008: 113) Second, while media agenda setting may have become “concentrated in a few global transnational media conglomerates” (Castells 2009) and is still dominated by television (Media Landscapes 2020), people have nevertheless increasingly come to produce and consume content directly, outside of institutions, via social media, which is something that came to be known as disintermediation. (Schroeder 2018: 3) As a result, not only did individuals come to have the opportunity to become PD agents in their own right in the wake of PD 2.0, over the past decade the modality of this phenomenon has transformed from ability to obligation, whereby most of the people with internet-enabled devices automatically share any unique experience they may find themselves immersed in, often through their own personalized frames, enabled by social media features, as per modern rules of social interaction.

Case study: FIFA 2018 World Cup in Russia and Ideas-based PD

Having established our conceptual and theoretical frameworks, let us now turn to our real-world case study. According to SP30 polling data, the Russian Federation received its highest score ever in 2018, the same year they were hosting the 21st FIFA World Cup. The other major Russia-related news headlines that year were predominantly negative (e.g., Skripal poisoning, AN-148 plane crash, Zimnyaya Vishnya tragedy, pension reform protests, school shooting in Crimea, and Kerch Strait incident, etc.). The few positive news items (e.g., European Figure Skating Championship, Junior Hockey World Cup, World Rapid Chess Championship, etc.) were not as widely publicized and therefore unlikely to have caused any major positive shifts in global public opinion on Russia. Moreover, there have not been any major leaps in any of Moscow’s traditional PD strategies, with the listening component still by and large absent, advocacy strategies unchanged, cultural diplomacy stuck on “balalaikas,” exchange diplomacy at a low level, RT and Sputnik remaining marginal players in the realm of international broadcasting and most of Russia’s “PD-by-deed” activities unknown to the global audience. (Primakov 2019, Reid 2020a & 2020b, Velikaya & Simons 2020) Hence, one can state with a certain degree of confidence that it was indeed the World Cup that generated the highest ever number of positive attitudes toward Russia that year, through ideas-based PD.

To illustrate our point, a study by Mikhailov & Partners (2018) has revealed that from the beginning of 2018 until the end of the World Cup in mid-July a total of 250,000 non-Russian social media users made 388,988 posts about Russia & Russians, which generated 24 million likes, shares and comments, with 50% of them having been made during the World Cup (14th June – 15th July 2018). Most of these came from social media users from the U.S., UK, India, Canada, Germany, France, Australia and Brazil. According to another study, most of these countries had rather negative views on Russia. (Ipsos 2018) Nevertheless, in spite of the strong anti-Russian media campaign unraveling in the West following the Skripal incident, there was an organic increase of positive reviews of Russia on social media during the course of the World Cup, with the top positive themes revolving around the “hospitality of the Russians,” “good organization” and “dispelling myths” about Russia. Moreover, any negative comments were generally focused around the criticism of domestic use of the event “as a means of propaganda and distraction for the society.” Yet even those negative remarks were still by and large complimentary in regard to the friendliness of the people and featured heavily the words “love,” “rocks,” “amazing,” “admire,” “excited,” and “delight.” (Mikhailov & Partners 2018)

What this means is that, besides the “good organization,” which the state can be credited with, the chief PD agents were the individuals – the Russian people, who were “delivering” their hospitality and friendliness to the visitors via attraction and framing, and the visitors themselves, who, apart from being the consumers, went on to be the producers of ideas by adopting, framing and “delivering” their experiences to the audiences in their home countries via social media, enabled by the state’s organization (e.g. fan ID, free travel, free WiFi, etc.).

The case study demonstrates how ideas-based PD may well be the most efficient PD strategy in today’s world, where the public is often highly suspicious of authorities and credibility often rests with everyday individuals. The best result is achieved when state agencies act as mere facilitators of the conditions for ideas-based PD—first and foremost, easily-personalized action frames—while individuals are given the freedom to engage in connective action, subsequently generating positive attitudes towards the power actor state among their home audiences.

Of course, it is understandable that Russia cannot host events of such magnitude every year, not only due to their high cost but also due to competition from other states. Nevertheless, provided that Moscow has carried out some listening PD activities (e.g., surveys to generate detailed data sets on which experiences had generated the most positive frames among which types of individuals, along with the criteria of nationality, age, sex, etc.), they should be able to instrumentalize this information in their PD activities, both online and offline (post-COVID).

The Wider Context

We have now demonstrated how the ideas-based PD during the aforementioned World Cup has manifested as the Russian Federation’s greatest PD success in recent years. However, if we are being honest, we must acknowledge that the success was rather relative in the grand scheme of things, as Russia remained at the bottom of SP30 (SoftPower30 2020). It may therefore be a good idea to consider which countries scored higher than Russia in 2018.

The same year Russia hosted one of the world’s biggest sporting events, it was, in fact, Italy that the majority of the public polled across the world had the most positive attitudes towards. However, Italy did not host any major sporting events that year and their 2018 was hardly any merrier that of Russia’s, as the biggest news to come out of Bel Paese that year were those of inter-ethnic conflicts between locals and migrants, election victory of the center-right coalition, Interior Minister Matteo Salvini’s initiatives to close ports to migrant boats and deport illegal Romani people, and 43 people in Genoa being killed by a collapsed Morandi Bridge. Nevertheless, the following year Italy remained the public’s favorite, despite the contentious initiative to open Benito Mussolini’s crypt as a tourist attraction. France moved up to the third spot, even though the clashes between the police and the “yellow vests” intensified and became marred with brutality and violence. Moreover, having arrested the world’s most known freedom of speech activist and journalist, Julian Assange, Britain remained in the top 10, earning almost double the public appreciation points as Russia. (SoftPower30 2020)

Furthermore, if we are to look at the top 15 states for every year when SP30 data was collected, we may notice the same countries shuffling ever so slightly, all of which are, from a liberal perspective, liberal democracies, or, from a realist perspective, the United States, the global hegemon and home to most of the world’s largest media conglomerates, and its allies or client states.

2020 and Beyond

Looking ahead, we must briefly mention one other recent development. With the primary mass agenda-setting medium, television, having long seized to provide diverse coverage of key political issues, its biggest competitor, digital social media, has been the bastion for alternative information sharing and ideas-based PD. However, Twitter’s recent campaign of subjective labeling of “government-affiliated” accounts (e.g., placing the mark on RT but not VoA, etc.) and the US presidential election interference (e.g., hiding tweets of one of the main candidates, among other things) have revealed a new reality, whereby social media are no longer mere communication channels, but rather they are becoming agents in their own right. This is the new reality that has to be recognized and taken on board when devising new PD strategies.

Conclusion

It can be concluded that in today’s mediatized and increasingly disintermediated world ideas-based PD, channeled via connective action, is, indeed, the most efficient kind of PD, and, provided that the state agrees to play a passive facilitator role leaving the individuals to share their personalized frames via social media, it will add value and generate more positive attitudes among the foreign publics. However, it remains insignificant in the grand scheme of things and for a state to top the list of the most attractive countries, it must also either become one of the global hegemon’s liberal democratic allies/client states or try to rival the hegemon by coming to own a number of major global media conglomerates. Finally, due to the recent development of increasingly influential social media taking on the features of traditional media, such as partiality and subjectivity, and thus transforming from an independent fair play platform into an agent in its own right, any state seeking the admiration of the global public needs to own not only major traditional media conglomerates but also the biggest digital social media companies – “the post, telephone and telegraph” of today.

References

From our partner RIAC

IMESS in Politics & Security, Westminster Russia Forum Ambassador, Alumnus of UCL SSEES, Diplomatic Academy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, University of Belgrade and London Metropolitan University

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Corona Vaccine: A Diplomatic Tool

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Photo: Xinhua

Covid-19 has exposed the vulnerabilities of prevailing governance set ups but it also brought the bright face of so called failure systems. Covid-19 has hit across the world and damaged political, social and economic life of entire globe but very few of them used their leadership and technical skills to overcome the catastrophe and succeeded. The most victim of covid-19 was china but few western and Asian states also faced the traumatic situation. New Zealand was the first state which declared it corona free zone under the leadership of NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and later on at somehow china controlled the epidemic spread while Pakistan under the leadership of Imran Khan also used effective Smart lock down policies to save the valuable lives and reduced economic shocks. On contrary to this, the largest democracy India and U.S completely failed to cope up with the situation. During the 2020, major powers like china and Russia provided its medical and technical support to the far distant poor states particularly African and Asian nations and win hearts of the people. Now, 2021 is a year for vaccines and hope of a return to normalcy.

China, the first and foremost state hit by the coronavirus a year ago, just approved its first homegrown vaccine for general use and have endeavors to inoculating 50 million high priority people before early February. According to the centers for disease control and prevention, more than 4.8 million people in the United States have received vaccine dose. In the same way, states like china, Russia and U.S are going to use it a diplomatic tool. Vaccine makers are boosting their productions to produce it on large scale to fulfill the other state’s requirements. Due to outbreak of Covid-19, china had to face the bad music in international affairs but Chinese efforts reflect a desire to revamp its international image.

In May 2020, during a speech Chinese president Xi Jinping positioned Chinese vaccine development and deployment plans as a’’ Public Good ‘’health and further he added that it will be china’s contribution to ensuring vaccine accessibility and affordability in developing countries. In the result of this, Chinese vaccine trials have been conducted in different African, Middle East and Asian states.  The covid-19 pandemic has clearly offered a golden opportunity to china to advance itself as a reliable and inevitable actor of global governance. The Chinese government eventually is going to use vaccine doses as a strategic tool to strengthen their international relationships. A senior researcher for global health at the Washington-based council, Yanzhong huang expressed his views that

‘’The vaccine could be used by an instrument for foreign policy to promote soft power and project international influence’’

The African governments are expressing interests in Chinese vaccine, BBIBP-CorV, developed by the china national pharmaceutical group and china could use vaccine access to bolster economic and political influence in Africa and other regions which are securing enough vaccines. Thus, the vaccine diplomacy would help china to frame itself as the solution to the outbreak rather the cause of it. China’s vaccine diplomacy in Africa serves to be a high reward venture. It sinopharm’s vaccine bore fruits and restores the normalcy of life across the region, china will be praised.  Recently, Sinovac biotech,drug Maker Company based in Beijing, has signed deals with Brazil and Turkey to provide respectively 46 million and 50 million doses. Sinopharm a state owned company is also active to provide the vaccine but deals are less open. China’s global vaccine campaign is in stark contrast to the ‘’America First ‘’ approach which just focuses on vaccinating its own citizens. So, china is in better position to use the vaccine to serve its foreign policy interests. The role of leaders in projecting vaccine as diplomatic tool is vital and Chinese leaders have repeatedly stressed that china’s vaccines are for sharing particularly with the poor nations. It is very evidently that how much china is interesting to build its trust among those states that are part of the development projects like BRI. Most of the countries including Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia, Afghanistan and Pakistan are in the priority list. In addition to this, Beijing also offered $ 1 billion dollar loan to Latin America and the Caribbean for access to its corona virus vaccine. Indonesia is another state which received 1.2 million vaccine doses from Chinese pharmaceutical firm Sinovac. Chinese state owned media played very significant role in projecting vaccine a diplomatic tool and showed china as a responsible player leading global efforts to fight the pandemic.

The ambitions of china in projection of soft image are very evident as it wants to realize the world that how much china has capabilities to perform its duties to govern the world affairs. Undoubtedly, the role of Chinese leadership, state owned media and drug maker companies in the pandemic is very influential to shape the pro-Chinese narrative.

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American soft power as an instrument of global hegemony

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Christian Harbulot, director and founder of the Paris School of Economic Warfare, has devoted much of his work to the study of economic warfare and the role it has played in the conflict dynamic of this century. But alongside the economic war, an instrument of similar importance that has allowed the achievement of American hegemony in the so-called multipolar world is certainly soft power.

Posing as the flagship country of free competition, the United States has achieved the best influence operation of the twentieth century. They were able to disguise their economic aggression by calling attention to the denunciation of European colonial empires. This rhetorical trick worked well. The stigmatization of the major ruling powers allowed them to disguise their own conquest initiatives as happened with the colonization of Hawaii. It is in the same spirit that they were able to trivialize their multiple external military interventions for operations to protect their citizens during the crucial period between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

America’s economic soft power was built around this misconception. The United States supported the emancipation of people from colonial oppression and, at the same time, supported the “open door” and free trade. One of their main criticisms of European colonial empires was the privileged exchanges between those empires and their metropolises. The Commonwealth was particularly targeted during the GATT negotiations (1947) and Washington refused to sign the Charter of Havana (1948) which it had desired but which maintained the principle of “imperial preferences” between European countries and their colonies.

By presenting itself as the guarantor of the discourse on free competition and open markets, the United States has built an image of itself as a “justice of the peace” in international trade. This cognitive advantage allowed them to mask their conquest initiatives. The US grip on oil fields in the Middle East and Iran has been the most visible illustration of the US economic war machine. The State Department, intelligence agencies and oil companies have worked together to impose their will on interested countries and potential competitors. The means of action used were often based on the use of force (indirect and then direct participation in armed conflicts in the Middle East, coups d’etat such as the overthrow of Mossadegh in Iran in 1953, destabilization of regimes that supported Arab nationalism.).

The economic soft power of the United States took shape in the aftermath of World War II. Armed with its decisive military superiority, the United States seeks to establish a process of domination in some vital markets. The Marshall Plan planners encouraged European agriculture to buy American soybeans for animal feed. This desire to establish a relationship of dependence on the United States will later spread to other key sectors such as the computer industry and then information technology. Data storage (Big Data) is one of the areas in which the American system is most determined to maintain its primacy and dominance. To “mask” these logic of domination and dependence, the American elites have resorted to two types of action.

1) The formatting of knowledge. Major American universities have gradually imposed their views on how world trade works, taking great care not to talk about geo-economic power struggles. This omission was fraught with consequences as it deprived European elites of a critical view of the nature of American corporate aggression in foreign markets. Academic disciplines such as management sciences or economics have banned any analysis of the phenomenon of economic warfare from their field of vision, which the United States nonetheless practiced with discretion.

2) The capture of knowledge. To avoid being overwhelmed by competing innovation dynamics, the United States has over time developed a very sophisticated monitoring system to identify the sources of innovation in the world in order to contact foreign researchers and engineers as soon as possible and offer them expatriation or financing solutions. through private funds. If this type of knowledge acquisition fails, the use of espionage is not excluded.

3)  Misinformation  and manipulation

The rise to power of the European and Asian economies since the 1970s has forced defenders of American economic interests to adapt their economic warfare techniques to the post-Cold War context. The allies of the main opponents faced before the decisive phase of the emergence of the Chinese economy.

In the 1990s, the United States opened several fronts. The most visible was the economic security policy implemented by Bill Clinton under the pretext that overseas companies were victims of “unfair competition”. Europeans were the first targets. Exposing corruption has become a favorite weapon of US economic diplomacy. But behind this principle there were much more offensive operations. In 1998 the Alcatel group suffered a series of information attacks carried out on the Internet, through media rumors regarding the lack of financial transparency of the general management. This campaign led to the historic fall of a share on the Paris Stock Exchange. To address this question, American industrialists financially supported the creation of NGOs such as Transparency International. These advocates of business moralization stigmatized countries that did not abide by global rules. On the other hand, no subject of this movement was interested in the opacity of the payment methods of the main players of the large auditing firms heavily involved in the signing of large international contracts. The exploitation of a moralizing discourse is now experiencing its operational peak with the extra-territoriality of law.

But the main transformation of American soft power in the last twenty years is the total exploitation of the information society. Everyone remembers the importance of the Echelon system or Snowden’s statements about the size of American espionage through the Internet and social media. By contrast, information warfare techniques applied in economics are still unfamiliar to the general public. The United States is now at war over how to use civil society actors to destabilize or weaken their adversaries.

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The Modernity of Climate Diplomacy

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Proposition of Modernity

International climate diplomacy may appear to the observer as a newly forged and unknown process compared to other well-established diplomatic affairs. Still as with other diplomatic pursuits of the sovereign state, at its core it must address the need to reach global goals through logical, fair and international legal argument. Given the tremendous scope and complexity of the enterprise this would only be possible through incremental negotiation and compromise among key actors and stakeholders. Incremental progress can only be achieved within a set of global goals, which are designed to codify the relations among states with respect of management and remediation of a new and growing peril – the continuously increasing variability and presence of extreme patterns in global climate.  Although the manifestations of this global peril are predictable their exact occurrences and their magnitudes in our physical reality are chaotic in nature.  This very attribute of the extreme climatic peril makes the propagation of impacts in our economic, financial and social networks highly uncertain and viable to assume the nature of systemic shocks.  The modernity of climate diplomacy is expressed in two proposed aspects of its character.  Firstly, it is presented as a philosophically virtuous policy, fully motivated by the general public good.  Secondly it is presented as the balance of two opposing forces – one of inaction and objection to engagement, and a second of constructive drive to outcomes clearly defined in the best societal interest in its most international scope.  These two forces and the outcomes of their interaction are subject to contagion by the fundamental threat of extreme climate variability.  Their interaction creates uncertainty and volatility of outcomes.  Such attributes are well suited to be reviewed in the mathematical theory of chaotic process.

A Newly Forged Framework

A traditional, well-studied and fundamental diplomatic framework such as the Westphalian system is based on three central propositions. Firstly, international diplomacy has a currency of its own – and this is the power of states.  Secondly, the diplomatic system has a measurable equilibrium among actors, which is achieved with the help of this currency, and this is the balance of power.  The system is highly procedural and not substantive.  Instead of engaging in a clash of ethical and cultural principles, competing actors concern themselves purely in both competing and collaborating in transactions of power, without interference of ideologies.  They will outperform and challenge each other at times and thus create instability and systemic change.  Then through settlement and negotiation the system will return to its equilibrium – the balance of power among sovereign actors.

The propositions of the Westphalian system most closely describe the current diplomatic framework of international security and its arrangements.  It is immediately evident that the Westphalian system of balance of power, and hence of international security, would differ with an effective framework of climate diplomacy in significant and principled manner.  While within the framework of international security, sovereign state power is indeed the currency of balance and stability, the same would not be true within the premises of climate diplomacy.  State power and influence will still allow actors to pursue and accomplish their goals in this field, however it cannot guarantee by itself equilibrium in the task of managing the emerging risk of climate change.  This equilibrium is not found in transactions among states, it is not achieved in gains and losses across the diplomatic table, but it is to be pursued in managing a global, physical threat, which originates not from the actions of a single state, but from the cumulative activity of all human civilization, where certainly not all participants contribute equally.  Fundamentally, unlike in traditional balance of power diplomacy, by projecting state power in international affairs, an actor cannot gain advantage over others. The nature of the threat is such that it depends entirely on geography, locality and physical processes, whose impacts are extremely hard to forecast.  The losses of one state, emanating from the damage of extreme climate, are not the gains of another.  The balance, if at all and if ever achieved is not between states or alliances, but between the whole community of states and a growing global threat. This balance will be evidently expressed in a stable physical and global environment, which allows for the secure and prosperous development of all states and societies. The framework of balance of power diplomacy, even within a multilateral setting, is clearly not appropriately conditioned, or more accurately, it is not adequately equipped to shape and bring about a manageable and survivable balance of the climate threat.

The Philosophy of Public Good

Multilateral diplomacy preserves the same principles as Westphalian system, while the technical setting of the exchange is a forum, transparent to multiple actors, rather than the more traditional one-to-one diplomatic endeavors of sovereign states.  The substance of the process – the currency of the exchange among actors yet remains the power of states.  To create a more effective thought paradigmnew intellectual forces will need to be mobilized to motivate a sense of immediacy and inevitability of desirably positive diplomatic action.  Once this process is awake, however, such forces or streams of thought do not necessarily always need to be in supportive manner of constructive proposition.  They may very well be in opposition to effective action and productive outcomes. In many other areas of social and political life, the original state of public thought and hence of international diplomacy has been that of conservative inaction.  Then in reality and by principles of origin there must be two intellectual and philosophical forces or traditions behind the execution of international climate diplomacy, representing two actual political forces and types of action, those of disruption and balance.

We can trace the philosophical roots of these two forces to ancient Greek philosophical thought. One tradition is of inaction and disengagement; and a second of positive, public good-motivated action.  The philosophical tradition of Epicureanism justifies an absolute materialist view of personal and social life, without a higher and universal set of shared values, without the tenets of common humanism. The pursuit of pleasure, of satisfaction of all material appetites and needs of the individual becomes a primary objective, a primary reason of existence.  Epicureanism is not only an individualistic philosophy, it has a political and social stance.  It sees society as built out of necessity, with individuals striving for success and their existence commandeered by proto Darwinian forces. Furthermore, a political life for the citizenis not needed or desirable.  Privacy, private friendships, and private relationships and contracts rather than social contracts are the desirable mode of social engagement.

In the opposing direction, the Stoic tradition of Greek philosophy can be traced as the force of equilibrium, as the stream of thought which justifies positive, engaged and decisive action.  Stoicism sees order, reason and balance in the world and the cosmos, and these states are definable in precise mathematical terms.  It sees order and reason in a chaotic universe.  Thus, in Stoic thought exists the concept of natural justice.  In a system of balance and order, there must be a force of justice, and this force must be working on the premises of universal humanistic principles.  The supposition is that values of common and cosmopolitan humanity do exist, and they are universal and shared.

A civic and international regime of positive action, of duty and commitment with meaning and purpose of serving the community virtuously is fundamentally existent in Stoic philosophy. A utilitarian streak could add some strength to this stream of thought by defining active climate diplomacy making to be in the best interest of the public good, and hence being perceived as a virtuous act.  Such public perceptions should give public service of this kind additional degree of veracity. The utilitarian aspect comes in the perception of a virtuous policy as always seen to be a just policy.  On an international stage among many actors and under the observant eye of many and various societies of experts just and honest diplomacy acts are always the best policy.  Hence it is always rational and prudent to be honest and just in dealings of international affairs and diplomacy. 

This argument itself exhibits an underlying streak of the Machiavellian tradition, which is not necessarily a disadvantage in this case.  This tradition has been interpreted more often to promote a degree of calculated cynicism.  A closer examination however, may lead to redefine this attitude as practical and working realism, which is effectively conditioned to produce results for the common good of society. The Machiavellian reinforcement of the argument of the benefits of a just and fair climate diplomacy is justified on the premise that these actions are in fact taking place on a stage, and thus political actors are always on display, always being studied and judged by local and foreign societies and groups.  If he were a contemporary of ours, Machiavelli would very likely maintain that on such a stage of the grandest and broadest making, the legitimacy of climate diplomacy can only be derived from its established essence of being a political action designed in the best interest of the whole of the people.  Thus, the process must be perceived as a true instrument for social justice with a highest order of purpose to produce the common good.

These two opposing forces – one of inaction and disengagement, and a second searching for equilibrium in the promise of the public good, which shape the process of climate diplomacy making require a more technical and systemic analysis.  Such analysis is needed to better evaluate the shaping of balance between these forces, to define the constructive and deconstructive tendencies of their interaction. If such exploration contributes to clarity of understanding, to more granular visualization of detail and process, then it would be well worth the investment. The various modern theories of the mathematical sciences are well suited to provide tools and insights to set some foundation for such type of analytical review.

Forces of Mathematical Chaos

Independent and parallel risk factors of economic, security and social nature coexist in physical reality.  At times of smooth and undisturbed operations of the international financial, security and political networks the interdependence between such risk factors does not seem evident.  At such times this interdependence is generally not observed by actors of international diplomacy, simply because it is not a source of systemic tension.  Such interdependence however is revealed at times of extreme and catastrophic events of natural and man-made origin.  At such times of systemic stress networks’ interconnectedness serves as a source for risk contagion and becomes a point of political and public debate and oftentimes contention.

Global crisis such as the current pandemic serve to increase the comprehension of interconnectivity among global actors and nodes.  The speed and magnitude of propagation of political and economic risk across seemingly otherwise independent networks is affected by inherent properties, which facilitate branching and cascading of climate risk into other socio-economic and security forms of risk. Hence to properly design effective diplomatic practice to address such global and agile threat a mechanism and function of solid theoretical nature needs to be developed and formalized. Systemic properties of interconnectedness are key to facilitating the propagation of climate risk across security and socio-economic networks – a process defined as chaotic contagion. Then the task for international diplomacy practitioners and researchers is to understand the properties of interconnectedness of economic, financial, insurance, social networks, such that diplomatic practices, tools and continuous processes are developed and validated.

From first principles of the mathematical theory of chaotic processes one expects that there is order within every seemingly chaotic system. This sense of order is maintained by comprehensive and measurable patterns and rules of behavior of processes and explainable trends in outcomes. The very physical nature of the underlying global peril, and the corresponding diplomatic tasks and actions for states, which arise from this peril, dictate and define the nature of climate diplomacy.  Thus, there are rarely repetitive and regular activities in this sphere of international relations. An international diplomatic system of this nature, a system which can be described as driven by chaotic processes, which govern the interaction among its actors, would be characterized as a complex and dynamic system, with inherent capacities to adapt. Such a framework of diplomacy would be naturally conditioned to perpetuate turbulent and significant changes, much more so, and much more often than a traditional security diplomatic framework.  At the same time such a system is capable to bring order in an irregular environment, all be it, a sense of chaotic order.

Chaotic systems in theoretical sciences are the subject to two contradicting and counter-positioned forces. One force and its characteristic expressions work towards increasing unpredictability, complexity and constant disruption.  The main attribute of these forces of unpredictability is non-linearity of direction.  This is coupled with excessive contagion and propagation of risk and peril, enabled by interconnectedness of nodes, which further brings about systemic uncertainty in general. A second trend and set of systemic attributes balances the chaotic framework by exercising continuous transformation towards self-organization, self-control and innovation towards equilibrium. This vigilance of state of actors and of nodes, combined with diversity of state of the entire system has a positive balancing effect on the most extreme trends of excess shock and of uncertainty of the chaotic framework.

Volatile Outcomes

Compared to traditional security challenges, climate change is a more complex threat – it involves more actors and more nuanced trade-offs.  Still the existing general diplomatic order prevents undesirable collapse of climate diplomacy networks at times of excessive stress and tension.  At its core international diplomacy is as much about statecraft and leadership as it is about institutions and protocols.  The chaotic and uncertain nature of policy moves and of the policy positions of sovereign states provide a clear opportunity for execution of precisely such statecraft by actors with the needed invested interest, resources and capabilities.  A sense of urgency and a sense of pending crisis, which always accompany climate change discussions, would further support actors seeking constructive outcomes.  Once more the need for timeliness – itself the pressing requirements of action in the immediate present, provides another chance to display leadership in diplomatic action. 

At time of severe crisis, as the current experience of the pandemic shows, the first reaction of states was to protect their own borders and to ensure equipment for their own citizens.  This is a rational reaction of self-defense and self-preservation.  However, it is against the norms, treaties and agreements of multi-lateral collaboration, and particularly so within communities and organizations such as the European Union, where such inter-state relations are the ethos and mode of operation.  Furthermore, if the institutional and statist instinct of self-preservation is combined with an identifiable and already existing lack of confidence and suspicion ofmulti-lateral frameworks of collaboration and of treaty making, the effect would be only further disruption and unpredictability.

The same conclusions and experiences are transferable and applicable to the climate risk crisis, which is unfolding at a much slower pace and thus its physical impacts are measurable over longer periods of time.  On the other hand, because of the network and contagion properties between climate risk and socio-economic networks, a propagation of climate risk to these networks is expected to have a much more dramatic and sudden impact.  A most evident case in point is the impact of rising temperatures and draught intensities in the Maghreb and Sahel regions of Africa on armed conflict and thus on population migrations.  Here a gradual and slow unfolding risk factor through propagation and projection into socio-economic realities causes a measurable event of new and completely different nature. 

Such a socio-economic shock is expected to have dual impact on both the philosophical and onthe mathematical theory of chaos planes.  In one of its expressions, the shock will have disruptive and divisive effect on diplomatic networks, triggering state actions of self-insurance and of defending of one’s own interests and assets, which overshadows and takes precedence over existing practices and networks of multi-lateral collaboration.  In the theory of chaos this will be the arrival of a disruptive, unpredictable and turbulent event, which has the potential to change the regime of operation of clearly otherwise independent socio-economic networks.  The duality of expected expression may come in the second phase of self-organizing and remediating action towards achieving equilibrium and balancing out the effects of the initial shock.

This action of self-balance, with a degree of innovation, toward systemic equilibrium may become effective only if it is driven by actors of international diplomacy and presented asa contribution to the common good. On a global scale it is very hard to define the concept of the common good even in areas of international relations, where states have much longer experiences of engagement, of defining norms and treaties, such as security, crisis management and peace keeping. Such a task is further complicated by the general and evident abandonment of the moral vocabulary of the interest of the people and of the common good.International diplomacy such as climate diplomacy would manifests itself in most confident and unequivocal manner when it is executed in the name of the public good.

The predominant methodology of traditional international diplomacy is that of the balance of power,of zero-sum games.  The vision and practice of climate diplomacy must be that of non-zero-sum game, of the alternative – of a positive sum game. At the same time this vision needs to be directed by informed and innovative pragmatism, which evaluates and directs streams of unilateral and collaborative behavior by states on the merits of their outcomes. Such diplomatic action needs to emphasize that false belief leads to failure of reasoning and this in turn may lead to counter-productive unilateral action.Such enlightened pragmatism will need to establish the link between diplomatic action and scientific and statistical facts.  Reality outside and underneath many common perceptions needs to be uncovered.  Policy and diplomacy engagement would become more than a mere accumulation of facts and actions.  At the same time, it is logical to see opposition to climate diplomacy.  In a time of crisis, people retract to basic values and known quantities and entrench to defend them. 

The objective of all diplomatic activity, and that of climate change included, is to achieve its end goals.  This is much more important than the preservation of its virtuous nature, at all time, in all engagements, and among all actors.  It is acceptable that most of the time, on the big scenes of international relations, it is perceived to be virtuous. This is only possible if there is a single or few sovereign authorities behind these endeavors, which will gain from success, and will gain from the public perception of being seen to act in the common good, being directed by virtuous principles of common humanitarian nature.  At times the classical thesis of political morality may prove to be naïve. Then the use of social, economic and environmental justice must be seen to be effective, instrumental and inevitable to balance the unveiling of this naiveté. In the rhetorical tradition we see that it is possible to excuse vices by presenting them as neighboring virtues.  Naivete is one of these a borderline attributes of international climate diplomacy, liable to be interpreted either way, depending on the skill of the actors and the circumstances of the engagement. Despite the perception of naivete, on the technical level, the diplomatic actors will need to feel skillfully the temper of the big stakeholders – the major sovereign powers of the day, almost at once as the diplomatic engagement of the day takes shape.  Then the task of the proponent, of the power behind the constructive engagement is to drive this sentiment, refining the movement of the argument, refining the pace of collaborative and multilateral events.  For the diplomatic engagement to be effective, it needs to constantly evolve and improve.The message of climate diplomacy needs to cover from the deepest and technically most sophisticated argument to the most accessible level of common and simple moral grounds.  Thus, the engagement of climate diplomacy will seamlessly fit into the needed pattern for any relevant audience.  A truly strategic diplomatic engagement would be able to score well and make big gains from small premises.

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