An expensive shot on public diplomacy

The 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, proved to be the most expensive ever, exceeding the 50 billion dollar mark(Müller, 2015). The whole bill was paid by taxpayers(Peck, 2015). Much has been discussed, if it was Russia’s plan to improve its public diplomacy, or, was it President Vladimir Putin’s event of bolstering his power.

Russia’s way of doing public diplomacy, influencing the opinions of public, rather than the government, is one that differs substantially from other states (Curtis, 2017). The Olympic Games, is the biggest sporting event in the world, and gives the hosting country a chance, to show its culture and values. The Olympic Games of Sochi, feels, in retrospect, like it has added very low-value, to Russia’s public diplomacy.

Firstly, preceding the Games, Russia introduced a controversial law on LGBT community, which banned any legal rights for the community to hold any kind of rallies in the country (Walker, 2014). Even Sochi mayor said before the event, that homosexuality didn’t exist in Sochi, and there was no gay people in the city (BBC, 2014). So, the games already started off with an issue over human rights. Three days after the Games, Russia invaded Crimea, in Ukraine, and left the people thinking if the Olympics were just used as a smoke cover for all these actions. Putin had also attacked Georgia, during 2008 Beijing Olympics, which clearly shows, that Putin has used Olympic Games, as a chance to go through with his provocative policies.


Also, when thinking of Russia’s aim to influence foreign public, we need to think of the doping scandals over Russian athletes. Sport has always been kept in high esteem in Russia, and its athletes winning medals has been Russia’s way of showing their soft power. But, in recent years they have been involved in a massive doping scandal that was funded by the Russian state (Standish, 2016). After coming fourth in the medal table in London, and first in Sochi, significant number of Russian athletes have been caught with doping. The former sports minister, Vitali Mutko, now Putin’s deputy Prime Minister, denied any involvement, and a week after the Sochi Games, he got praised by Putin, who thanked him for his significant contributions to Russia’s athletic achievements (Standish, 2016). This scandal led to Russian track and field team being banned from Rio de Janeiro Olympics. A state-sponsored doping system, to win medals, no matter what, does not look as good public diplomacy, and has worsened people’s belief around the world over Russia’s governance.

Russia similarly gained the right to host 2018 football World Cup in a very controversial manner. Mutko, was the organiser for the bid, which engulfed into a huge corruption probe. Namely, Russia has been accused, in getting the right to host the event, due to bribes given to then FIFA President Sepp Blatter. Blatter got suspended over the allegations and later came out saying, that the decision on the host, had been done already before voting (Standish, 2016). Putin and Mutko, though, have claimed, that the state-funded doping and World Cup scandal, have been Western conspiracy theories against Russia (Standish, 2016). Russia sees hosting these events as a chance to show the world their power and capability. Even though its economy is doing terribly in a time when energy prices are low and sanctions from the West are hindering its businesses.

In recent years, we have seen Russia continuing destabilising Ukraine, as well as involving in Syrian civil war. Putin has been mobilising his troops for training and in wars in mentioned countries. Putin’s plans can be hard to predict. Whilst he is bringing these massive sporting events to Russia, he is trying to show the world that they can organise them successfully. From another angle, it is not only the world he likes to prove his power to. It is also the people in Russia, who he wants to show to, that he is the one who brings these massive events to them. There are wide-range corruption problems in Russia, and organising events like Sochi Olympics and the World Cup, will take people’s concentration away from any controversial domestic issues, and keep Putin bolstered on his post. But, 3 years after the Sochi Games, we hardly remember it taking place, not even mentioning it being a successful public diplomacy act. Who should remember, are the taxpayers who covered the huge bill for the event, which has been tainted by a variety of Russia’s actions. Matters have been made even worse, because Sochi today is completely abandoned and excluding couple of events a year, the place looks like a ghost town. As far as Russia’s public diplomacy goes, bring on the World Cup.  economist-putin (1)

The Economist cover this week has a hilariously tragic cover, with President Vladimir Putin as a figure skater who has just dropped his partner — his country — but still preens for the crowd(The Economist, 2014).





1) BBC, published in 2014, „Sochi 2014: no gay people in city, says mayor“, available at (Accessed: 6th of May, 2017)

2) Curtis S., 2017, Public Diplomacy, London

3) The Economist, published in 2014, „The Triumph of Vladimir Putin“, available at (Accessed 6th of May, 2017)

4) Müller M., published in 2015, „After Sochi 2014: Costs and impacts of Russia’s Olympic Games“, available at (Accessed: 6th of May,2017)

5) Peck T., published in 2015, „2022 Winter Olympics: Beijing hot favourite Games despite complete lack of snow“, available at (Accessed: 6th of May, 2017)

6) Standish R., published in 2016, „What Russia’s Ministry of Doping Tells Us About Putin“, available at (Accessed: 6th of May, 2017)

7) Walker S., published in 2014, „Vladimir Putin: gay people at Winter Olympics must ’leave children lone’“, available at (Accessed: 6th of May, 2017)






Overview of Canada’s public diplomacy

Canada was throughout the Cold War known as a „peacekeeper nation“ supporting liberal internationalism, honest brokerage, environmental activism and generous aid giving. The United Nation’s blue berets became synonymous with Canada’s international international role. Its public diplomacy was successful and the state had a positive image across the globe.


It all started to change in the 1990’s though. The state faced financial difficulties and due to budget cuts for military, development and diplomacy, it had to retreat from the world scene( Greenhill, 2005, p 5). Canada’s global engagement took a significant hit and it was fairing badly compared to other G-7 and medium-sized open democracies(Sweden, Australia, Netherlands, Norway, Swizerland)(Greenhill and McQuillan, 2015). Defence and development are considered as two key aspects of global engagement and, as of 2014, Canada’s global engagement was one-third lower than the average of medium-sized open democracies and 40% lower than G-7 average( Greenhill and McQuillan, 2015). Cutting down on defence and development did not put Canada’s public diplomacy in good light among its international peers. In today’s world it is important for states to support others in tackling defence and development matters. Especially for a state like Canada, who used to be an elite country dealing with aid and development.


Especially bad for public diplomacy were Stephen Harper’s years in the office(2006-2015)(Copeland, 2016). Harper brought in isolationist politics, and reduced Canada’s presence in international bodies. For example, he cut off funding to the Commonwealth Secretariat and, under him, Canada became the only nation to withdraw from the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (Paris, 2014). Besides Harper failing to win Canada a Security Council seat in 2010, Canada also remained the only NATO member not to sign the Arms Trade Treaty (Paris, 2014).

When discussing global engagement and Canada’s public diplomacy, an important thing that the country is missing, is its own international news broadcasting channel. If they have been reducing their presence from the world scene, then maybe they should have thought about starting an international news channel to still present Canadian values.

There are two important domestic factors that also hindered Canadian public diplomacy. First is that its public diplomacy resources at the federal level have been scattered across several departments. For example, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s budget dwarfs DFAIT’s (Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade) and this is the department who is meant to promote Canada abroad (Potter, 2009, p 18).

Another domestic issue is its federal structure. Provinces like Quebec, Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta have their own international agendas that they go promoting around the world. But whilst doing that, they obviously concentrate on their own values, rather than whole of Canada’s. That undermines the federal government’s efforts and puts Canada’s unity under question. Quebec has been the most active province abroad and the federal government has had many problems with the province over the years. For example, in 2004, when Quebec’s premier Jean Charest joined French prime minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin in a joint trade mission to Mexico (Potter, 2009, p 21). English speaking Canadian media was very critical over that move and saw that as undermining the country’s image. Also, they saw that as France getting an edge over other Canadian provinces, due to one of their own provinces’ actions. Unity matters seem to be a problem for Canada. The country struggles to show itself as one and the leadership over the years has not been able to fix that.



Justin Trudeau

After Harper’s years in the office and the so-called diplomatic “decade of darkness”, Canada, now under new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, has started showing some recovery. His government has started re-engaging again in the world scene and he has also cleaned up Canada’s diplomatic corps. Harper’s inexperienced foreign service placings have been swapped out for 26 new ambassadors, high commissioners and consuls with foreign service experience (Proudfoot, 2016). In 2016, Trudeau visited Cuba and his Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion was in The Hague campaigning to save the International Criminal Court (Clark, 2016). Present government has also decided to take more action within NATO, troops were deployed to Syria and the Baltics to counter Russian aggression in the region (Copeland, 2016). Another positive move to boost Canada’s public diplomacy is its commitment to UN Peacekeeping missions again. Government claimed to commit up to 600 troops for future missions (Naylor, 2016). When Canada was once known for its peacekeeping efforts then, as of 2016, it sat 73rd in its contributions to peacekeeping (Naylor, 2016). In economics, Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada has come out with a plan to improve Canada’s relations with the emerging centre of global economics, Asia (Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada, 2016). The bar was set low for Trudeau and many of his actions to boost Canada’s image seem common sense, but that is not to take away the progressive actions he has taken. Hopefully we see Canada restore its presence among its peers in the world scene in close future.


1) Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada, published in 2016, “Building Blocks For A Canada Asia Strategy”, available at (accessed: 1st of March 2017)

2) Greenhill R., published in 2005, “Making a Difference: External Views on Canada’s International Impact”, available at (accessed: 3rd of March 2017)

3) Greenhill R. and McQuillan M., published in 2015, “Assessing Canada’s Global Engagement Gap”, available at (accessed: 4th of March 2017)

4) Clark C., published in 2016, “Trudeau’s policy of diplomatic re-engagement a step in right direction”, available at (accessed: 1st of March 2017)

5) Copeland D., published in 2016, “It’ll take more than smiles to reverse Canada’s dire diplomatic record, Mr. Trudeau”, available at (accessed: 2nd of March 2017)

6) Copeland D., published in 2016, “‘Canada’s Back’ Can the Trudeau Government Resuscitate Canadian Diplomacy?”, available at (accessed: 1st of March 2017)

7) Naylor T., published in 2016, “G-20: Trudeau is Canada’s diplomatic super-weapon as it bids to stay relevant”, available at (accessed: 2nd of March 2017)

8) Paris R., published in 2014, “Canada’s decade of diplomatic darkness”, available at ( accessed: 4th of March 2017)

9) Potter H. Evan, published in 2009, “Branding Canada: Projecting Canada’s Soft Power through Public Diplomacy”, Canada, publisher McGill-Queen’s University Press

10) Proudfoot S., published in 2016,”Why Justin Trudeau shook up Canada’s diplomatic corps”, available at (accessed: 1st of March 2017)



Russia’s hybrid threat to Estonia

According to NATO, hybrid threats „are those posed by adversaries, with the ability to simultaneously employ conventional and non-conventional means adaptively in pursuit of their objectives”(NATO, no date). Hybrid threats are complex to define, it is rather used as an umbrella term, encompassing a wide variety of existing adverse circumstances and actions, such as terrorism, migration, piracy corruption, ethnic conflict and so on (NATO, no date). Perhaps the most conventional threat is the threat of a military, but if we are talking about Estonia, then today, 26 years on from re-gaining independence, it is also threatened by non-conventional means. Above-mentioned type of hybrid threat, ethnic conflict, is a significant threat that Russia poses on Estonia.

The threats of Russia’s intentions in Estonia have increased particularly since Russia’s attack on Ukraine in 2014, where information warfare has played a significant role. Estonia, having a quarter of its 1.3 million population ethnic-Russians, has reason to worry because three-quarters of Estonia’s around 320 000 Russian speakers still watch Russian television (Dougherty and Kaljurand, 2015). Although integration has improved, especially among the young people, the country is still divided into two languages and two information spaces. That is a concern considering Russia’s recent actions, notably in Ukraine, where Russian-speaking minorities are instrumentally used for multifaceted aggression.

Russian propaganda has stepped up since entering Ukraine. It has been supporting the populist movements, whose main argument against the leading parties is the ongoing migration crisis, across Europe. Russia’s aim is to destabilise the European Union, by supporting the populist movements, it creates controversies in states and splits societies. Estonia, with other Baltic states, Latvia and Lithuania, is very much at the forefront of Russian intervention by having many ethnic-Russians living in its country. These people could be used as a tool to interfere local politics.

Russia, knowing that there is many ethnic-Russians in the Baltics watching their news feeds and programmes, is often broadcasting information to influence their thinking against the local governments and the native people. For Russia, it does not want normal relations between ethnic-Russians and the native people. Considering, what has been happening in Ukraine, there is an increasing chance, that Russia may seek to do the same in Estonia and other Baltic states. Putin may look to stir unrest as part of his pledge to protect the interests of Russian speakers anywhere (Ummelas, 2015).

As an example of Russian propaganda, is a news piece on Rossiya-1 TV, a key source for ethnic-Russians in the Baltics, in which a satirical anti-Nazi clip was claimed to be a “promotional” school video and “proof” of Estonia’s support of Nazism (Ummelas, 2015). There are many other programmes and shows on Russian TV where Estonia along with Latvia and Lithuania are told to be russophobic. Another example would be from early this year, from Russian Defence Ministry-owned TV-channel Zvezda, where biased participators debated on the show that was titled “Baltic states without Russia-the end?” (Propastop, 2017). These programmes pose a serious threat to the unity of the Baltic states. Constant brainwashing with these types of shows will most definitely change some ethnic-Russian’s minds in Estonia, and that is not in the favour of local government.


The hybrid threat does not only stand in the information that is shown on Russian TV, it also, has entered Estonia and the Baltics via Sputnik news channel (Rudzite, 2017). In Estonia and Latvia, Sputnik, launched its services in February 2016(Rudzite, 2017). But, knowing the flow of propaganda on this channel, news agencies across the Baltics ceased their cooperation with this Russian government-controlled news agency (Rudzite, 2017). Needs to be mentioned here that the head of Sputnik, Dmitri Kiselyov, has had an EU ban issued against him, due to his significant role in promoting the deployment of Russian forces in Ukraine (Rudzite, 2017).

It is not only TV that has been used to influence foreign publics. In 2013, Kremlin created national information agency Rossija Segodnja (Kaukver, 2015). Rossija Segodnja runs the above-mentioned Sputnik channel and has also started a media brand called Baltnews (Kaukver, 2015). Its launch in 2014, across Baltics, was aimed to develop multimedia content, added to improving the ability of radio and internet in respective countries.


Considering that Kremlin doubled its media spending from 630 million euros in 2015 to 1.2 billion euros in 2016, the hybrid threat is legitimate (Austrevicius, 2016). What has Estonia’s and EU’s answer been to these massive resources spent on propaganda? NATO launched its Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence in 1st of January 2014(NATO Stratcom COE, no date). Its aim being building awareness and understanding and support for NATO’s decisions and operations in today’s information environment and mapping Russia’s information and psychological operations (NATO Stratcom COE, no date). The EU has also launched a parallel body. East Stratcom Task Force was created in 2015 and its mission being planning strategic communication to address Russia’s ongoing disinformation campaigns (EEAS, 2015). Although Estonia is a member of both bodies, there has been an additional creation by the people who have launched a site called Propastop. Propastop follows Russian disinformation channels and brings out the so called “alternative news” pieces where Russia has been trying to misguide people about Estonia.

Russia has been very aggressive in recent times, pressurising Europe and the West overall with its information war. Estonia, neighbouring Russia, is very much at the forefront of its hybrid threats and Russian propaganda machines are working intensively to influence foreign publics. Interesting fact here is, that per a research done in 2014, it turned out that the will to defend Estonia is high among both native and ethnic-Russian Estonians (Kivirähk, 2014). Ethnic-Russians living in Estonia don’t generally want Putin to come and save them. Despite all the differences between the two ethnicity groups, they ultimately share the same home and the ethnic-Russian people are happy with their European status and being able to freely travel for example. Nevertheless, hybrid threat, that Russia poses in Estonia, EU and the West overall is something that needs to be dealt with. It remains to be seen where this information war will lead to, but one thing is for sure, aggressive action can be seen.


1) NATO, no date,” NATO Countering the Hybrid Threat”, available at (Accessed: 10th of March 2017)

2) Dougherty J. and Kaljurand R., published in 2015, “Estonia’s “Virtual

Russian World”: The Influence of Russian Media on Estonia’s Russian Speakers”, available at (Accessed: 10th of March 2017)

3) Ummelas O., published in 2015, “Estonia Must Counter “Hostile” Russian Propaganda, Adviser Says”, available at (Accessed: 10th of March 2017)

4) Propastop, published in 2017, “Balti riigid taas Kremli televisiooni hambus”, available at

(Accessed: 10th of March 2017)

5) Rudzite L., published in 2017, “Sputnik Has New Troubles in Baltics”, available at

(Accessed: 10th of March 2017)

6) Kaukver T., published in 2015, “ Russia is looking more and more new ways to disseminate propaganda in Estonia”, available at (Accessed: 10th of March 2017)

7) Austrevicius P., published in 2016, “No joke: Russian propaganda poses EU threat”, available at (Accessed: 10th of March 2017)

8) NATO Stratcom Centre of Excellence, no date, available at (Accessed: 10th of March 2017)

9) EEAS, published in 2015, “Questions and Answers about the East Stratcom Task Force”, available at (Accessed: 10th of March 2017)

10) Kivirähk J., published in 2014, “Integrating Estonia’s Russian-Speaking Population: Findings of National Defense Opinion Surveys”, available at (  (Accessed: 10th of March 2017)



Diplomacy of ’The Lightning Bolt’

Sport is a hugely powerful medium for the international spread of information, reputations and relationships that are the essence of public diplomacy. The size of the audience in sport globally is massive and it gives a nation or a certain athlete a chance to shine an with it a possibility to take a message across. In the modern day states compete to host the Olympic games to bring limelight and send positive vibes to the outer world. But more importantly it is the athletes that put their home countries on the picture and one of the most fascinating of them in the 21st century has been the fastest ever human being-Usain Bolt.


The Jamaican sprinter, nicknamed ’The Lightning Bolt’, has dominated the world in the 100 m and 200 m distances since early 2000’s and owns a world record in both. Bolt won 100 m and 200 m Olympic gold medals in 2004 in Athens, 2008 in Beijing and London in 2012. He has held the Jamaican flag high for years and by being the fastest man ever he has been in the spotlight all along. Jamaica, famous for its reggae music, jerk chicken, sunny beaches and Bob Marley has herself an ambassador in Usain Bolt who carries national pride with himself and also acts as a role model for young Jamaicans.


Bolt winning the race in London Olympics,2012

In 2009 Bolt, who is from the rural neighbourhood in northwest Jamaica, received from then Jamaica’s Prime minister Bruce Golding a diplomatic passport and got appointed as Jamaica’s youngest ambassador-at-large.


Bolt, who is often described as fun-loving and affable is very proud over his native Jamaica. For example all the advertisements that he does, he tries to do them in Jamaica, often against producers’ wish. Big brands such as Gatorade and Puma are made to shoot in Jamaica and give jobs to local people. He also does a lot of charity work, for example he supports the Small Steps Projects,project, that helps children living on landfill sites. He also has his own Usain Bolt Foundation. Its mission is dedicated to the legacy for happy children. Foundations’ main goals are enchancing the health and safety of children but also to improve their education and opportunities to receive one.

Being the fastest man ever,Bolt, is often compared to legends such as Muhammad Ali and Pele. Maybe he has not been politically as influential as Ali and Pele were, but he definitely matches their outgoing personality and being as enthusiastic as he is, he is very appealing to many people. This year he revealed a documentary of himself called ’I am Bolt’ and he also admitted that he will retire after the 2017 World Championships in London. The legacy that he will leave behind will be extraordinary. Arguably one of the most marketable athletes in the world has been an excellent ambassador for the sport and his native Jamaica and also he has done a remarkable job for Jamaica in its nation-branding.






Russia Today (RT)- Propaganda or alternative news?

For most of the world’s citizens Russia has throughout history looked like a rather violent, authoritarian state. But for Russia’s part to make themselves look better they have launched projects to explain their ideas and actions to the outer world. One of these projects, called “Radio Moscow”, was started during the Cold War( But, in 2005 Russia launched state-funded 24-hour news channel called Russia Today, a channel, that has roots in that same “Radio Moscow” ( RT’s goal is to give the world a view from Russia’s point of view. It is understandable for them to do so considering that the news market is largely dominated by western news sources. And one can assume, these western news channels like CNN, BBC, Fox news, being rather more biased towards the western values instead of Russian ones. But for West, the problem with RT lies in its straight connection to Kremlin. There are undeniable facts that prove that the channels news feed is controlled by the supreme power in Kremlin. Like for example during Russia’s conflict with Georgia, a young correspondent called William Dunbar, broadcasted something that was out of boundaries for Kremlin and he was told to leave the post straight after ( Another example would be the week after the opposition leader Boris Nemtsov’s assassination when a massive march began in Moscow to protest Nemtsov’s murder. RT did not cover that march and instead opted to show a documentary at the time about American racism and xenophobia (


Russia state-funded RT in 2005 with 30 million dollars( In 2016, according to Moscow Times, the funding will be 307 million dollars( By comparison BBC World Service Group which includes TV, radio and online news distribution had a budget of 376 million dollars for the year of 2014/2015 ( So Russia has increasingly been putting in a lot of money in their soft power tool to influence people’s opinions around the world.

In the Western media, Russia Today(RT) is often seen as a “propaganda machine” that undermines western values and promotes Russian ideas. A rather interesting position taken here by Bradford MP George Galloway:

Since its opening, they have quickly mixed into the scene of news channels such as BBC, CNN and Al-Jazeera. With the increasing funding, the channel now has over 2000 employees across the world alongside with channels not only in English but also in Spanish and Arabic(

The soft power tool has been very controversial, it is considered being an extension of President Vladimir Putin’s confrontational foreign policy. Konstantin Prebrazchensky- a globalist in Russia came out saying that RT is “a part of the Russian industry of misinformation and manipulation”(

Channel is known to be hiring young students straight out of the university, offering them good money and training on the job. For many young journalists see that as a kick-start to their careers on the field. Although there are rather interesting examples of their young journalists quitting their jobs on live coverage, like for example Liz Wahl is doing here:

But the channel does not see any trouble hiring young students. Many benefits and good salary offered will always keep bringing them new employees.

To sum up, it is very hard in current information era for people to make their minds on information they are being fed. Like we saw in the recent American elections, many fake news got produced in order to influence people’s decisions. To have a better understanding of the on-goings in the world, people should do wider research on information. Using RT as a source is anyone’s choice.



Bibliography :

1) Julia Ioffe, September/October 2010, “What Is Russia Today?”, available at (accessed on 7th of December 2016)

2)Simon Shuster, March 2015, “The global news network RT is the Russian government’s main weapon in an intensifying information war with the West—and its top editor has a direct phone line to the Kremlin”, available at , accessed on 7th of December 2016
3)Susanne Posel, May 2013, “Russia Today: State-Funded Propaganda Masquerading as Alternative Media”, available at , accessed on 7th of December 2016
4) The Moscow Times, October 2015, “Russia Cuts State Spending on RT News Network”, available at , accessed on 7th of December 2016