Giorgi Bilanishvili, Research Fellow at Rondeli Foundation
At the beginning of October, the Russian edition, Взгляд, published an interview with a famous Russian political scientist, Sergey Karaganov. It must be pointed out that Karaganov is one of the experts who is close to the Putin regime and one of the main ideologues of the regime. Hence, his positions on various issues are rather noteworthy.
The aforementioned interview is especially important in this regard because in it Karaganov establishes a new thesis about Russia’s mission. Namely, he states: “One of the general ideas of Russian foreign policy must become achieving universal recognition of the fact that Russia is the main guarantor of international security, both for the world as well as for itself.”
Karaganov did not spontaneously come up with this idea as, in his interview with Взгляд, he talks about the issues that were reflected in the New Perception and Ways of Strengthening the Multilateral Strategic Stability study by the Council on foreign and Defence Policy. It must also be noted that the study was prepared with the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia and the International Relations Committee of the State Duma.
Based on this, it is clear that donning the mantle of the guarantor of international security is a new mission set by Moscow. This mission definitely cannot fall into the category of the easily achievable ones as, to speak of nothing else, the military aggression against Georgia and Ukraine, as well as Russia’s actions in Syria, paint an entirely opposite-looking picture.
However, we must take into account that in order to implement its political agenda, in recent years Moscow has forcefully activated Russian propaganda, spanning numerous different directions and components synchronized with one another.
Russian propaganda is quite an interesting and important topic to study* as it has a sharp negative influence on Georgia’s national security environment. Its efficiency is based on both the work of various state structures as well as the specific efforts of non-state actors – mass media, the community of experts, etc., which are in full accordance with Russia’s state interests. Even though its detailed analysis is far beyond the scope of the Rondeli Blog’s article format, even within this narrow format we can identify the main messages of Russian propaganda in the field of foreign policy in a simplified form.
The easiest way of doing this is by contextually analyzing the statements made by the Russian President and the Minister of Foreign Affairs that are designated for the international audience.
Both of them had such addresses in the recent period. Namely, on September 27, 2019, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia, Sergey Lavrov, addressed the 74th session of the UN General Assembly while Vladimir Putin spoke to the participants of the XVI session of the Valdai Discussion Club. These speeches, even though partly different from one another, given that Lavrov’s was full of tough messages for the West while Putin’s was surprisingly “soft” towards it, still followed the “general line” of Russian propaganda.
This general line is reflected in the following messages from Putin’s and Lavrov’s speeches:
- The very difficult situation in the world of today, manifested in the growing number of violent conflicts and actualization of the threats such as terrorism, is caused by the unilateral behavior of the winners of the Cold War (primarily – the United States);
- The “winning side” tried to utilize its position of superiority and disregard the legitimate interests of other countries, therefore preventing the development of humanity based on objective course of history;
- The West purposefully disregards the decisions and rules of international organizations, international law and the legitimate interests of other countries. Moreover, there are attacks against the United Nations, the World Trade Organization and international law at large when single states take action unilaterally only based on their own views;
- The West uses methods that damages stability on the international arena, manipulates the perceptions of the public, disseminates fake news and uses double standards;
- Today, despite the establishment of new centers of economic development and political power, it is hard for the West to put up with its weakening centuries-long dominance in world affairs. It resists with all its might the formation of a new, multi-polar international system, trying to take back lost influence and impose its narrow interpretation of liberalism onto others for whom it is unacceptable;
- Liberalism is not the only and unique form. Now, the time has come to talk in terms of various development models, interests, cultures and traditions where the sound of each instrument is crucial, inextricable and valuable;
- Thanks to the fast-developing Asian states, the world has already become multi-polar. Now all states need to agree without caveats that the security of one specific state will not be ensured at the expense of another;
- While demonstrating impressive examples of progress, the Asian nations still preserve their unique features and traditions. They remember their roots and prove in their forward progress that the principles of state sovereignty do not contradict openness and globalization, that sustainable development can be based on independence and self-sufficiency rather than their mandatory renunciation and that the growing national economic and humanitarian potential requires political identity;
- The Russian Federation is trying to restore a system based on international law which would alter the situation that we have today when the West has molded the international rules in accordance with its own views;
- Russia opposes the changes of governments in sovereign states as a result of external intervention that are usually done in the form of military intervention or other rough methods;
- Russia is successfully fighting terrorism, can make peace and create efficient formats of conflict resolution in other countries. A clear example of this is Syria. Given this background, Russia has the power to come up with wider, regional concepts of collective security;
- Russia’s aim is to establish an equal, indivisible principle of security, both in the wider region as well as globally.
If we generalize, the abovementioned messages from the President and Foreign Minister of Russia have three main goals:
- Present the West as unjust and dishonest, damaging international security for protecting its own interests;
- Show that the West is weakened and, therefore, changing the international system is the objective reality shared by other powerful states together with Russia;
- Present Russia as a power that plays both important as well as and what is more important, positive role in international politics.
We probably do not have a clear answer as to how efficient Russian propaganda is as covering up Russia’s negative actions is quite difficult, even with a functioning and well-organized propaganda. However, we can unambiguously say that neutralizing Russian propaganda is quite rightly considered to be one of the most important national security issues in the West, especially in Eastern European and Baltic States, and this is appropriately reflected in the conceptual as well as other national security documents of these countries.