Friends, increasingly American experts like Carnegie's David Speedie are speaking out in more moderate voices regarding Russia's behaviors and intentions on the international scene -- this is welcome relief after the heyday of half truths, groundless accusations and ill will generated recently by American mainstream media. May their numbers multiply. I can certainly verify that one gets this sense from Russian people throughout the regions we visited in June. They were amazingly non-hostile when discussing US-Russia relations given that their purchasing power has been halved by the sanctions. They have a growing sense of themselves, their history and culture …. and Russia's ability to survive and eventually thrive within a milieu of classical norms. Sharon
"Soft Power": The Values that Shape Russian Foreign Policy
This article is in anticipation of an upcoming Carnegie Council project on Russian "soft power" and values that shape foreign policy.
In the increasingly frigid environment of U.S.-Russia relations, much attention is given to what may be seen as Russia's strategic "interests." (Of course, much of the policymaking class in the West seems to suggest that Russia is entitled to no "interests" whatsoever.) Of at least equal significance for understanding Russian attitudes, however, is a grasp of the values, the moral framework for Russia's foreign policy.
A valuable resource for this understanding is found in a recent article, "Russia's Orthodox Soft Power," by the University of Rhode Island scholar Nicolai Petro, who explores the "symphonic relationship" between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian state and the manner in which they both utilize the term Russky mir, or Russian World. For the discussion herein of what this entails, we are indebted to Professor Petro.
As Petro observes, the term Russky mir has been wrongly interpreted by some Western analysts as the "perverse intersection" between the Russian state and the Russian Orthodox Church; in reality, the term is employed differently by each party. Where the state uses it as a tool for expanding Russia's cultural and political influence, the Church views it as a spiritual concept linked to God's objective for the rebuilding of a Holy Rus. The relationship between the two provides a popular and definable framework for Russian foreign policy. Values play a significant role in policy formulation and, throughout modern history, three constants dictate how Russia responds to Western actions: sovereignty, capability to defend that sovereignty, and loyalty to those who share Russia's sense of honor. (The 2014 conflict Ukraine exacerbated the perceived values gap between the West and Russia, yet Russia claims it occupies the higher moral ground by defending its core values of honor in the context of the unique historical, religious, and cultural bonds with Ukraine.)
In summary: The significance of religion in Russian life allows the state to garner huge social capital from having the blessing of the Orthodox Church, and likewise the Church benefits from the relationship by disseminating its message of Christianity worldwide via Russian foreign policy. For the state, Russky Mir is a political/cultural tool for strengthening domestic stability, worldwide status, and influence in neighboring states. For the Church, it is a religious foundation essential for reversing the secularization of society (which it sees as an unwelcome evolution already well underway in the West).