Sharp Power the New Technology of Influence in a Global World

DOI: 10.20542/0131-2227-2019-63-2-21-28

O. Leonova (,
Lomonosov Moscow State University, build. 13/14, 1, Leninskie gory, Moscow 119992, Russian Federation


The “sharp power” is a new phenomenon of gaining influence in international politics in the era when information has become a weapon, a combination of information influence operations and methods of cyber-terrorism. J. Nye regards the “sharp power” as usage of falsified information for hostile purposes. It encompasses manipulation of information, formation of falsified content of the information flow, conduct of information operations and implementation of information projects. By diverting the audience’s attention and using manipulation technologies the “sharp power” promotes certain values, ideas and phobias to the outside world. Its purpose is interference in domestic political processes of the targeted country, violation of its stability and threatening its national security by influencing public consciousness and behavior of people. The subjects of the “sharp power” do not seek to “win hearts and minds” as those of the “soft power” do, but try to penetrate into and subjugate the political and media spheres of other countries by conducting information operations. The “sharp power” technologies include hacking into personal e-mail and theft of electronic correspondence, falsification of information flow, introduction of malicious software, defacing of websites, destruction of network services and the main computer networks. They are mainly associated with misinformation, fake news and manipulation of information; use the advantages of information openness of cyberspace and are virtually invulnerable – it is difficult to detect them and to identify the mechanism of their action. The “sharp power” has the following quality characteristics: high speed of transactions, their low cost, timing, clear strategy and tactics, flexibility, agility and efficiency. The efficiency factors of the “sharp power” are the openness of cyberspace, camouflage of their purposes, state control and state support of information operations. In conditions when any country can become a victim of the “sharp power”, and its technology represents a threat to the security of the world community, only common efforts of all interested parties and their joint action can tackle the problem and confront cyber threats. The article also reveals the western audience’s perception of the features of “sharp power” in China, Russia and Iran. In conclusion, the author formulates the possible measures and problem solutions. 


soft power, smart power, intelligent power, sharp power, influence technologies, information operations, cyberspace, China, Russia, Iran


1. Walker Ch., Ludwig J. The Meaning of Sharp Power. How Authoritarian States Project Influence. Foreign Affairs, 2017, November 16. Available at: (accessed 02.12.2017).

2. Nye J.S., Jr. Soft Power. The Means to Success in World Politics. New York, Public Affairs, 2004. 192 p.

3. Nye J.S., Jr. The Future of Power. New York, Public Affairs, 2011. 320 p.

4. Stoletov O.V. Strategiya “razumnoi sily” v politike global’nogo liderstva. Diss. kand. polit. nauk. [The Strategy of “Reasonable Power” in the Policy of Global Leadership. Cand. Diss. (Polit.)]. Moscow, 2014. 152 p.

5. Kurlantzick J. Charm Offensive: How China’s Soft Power Is Transforming the World. Yale University Press, 2007. 306 p.

6. Nye J.S. Jr. How Sharp Power Threatens Soft Power. The Right and Wrong Ways to Respond to Authoritarian Influence. Foreign Affairs, 2018, January 24, Available at: (accessed 29.01.2018).

7. Serena C.C., Clarke C.P. America’s Cyber Security Dilemma – and a Way Out (2016). Available at: (accessed 12.01.2018).

8. Libicki M. C. Checklist for a U.S. – Russia Cyberwar (2016). Available at: (accessed 14.01.2018).

9. McClintock B. Russian Information Warfare: A Reality That Needs a Response (2017). Available at: blog/2017/07/russian-information-warfare-a-reality-that-needs-a.html (accessed 16.01.2018).

10. Wiener M., Wiener C. Cybersecurity Threats: How Vulnerable Is the United States? Annual Lecture on Science and Technology (2017). Available at: (accessed 29.12.2017).

11. Kania E. B. Artificial Intelligence and Chinese Power. Beijing’s Push for a Smart Military and How to Respond. Foreign Affairs, 2017, December 5. Available at: (accessed 20.02.2018).

12. Fominykh A. Nastuplenie s ulybkoi: kak “myagkoe vliyanie” Kitaya preobrazhaet mir [Coming with a Smile: How China’s “Soft Influence” Transforms the World]. Problemy Dal’nego Vostoka, 2009, no. 3, pp. 175-178.

13. Report Watch Vol. VI: Tracking Digital and Cyber Scholarship So You Don’t Have To (2018). Available at: (accessed 25.05.2018).

14. Deibert R. Social Media, Inc.: The Global Politics of Big Data. World Politics Review, 19.06.2012. Available at: (accessed 21.06.2018).

15. Countering Russian Information Operations in the Age of Social Media (2017). Available at: (accessed 26.12.2017).

16.Parasiliti A. Were Russian Hacks Really a Threat to American Democracy? (2016). Available at: (accessed 20.02.18).

17.Courtney W., Libicki M. C. How to Counter Putin’s Subversive War on the West (2016). Available at: (accessed 12.01.2018).

18.Knake R. K. Iran: Keep Your Finger Off the Cyber Button. Available at: (accessed 19.05.2018).

19.Davis II J.S., Boudreaux B.A., Welburn J.W., Aguirre J., Ogletree C., McGovern G., Chase M.S., eds. Stateless Attribution. Toward International Accountability in Cyberspace. Santa Monica, Calif. Published by the RAND Corporation, 2017. 57 p.

20. The Hacked Elections, Online Influence Operations, and the Threat to Democracy symposium. December 6, (2017). (The transcript of the Symposium). Available at: (accessed 25.12.2017).


Registered in system SCIENCE INDEX

For citation:
Leonova O. Sharp Power the New Technology of Influence in a Global World. Mirovaya ekonomika i mezhdunarodnye otnosheniya, 2019, vol. 63, No 2, pp. 21-28.

Comments (0)

No comments

Add comment

Current Issue
2021, vol. 65, No. 4

Topical Themes of the Issue:

  •  Coronacrisis in the EU: a Knock-Down or a Jump-Off for Integration? 
  •  Latin America in the South-South Cooperation Against the Background of Globalization Controversies 
  •  Reforming the Saudi Economy: Results and Perspectives 
  •  Non-Western Theories of Development in the Global Capitalism Era
  •  About an Attempt to Create a Theory of International Relations in IMEMO in the 1970s
View This Issue (2021, vol. 65, No. 4)
Submit an Article

Dear readers!
Please note that free access to full-text issues of the Journal is being opened at our WEB-site after 6 months of the date of publications.The work on deepening the open archive of full-text issues will be continued.

Dear colleagues, authors and readers!
We kindly request you to turn to editor-in-chief and executive secretary directly concerning reviewing scientific publications in our journal. Only editor-in-chief takes decision on order and publication the reviews!

Dear readers!
This is to inform the researchers of the Institute of World Economy and International Relations that electronic versions of the IV issue of 2020 and I issue of 2021 of French magazine Politique étrangère are now available. Those who are interested, please personally address to the editorial staff of MEMO Journal (room 18-17) with an electronic media.

In response to the challenges of our time the Editorial board continues to open new thematic rubrics:

“World Energy Sector after Pandemic”. We plan to publish articles presenting in-depth analysis of influence of Pandemic on the global energy sector and forecasts of further developments in its various branches.

“Civilization processes of modern development” is a new rubric opened by MEMO Journal in 2020. It will be devoted to the analysis of the influence of civilizational factors and inter-civilizational interactions on the political and socio-economic development of the world at whole, regions and countries.

“Africa today and tomorrow”The rubric devoted to contemporary issues of Africa which is attracting growing interest of the world's leading actors. We plan to publish the articles analyzing the status of statehood, socio-economic and political development of the countries of Black continent, as well as the integration processes between them.


"World Eonomy and International Relations" announces a contest for the best joint academic publications of domestic and foreign researchers and experts in topical issues of the world economy and international relations. The winners will be selected according to the results of peer reviewing and discussion at the Editorial Board. The articles will be published in priority order.


The print version of “World Economy and International Relations” journal is distributed by advance subscription only, and is not offered for retail sale. To subscribe please address to any post office in Russia by referring to the Federal Postal Service Union Catalogue, section “ARSMI”, the journal index is 70542. The subscription may be made for the whole subscription period or starting from any nearest available month for desired number of issues.

To purchase the full-text electronic version of the journal’s issue/article please address to the WEB portal of Scientific electronic library or URL:

In journal
2021 | 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001 | 2000 | 1999 | 1998 | 1997 |

The author’s opinions may not coincide with the position of editorial