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On Monday, a two-day meeting of representatives of the Federal Agency for the Affairs of the CIS States, Compatriots Living Abroad and International Humanitarian Cooperation (Rossotrudnichestvo) in other countries opened in Moscow. The agency is intended to turn in the main instrument of the policy of soft power, with which the Kremlin hopes to improve drastically Russia’s image in the world. The opinions of the participants in the meeting differed over how this should be achieved. Some officials suggested reviving the propagandistic structures of the Soviet times, some others recommended to just hire a good PR company.
The ongoing meeting of Rossotrudnichestvo representatives is the first one since the agency was headed by former chairman of the State Duma Committee for International Relations Konstantin Kosachev, the Kommersant daily reported.
High-ranking guests, namely Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky, who opened the meeting, share the view that the reform of the organization is needed. Konstantin Kosachev did not conceal detailed plans to reorganize the agency. The essence of novelties was quite clear. Russia is planning to begin to use actively the soft power, and Rossotrudnichestvo should turn in an instrument of a new policy. Dmitry Medvedev explained to the delegates why it is important. Noting that it is all right with a tough (that is to say military) force in Russia, the premier acknowledged that the situation is much worse with the soft power (the ability to achieve desirable results on the basis of its own attractiveness).
Meanwhile, the participants in the meeting failed to work out immediately a common concept to improve Russia’s image in other countries. Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky suggested expanding guest performances in other countries, and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov offered to invite more foreign students for the gratis education at Russian higher educational institutions. All these ideas, which seemed to be different, had the common essence – the absolute confidence in the fact that just if the current situation in Russia is explained to the foreigners, its reputation will begin to improve dramatically.
The prime minister noted that “Russia has competitive advantages in fundamental science and education,” but humanitarian positions of our country in the world do not meet its capabilities, the Rossiiskaya Gazeta daily reported. The Rossotrudnichestvo centres of science and culture should compensate for Russia’s losses to the country’s image. There are 59 such centres now, another 35 centres are planned to inaugurate before 2015. Medvedev believes Russia’s higher competitiveness on the market of educational services as one of the most efficient instruments of attraction.
The Moskovsky Komsomolets daily reported that, according to the experts, this is the countries with strong brands, the so-called soft power, that attract a greater share of direct foreign investments and technologies. The newspaper recalled that the term of soft power (the ability to achieve desirable results on the basis of voluntary participation, sympathy and attractiveness) was introduced by Prof. of the Harvard University Joseph Nye relatively recently in 1990.
The losses to the country’s image and the ongoing capital flight are mainly explained by high risks and problems, with which investments in Russian economy are complicated, managing partner, lawyer of the law group Selyutin and Partners Alexander Selyutin told the Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily. “The problems in the legislation, corruption, bureaucracy do not only discourage the investors, but also contribute to the foreign outflow of Russian capital. The legislation does not envisage safe mechanisms of investments, and many major projects sometimes depend from the political will or local decisions. The improvement of the business climate is just declared. There are no real changes yet,” the lawyer underlined.