Analytical materials / Kazakhstan

Petr Svoik: American, Russian and Kazakh “soft powers”


“The term “soft power” was created in the United States during the last years of the Soviet Union, and it was defined as the use of non-material resources, culture, beliefs and political ideals to provide the necessary impact on foreign populations and governments without the involvement of previously familiar elements of power, including the military pressure”, said Petr Svoik, a political scientist (Almaty, Kazakhstan), in an article written exclusively for
After the August coup made by the State Committee of the State of Emergency [GKChP in Russian] in 1991 and before the events in Bialowieza Forest, the author had a chance to be a member of the House of Nationalities of the Supreme Council of the USSR, which was then formed from the Deputies of the Supreme Council. Once, the committee on CIS affairs held a meeting with a delegation headed by Zbigniew Brzezinski. This delegation consisted of former prime ministers of Canada, Japan and other major retired politicians. Brzezinski said briefly that the Soviet Union was doomed, and the sooner they would get back in their capitals, all the better. I had to respond to this, and I quickly realized that Brzezinski understood Russian: his allof face suddenly became even more aloof. America, I said, has deservedly won the “cold war”, but the complete disappearance of the Soviet Union will be a big mistake on your part. The world imbalance will spread to the United States, and in twenty-five years, you will find yourself in this position. The debate did not happen after that, and the meeting somehow was over.
23.5 years have passed since then…
Soft power – the end of history
Interestingly, the term “soft power” created at that period – a year before the collapse of the USSR – in publications of Harvard professor Joseph Nye, and first applied only to the implementation of US national interests around the world, it is now often used with respect to the policy of Russia, too, both in the official terminology – it was used in the annex to the Foreign Policy Concept of the Russian Federation in 2010, and in articles criticizing “Putinism” and resurgent Russian imperial ambitions. It is true in any case, since the “soft power”, directed by definition outside the boundaries of the country which is using it, is a priori an intention to spread its national interests beyond national borders. What had been previously used only by the US now is actively used by Russia with the “second coming” of Putin in power.
It is clear why the term “soft power” was first born in the United States and during the last years of the Soviet Union, and it was defined as the use of non-material resources, culture, beliefs and political ideals to provide the necessary impact on foreign populations and governments without the involvement of previously familiar elements of power, including the military pressure. If not the entire Soviet population, at least, the party, humanitarian and economic elites turned out to be in the attractive ebrace of “soft power” of the market economy and Western lifestyle.
Yes, by the beginning of 1990s, the hard power of confrontation of the capitalist and socialist worlds objectively transformed into a soft power: the fierce rivalry of ideologies and weapons, economic and information systems in the form of “cold war” had completely ended by that time, the Warsaw Pact was voluntarily abolished, and Soviet tanks and troops were leaving Eastern Europe, and the friendship with America and Americans became almost the Russian national idea.
In the early 1990s, another Harvard graduate Professor Francis Fukuyama has launched the idea of ​​the “end of history” into political science field, the end of history as a result of the final although not full victory of Western liberal political and economic paradigm.
During the following decade and a half, the science had almost fully coincided with reality: the most convincing illustration of the triumph of “soft power” was the recent “evil empire.” The three largest parts of the former Soviet Union – Russia, Kazakhstan and Ukraine – were “inscribed” into the world market, division of labor and the global financial system strictly according to the liberal canons, with the direct participation of consultants from the IMF and the World Bank. Belarus, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and other former Soviet sovereigns, at a certain originality, were also inlcuded into the same global market paradigm.
Actually, the voluntary transformation of the former Soviet Union in the arms of American “soft power” was not only the most ambitious and successful, but also… the only example of its application. Perhaps, only the Georgian “rose revolution” that replaced pro-Russian Shevardnadze by pro-American Saakashvilli was bloodless. Whereas the Ukrainian Maidan, besides $ 5 billion spent for its preparation and the free distribution of biscuits, yet happened not without the help of snipers of undetermined origin.
Goodness with fists
Perhaps, only in the former Soviet Union, and only during the first years after its collapse, the “soft power” was used exclusively in a gentle form, without any hard power components. In other parts of the world, it has always been not so gentle. So, in August of 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait, triggering a response in the form of “Desert Storm”. A year later, George HW Bush said at the UN that he was not going to return US troops home but was planning to launch a crusade for the establishment of a new world order.
It is logical that a ten-year expansion of the US not quite soft power had brought the United States to the response in the form of the terrorist attacks on New York’s Twin Towers on September 11, 2001. After that, the total fight against terrorism and all sorts of terrorist and dictatorial regimes, qualified as such by the same USA, acquired a more determined character. Since 2001, the concept of “soft power” was officially and practically supplemented not only by target bombings, but also by the introduction of ground troops in many “hot spots” of the world.
In this context, the second name of the concept of “soft power”, given at its birth – “smart” – poses the question: how smart, according to observable consequences now, the military intervention in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and… Ukraine was.
In any case, with or without the military component of it, the “soft power” in the American version has been always based on the global dominance of the United States in “post-September 11th” world. “The aspirations of our nation have always gone beyond our borders. We will protect this world against the threats from terrorists and tyrants. We will save this world, building friendships with other great powers. We will spread peace, encouraging the emergence of free and open societies on every continent. America has unquestionable military superiority, which it intends to maintain in the future. This preponderance makes the destabilizing arms race characteristic of previous eras meaningless and restricts the competition between the countries by trade and other peaceful activities”, excerpts from the “doctrine of Bush”, 2002.
That is, it directly formulated such a key value for the United States as the preservation of the military, and therefore political global hegemony. Rivalry, as it is customary in the liberal paradigm, is acceptable, of course but exclusively in the field of trade and other peaceful activities. That, of course, means building the entire world politics, economy and ideology following certain uniform – the best in the world! – rules. The establishment and supervision of these rules is the prerogative of the world’s center of power.
An analogy with football is coming to my mind: the uncompromising rivalry of high-quality teams causes a sincere delight among fans all over the world, but the honest professional game requires intercontinental unification of all rules and very strict international refereeing. Therefore, isn’t the prosecutor’s attack by the United States against the FIFA headed by Joseph Blatter justified by the idea of ​​cleansing the world’s most popular game from the international corruption?
Actually, that’s the latest (June 2015) meeting of G-7 has declared the same thing: the continued commitment of the developed Western countries, together with Japan, to spread uniform political, economic and humanistic values ​​around the world.
In this context, the fact that President Putin was not invited to the summit of “G7” reflects the deviant behavior of post-Yeltsin Putin’s Russia: not only does not Russia want to accept universal Western values, but also it openly flouts them – in the Crimea and Donbass.
It should be recognized that the Russian version of the spread its power beyond is much softer than American version. It is hard to deny the presence of Russian “commissary” and “north wind” in Donetsk and Luhansk, while the annexation of the Crimea happened without firing a shot.
But even more impressive is completely smooth formation of the Customs and the Eurasian Union: the new “gathering of lands” actually passes without using any force from Russia. On the contrary, the Presidents of Kazakhstan, Belarus, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan themselves initiated and voluntarily assumed the obligations of the Union, and this list is obviously has not yet been exhausted. What is truly surprising: after all, national political and economic elites of the reintegrating post-Soviet sovereign states, to put it mildly, are not happy with the return to Moscow, especially since there are not direct benefits of economic integration, rather – on the contrary. Thus, the trade turnover between Kazakhstan and Russia during all the years of the Customs Union was only falling, and the chronically unprofitable large negative export-import balance for Kazakhstan has decreased slightly due to a general decline in trade volumes.
However, the process is going on, and there is even an impression that Moscow is not using even a “soft power” in promoting this integration. Thus, the Russian television that is definitely dominant in Kazakhstan is not engaged any apologetics of the Eurasian Union, and does not make any attempts to “rock” the political situation either, dividing the audience into supporters and opponents of the EEU.
Meanwhile, the creation of the Customs and then the Eurasian Economic Union withdrew Russia from the G-8 and from the Western global project. The same Maidan – not the first in Kiev – this time led to such dramatic confrontational developments precisely because the political agenda in 2013-2014 was no longer a question of immediate association with the European Union, but the need for urgent avoidance of the Eurasian Union.
The secret of the effectiveness of Putin’s “soft power” lies in this, in fact, central role of the Eurasian economic integration in the political disintegration of Russia and the United States and Europe. The Eurasian project is not trade or economic, it is geopolitical, and that’s why it is totally unacceptable to the Western consensus.
The concentration of all the likes and dislikes on personally President Putin is explained by the central and again “determining” Russia’s role in the preservation or cancellation of a unipolar world order.
The fact is that in the geopolitical plane, there are already several implicit cross-country associations, laying the foundations for the future multipolar world. Thus, G-20 is not an “extended» G-7. It is a fundamentally different desig, unifying not only the twenty largest economies in the world, but also future block centers, between which the current unipolar global market will be distributed. SCO and BRICS represent the same, but the post-crisis multipolar structure of the world although this multi-polarity is still ripening in them.
But the EEU is a distinct Post-Global formation despite the thoroughly negated political essence of the Eurasian integration. It is semi-finished, but it already contains the necessary key ingredients and does not contain the ingredients that would split it already in a multi-polar world, claiming the full self-sufficiency or other bloc inclusion.
In addition to the political essence of the Eurasian Union, it is still far from completing its territorial boundary – the same Ukraine will eventually join it, if not entire, at least, a large part of it, thanks to the objective fact that the European project is “alien” to most of the Ukraine, unnecessary and unaffordable, and is used now only as a springboard for reflection of Putin’s expansion.
As for the question of what soft and semi-hard European-American and Russian power will overcome each other, in particular, in Ukraine, the correct prediction requires the understanding that the dispute is not about values, but about specific interests. On the part of the US and the EU, this interest is not American or European, it is global, that’s why the US have to bear the burden of the world hegemony.
The essence is that having the level of economic and social development reached by the most advanced countries, there is no special need in the existence of a global market. The current level of industrialization, including what is called the “post-industrial economy”, is being implemented in the country and inter-country communities covering only a few hundred, or even tens of millions of people, provided that these 50-80 or 200-300 million people are fully involved in their common and modern systems of education, scientific and technological progress, efficient production and mass consumption.
Thus, the human capacity of the states-EEU members already in the current composition is sufficient to create an industrial and innovative economy and to ensure the highest standard of living, taking into account the unused natural resources!
And the fact that now the participants of the EEU, led by Russia, represent commodity, trade and monetary provinces of the developed United States and the European Union should be attributed not only to its own Eurasian clan oligarchic and corrupt tradition, but also to the direct participation of the Western political and economic elites in the formation of such neocolonial and comprador economies and ruling regimes.
On the other hand, the United States and the European Union, moving to the status of the global usury, technological and military metropolis (which was greatly contributed by the collapse of the Soviet Union and China’s transition to the “market economy”), have largely lost their previous state subjectivity. The United States is not only a sovereign state focused on its national interest, it is more a zone of placement of multinational companies, administrative, financial and trade structures that implement their specific interest not in the US but in the global market. Similarly, the Brussels European bureaucracy, largely replacing the Westphalian structure of European sovereign states, turned out to be a vassal of the global metropolis.
In this sense, the use of both soft and military power to eliminate any deviation from the global world order has in some cases no alternative. The US and most developed countries in Europe quite objectively but very carelessly rendered their economic sovereignty and national security far beyond their own borders. First of all, it concerns the use of the national currency as the world currency, while maintaining private and commercial interest and usury mechanism founded in the 19th century. This system is similar to a bicycle: it can effectively move over the space and ensure the stability only due to the movement. However, geographically, the usurious monetary system has already covered the globe, but the anti-social semi-feudal comprador feudal regimes partnering with the West impede the expanding at the expense of involved new masses of people in the production-consumption.
De-industrialization, with moving of the actual performance of the industry into Asia and based on “post-industrial” virtual economy is also an objectively dictated by the profit but very rash step.
Generally speaking, the circle is closed, and how Washington-Brussels will be able to continue to support the stability of the global debt pyramid denominated in dollars and euros is not clear.
But the effects of the policy of sanctions will clearly be reverse for the obvious reason that the objectives set by the initiators of the sanctions are certainly not feasible. Under no circumstances will Russia return Crimea, even if there will be a new President. The sanctions only helped Putin to strengthen his position and made the chances of a new “perestroika” and bringing to power pro-Western politicians completely worthless.
Here we can see an explicit “teaching deadlock”: Obama and Merkel are like guardians trying to restore the obedience of a teenager by depriving of entertainment and pocket money. Yet it is still unknown whether this “teenager” who decided to be independent can become a strong and responsible head of his own family. But the fact that there have been attempts to transform Putin into an “outsider” and to deprive Russian banks and companies the opportunity of “re-lending” in the West is the most direct and sure way to implement monetary decolonization of Russia, in which, in fact, other participants of the EEU will participate, too.
And if the purpose of the historical Providence, no matter what the specific participants in the political process count on and what they eventually get in the end, is to undo the most complicated knots, the clash of Russian and American “soft powers” may ultimately prove to be smart …
KAZAKHSTAN: soft embrace of RUSSIA
One consequence of globalization is the existence of many sovereign states, having far less human and industrial resources than required for the minimum necessary economic and political self-sufficiency. Accordingly, they exist in the actual situation of “local self-government” – as part of more general production and consumption, cultural and political entities. Thus, Kazakhstan is also only relatively sovereign, taking into account that it is “inscribed” into several potentially fully sovereign state and supra-state “big players”. In Kazakhstan, this is called a “multi-vector policy”, being directed toward Russia, China, US and Europe.
The formation and implementation of such “multi-vector” policy was natural and inevitable after the disappearance of the Soviet Union, but the process of Eurasian integration (or rather – reintegration) is also natural and inevitably brings to unidirectional orientation. In the political and value sense, of course, multi-vector foreign economic activity is acceptable and desirable.
At the same time, it is too early to speak about the “soft power” of Kazakhstan, despite the constant desire of President Nazarbayev to initiate various international political and economic projects. We can talk only about the “soft power” inside Kazakhstan, which it shows or does not show, with a particular sign, in the ongoing crisis process of reformatting the current global unipolarity to multipolarity.
Since China extends its “soft power” beyond their territory only in economic sense, Kazakhstan is now in the field of action of two opposing political and value “soft powers” – Russian and American-European.
And here – despite the fact that trade with Russia is unprofitable for Kazakhstan and the trade with the European Union (much of commodity exports) is the “magic wand” to maintain the balance of payments and the stability of the tenge exchange rate, the Russian vector of “soft power” prevails more.
It is determined that the presence of Western “soft power” in Kazakhstan is not large and was also significantly curtailed in recent years. For example, if in small Kyrgyzstan, the activities of foreign funders ensure the existence of NGOs not only in all regions and districts but also in small towns, in Kazakhstan, permanent grant support extends only for a few NGOs – one in the field of human rights, one – in the environment and one – in freedom of speech.
At the same time, Russia, not funding any public activities in Kazakhstan, is solidly present in it – through dominance in the information space. Here, the determining factor is the fact that the Kazakh national statehood, despite the vividly expressed ethnic character, is Russian-speaking. Kazakhs, as a set of about a dozen historical nomadic peoples and large genera, have a thousand-year history, but politically, legally and culturally, Kazakh nation was formed precisely in the 20th century – during a very dramatic process of forced sedentariness, collectivization and industrialization, participation in the Great Patriotic War, Virgin Soil development and construction of small towns-factories. All these processes were accompanied by total Russification, which did not touch only Kazakhs in arid and semiarid areas in the western, central and eastern parts of the country, as well as the part of the densely populated south, which is closely adjacent to the Sart – agricultural, urban and sedentary Muslim culture formed in the Middle Ages, which allowed it to maintain the cultural and linguistic basis during the Sovietization.
And thus, the inner “soft power” of Kazakhstan, including among the Kazakhs themselves, also multi-vector. The prevalence of the Russian direction is due to the objective fact that most of the Kazakhs, with education and some wealth, are Russian speaking. And this tradition of speaking in Russian (supplemented by the expanding fashion for English and Chinese) is reproduced among the Kazakhs already automatically, regardless of the number of non-Kazakh and Kazakh population.
In this sense, the Kazakhs are an integral part of the “Russian world”, considering this concept not in ethnic but in cultural-historical sense.
At the same time, in Kazakhstan, including the Kazakhs, and including the Russian-speaking part of them who do not speak Kazakh, there are Russophobe and pro-Western orientations. First of all, it is typical for the ruling political and business elites, rightly fearing a return of the political dictatorship of Moscow and the loss of economic unification. In this sense, the Kazakh national patriotism that does not accept the Eurasian integration and a very noticeable phenomenon in Kazakhstan objectively exists in parallel with a pro-Western liberalism that does not accept the rapprochement with Russia for its own reasons.
Where the power? – In the truth!
If according to the rules of physics and mathematics, any overlapping of countervailing forces is easily reduced to a single resultant vector, the combination of pro-Russian, pro-Western and nationalist-patriotic attitudes in Kazakhstan is still in a kind of intermediate balance – in anticipation of resolution of events in Ukraine, the sanctioned confrontation between Russia and the United States of Europe, as well as the fate of the Eurasian Economic Union.
This transit stalemate state is determined by the fact that none of the opposing forces can present a major component needed for victory. It is not an economic, military or information power, it is… the truth – clear and close to the masses. The basis of all the victorious powers is not material resources and opportunities, and not even interests, but the values. And we really lack value orientations today.
Western liberal values ​​are today clearly demonstrated their dual purpose. “Oil in exchange for Democracy” – the Kazakh public understood this formula long ago and it became a universally accepted statement. Only a small example: the stay of Tony Blair as the adviser to President Nazarbayev with the notorious honorarium of a million dollars a month ended with the capture of Mukhtar Ablyazov in Europe, rather than the introduction of the European model of local self-government in Kazakhstan, as it had been previously announced …
“Getting up off its knees” Putin’s Russia that has quarreled with the West has not yet given an answer to the main question: what for and for whom?
Similarly, we understand what Kazakh ethno-patriots are against and what they require, but they cannot develop a positive national program for Kazakhstan.
Finally, President Nazarbayev, traditionally focusing on himself the key checks and balances, including the pro-Western, pro-Russian and Chinese orientation, basing the Kazakh national statehood on both ethnic and civic foundation, is clearly in the “transit” state, too. We only have to wait what happens next …
Petr Svoik, a political scientist
The views of the author do not necessarily represent those of CABAR