Political Warfare 2.0 (USA vs Russia Moment between Past and Future)

DOI: 10.20542/0131-2227-2023-67-10-40-49
U. Artamonova, artamonova.u@imemo.ru
Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences (IMEMO), 23 Profsoyuznaya Str., Moscow, 117997, Russian Federation.

Received 13.06.2023. Revised 30.06.2023. Accepted 31.07.2023.

Abstract. The article analyzes the political conflict between Russia and the U.S. that started in February 2022 within the framework of the “political warfare” (POLWAR) concept. Focusing specifically on the dimension of information and ideas as a primary field for confrontation, the author seeks to define and evaluate the tendencies related to the American public diplomacy (PD) that have emerged in 2022–2023. The analysis covers three levels: structural level (observing the formal structure of the U.S. PD), practical level (observing the main activities related to the POLWAR topic) and theoretical level (observing the development that took place in the relevant discourse of American expert and political communities). The article discovers several tendencies. There seems to be little action on the structural level: the systemic crisis of the American PD remains in place, indicated by a structural atrophy, lack of leadership and the absence of political will for change. Trends on the practical level demonstrate the defensive “political warfare” tactics: the intensification of “countering disinformation” activities focuses on disputing and discrediting information and narratives of Russian origin, whereas measures taken by the United States and allies against Russian media, journalists, public diplomacy organizations and activists are aimed at restricting access of the Western audience to Russian information sources. On the theoretical level, the emergence and spread of “domestic public diplomacy” and “reputational security” concepts in the U.S. among expert and political communities calls for attention. While “reputational security” (proposing the elevation of PD from an optional to the core element of foreign policy) definitely implies a trend towards considering public diplomacy and other related activities more seriously because of the POLWAR, the “domestic public diplomacy” concept reinforces the defensive tactics in the POLWAR by suggesting the adaptation of PD practices (traditionally used to influence foreign audiences) for the domestic audience. At the end, the author draws a conclusion, suggesting that the choice of the defensive tactics by the United States in the “political warfare” against Russia was determined not by limited resources for the offensive tactics but rather by expectations of the opponent’s behavior. The article compares the current POLWAR with the “political warfare” that took place between the U.S. and the USSR, and reveals some similarities: at the start of the previous POLWAR, the USSR had an advantage of developed and proven effective system of institutes, instruments and activities for influencing foreign public, incorporated into the foreign policy processes. Today, roughly speaking, the United States possess the same advantage due to the well-known American PD system. In the past, with the roles reversed, the U.S. chose to focus its efforts on influencing the public opinion of the opponent’s population undermining their POLWAR capabilities from within. Thus, there is a high probability that the choice of defensive tactics in the modern “political warfare” was made by the U.S. because the same approach (a massive campaign aimed at America’s population and at the population of western allies) is expected from Russia. According to the author’s assessment, such an approach to POLWAR is rather precarious. First, by focusing the “political warfare” efforts on the defense Washington risks losing some positions in the field of influencing the international community. Second, no one can predict how the systemic problems of the American public diplomacy might manifest in the process of adapting the PD activities to influencing the domestic audience.

Keywords: public diplomacy, hybrid warfare, information warfare, psychological operations, strategic communication, American-Russian relations, U.S.A., soft power, “political warfare” (POLWAR), ideological warfare, world order, Ukraine


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For citation:
Artamonova U. Political Warfare 2.0 (USA vs Russia Moment between Past and Future). World Eonomy and International Relations, 2023, vol. 67, no. 10, pp. 40-49. https://doi.org/10.20542/0131-2227-2023-67-10-40-49 EDN: UMOPWF

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