East-West Security in the Technological Age! “Is technological age Diplomacy (Soft Power) Mightier than the Sword?”
By Leo Miller, International Relations, Ethics, Comparative Religion, Communications, and International Relations, TUT Estonia
Some historians believe that it is more than fortuitous that the current conditions confronting Europe, former Soviet States, and Europe’s neighbors in 2014 resemble the way history took place at this same point during the last century. In other words there is some resemblance to what was occurring in 1914 (e. g.): a recently weakened Russia, a recently strengthened Germany, a pan Slavic movement that took a violent turn (with Russia drawn into the conflict in behalf of Slavic people), a global financial crisis (known as The Great Financial Crisis of 1914), and the breakdown of international diplomacy.
Diplomacy is the focus of this article but the article also stresses the value of what can be learned from history (which means we can learn, grow, and progress in ways that allow avoiding the same mistakes of history) and, as well, the article highlights the new possibilities for diplomacy (offered by 21st century technologically advanced strategies for more inclusive diplomacy—which are not only more advantageous for the national interest of the stakeholders, EU interests, and the global interests represented but, as well, for the interests of the stakeholders at multi-levels). Multi-level stakeholders include the interests of the national parties involved but, in addition, stakeholders like the UN, international economic institutions (who hope to avoid deepening the global economic crisis for both Europe and its neighbors), but most importantly stakeholder interest in terms of the human/social cost of escalating this conflict). Thus, this article is written from the perspective of what the technological revolution offers as a “Third Force” in diplomacy (the potential that new technology offers for revolutionizing diplomacy and increasing the potential effectiveness of soft power diplomacy).
The third force (the notion that knowledge is power that accompanies the technological age) also represents the power to actually reconcile a dichotomy that is a reflection of what emerged after the First World War (the dichotomy exists until today and the significance of this schism can be thought of in terms of the question raised for many international relations scholars, “Why does Peace Fail?”). However, the consequential 20th century phenomenon known as a bipolar global arena (otherwise referred to as an East-West stand-off that dominated much of the last century) has roots that are deeply embedded in the Western psyche that stem to issues concerning Modernity and are manifest in the 20th century as the split between the Eastern perspective on idealism and the Liberal idealism of the West (the realization of which has always been offset by the persistence of Realism that is actually evident on both sides of The Renewed East-West Tension). The outdated approach to international relations—based on the confrontational power and dominance paradigm—which are at work in this crisis ignite sparks that threaten to escalate into similar dynamics that sank Europe into one of the most painful centuries of its history.
The dynamics at work in the current situation (that has rekindled memories of recent history as well as fears concerning the possibility of reducing existence to an intolerable state) have actually been centered-around Ukraine’s right to autonomy and peaceful coexistence (exasperated by accusations on both sides regarding who and/or what is actually interfering with Ukraine’s right). But as the tensions escalate the concern has expanded from Ukraine to whether or not other former Soviet States will be able to continue enjoying their right to sovereignty and peaceful coexistence plus there is the issue of what guarantees that rights to autonomy and sovereignty will be respected (is that right guaranteed by international normative principles that establish legitimacy and/or can global normative principles resolve the long-standing dichotomy between Eastern and Western idealism (conflict over what is in the best interest of The PEOPLE) which has always been offset by the predominance of Realism (the tendency for power and dominance to overrun what is in the best interests of PEOPLE). Given that the initial issue had to do with Ukraine’s right to sovereignty and autonomy the fact that the conflict escalated is due to another dimension that is playing a part in and, is at work in, creating these larger dynamics. When scrutinized closely a careful analysis will reveal what is really perpetuating the manifestation of co-opetition clearly evident in the current EU/West-Russian crisis.
In terms of the apparent facts connected with the current events (especially in regards to the implications for the security of other former Soviet States) the issue centers around the upset of equilibrium and the prospect of being able to move forward with realizing the vision of Europe and Russia continuing to cooperate to reduce their mutual security threats and to increase the possibility of expanding the zone of peace, security, and prosperity (which clearly includes a role for cooperation between Russia and the West in regards to security which is the original vision that prompted the interest in Russian and Western cooperation)?
This was in fact the vision put forward after World War One (which took the form of the League of Nations—primarily—and to some extent UNESCO). What deserves careful and sensitive attention, at this point in history, is why peace failed (after the attempts with the League of Nations and UNESCO) and why Realism resumed dominance in international relations and there is concern with how to reverse this current tendency which threatens to plunge EU and Russia back into the same Realist patterns of hatred, violence, force (fascism), and destruction. Also careful attention needs to be paid to the reason why after the Cold War the increasing cooperative agreements (in terms of security agreements, Russia joining WTO—which indicated an interest in taking necessary steps toward economic reform, agreements concerning The War on Terror, and several joint military exercises over/on the Baltic Sea) has now deteriorated into co-opetition (and confrontation with each other in the Baltic Sea region). Careful analysis will reveal the reason behind this sudden reversal and strange deterioration (the term co-opetition is used to indicate the extent of economic and security arrangements that were once cooperative that have now become competitive but also, at the same time, continuously and unavoidably interdependent).
The crisis has actually shifted from the original prospects of being able to diplomatically settle the most pertinent issue (e. g.): supranational negotiations about what comprises legitimacy and what comprises a just cause for international intervention (regardless of whether the intervention is unilateral or multilateral) and the prospect of neutrality (which is necessarily inclusive of respect for sovereignty). These operative principles of international law have deteriorated into each side blaming the other of initiating security threats (in regards to intrusion into each other’s territorial sphere). The mounting rhetoric has neither addressed the urgent issue(s) nor reduced the threat each side accuses the other of posing to territorial integrity. And in some respects the whole series of exchanges has merely turned into a blame game. Persistence in this direction will make everyone a loser (including increasing the threat to other former Soviet States). Is there a way out of what appears to be an impasse that increasingly seems to be irreconcilable?
Perhaps a first step toward peaceful resolution is to respect Ukraine’s very clear shift toward stability and unity in the form the election of Petro Oleksiyovych Poroshenko (the current president of Ukraine who won with a clear majority indicating sufficient popular support to avoid a runoff). The newly elected president seems to hold a viable vision for the immediate Ukrainian future based on peaceful coexistence, sovereignty, and cooperation (with both the East and the West—or at least he seems to be sensitive to the necessity of negotiating without aggravating the situation). Poroshenko describes this as a mutually beneficial outcome for all stakeholders which would at the same time provide Ukraine the autonomy it needs to take the necessary steps toward unifying the country. With the rights of Ukraine established (empowering it to move forward autonomously to manage its own internal issues) the next step will be to deescalate the tension between Russia and the West.
Russian foreign minister Sergey Viktorovich Lavrov announced at a Russia-EU meeting in mid-October 2014 that the direction that international events move toward is based on the idea of the future held by the international agents that are engaging each other. He claims that Cosmopolitan rationality would make it prudent to use diplomatic means to normalize current EU-Russian relations and to continue on the path of increasing security and prosperity for both (the agreements that were diplomatically established prior to this crisis). Frank-Walter Steinmeier, German Minister for Foreign Affairs, states that the solution to the current crisis lies in diplomatic dialogue. However, today’s multi-level technologically advanced approach to diplomacy offers even more opportunity for a break-through than in the past. In short foreign affairs experts and diplomatic officials stress that there are three key traditional factors to diplomacy that could be employed immediately and a fourth that is provided by technological advancements:
- Diplomacy is and always has been a means of representing what is in the best interest of a state in ways that improve relationships with another state.
- Diplomacy urges international agents to pay sensitive and respectful attention to international norms which are considered to be the basis of legitimacy.
- Diplomacy requires an extremely high degree of integrity as the diplomatic agent presents vital concerns in a way that are true to the facts but also in a way that proposes solutions that are in line with the principles prescribed by international norms.
- The fourth is a new dimension made possible by multi-track diplomacy that allows for inclusiveness and sensitivity to the voice of PEOPLE. Appropriate responsive to this new dimension is considered to be the basis of “Smart Power” and Soft Power (which today is considered to supersede the prior emphasis on Hard Power). Inclusiveness of the new extended view of diplomacy would reduce the threat to the well-being of People and increase the range of options for cooperative and beneficial outcomes. This new dimension (the basis of which—in terms of multi-track diplomacy—can be described as the power of epistemic communities (experts in diplomacy that have the power to influence policy and who are afforded instant communication with each other by means of technological advancements in information communication technology).
The fact is that ICT and various other forms of global media have completely altered principles of global communication thus the methodological and theoretical perspectives of international relations. Although there is still the persistent tendency for states to resort to the old power and confrontation approach to international relations PEOPLE in the form of: international corporations, global NGO’s (like the UN, UNESCO, WTO, OECD, the Red Cross, and Amnesty International, etc.), and various forms of public diplomacy (e.g. e-diplomacy, cultural diplomacy, social networking, etc) all represent a movement toward empowerment (increased potential for creating a stable global economy and for using diplomatic capacity made possible by technology to safeguard global public well-being).
In the words of esteemed expert in diplomacy and political science, Henry Kissinger—in his new book World Order—“Given the extent of global interdependence diplomatic strategy today calls for using the most advanced strategies for guaranteeing security by increasing cooperation and beneficial outcomes.” In other words, according to Kissinger, in order to offset the tendency for Realism to destroy the hopes that both sides profess to share for realizing notions of Idealism (regardless of whether from the Eastern or Western perspective it still amounts to what is in the best interest of PEOPLE) the vision that is needed to be put forward and clearly articulated is “An inexorable expansion of the cooperative order of states observing common rules and norms, embracing liberal economic systems, forswearing territorial conquest, respecting national sovereignty, and adopting participatory and [Cosmopolitan principles] of [global] governance.”