In This Review

Hard Diplomacy and Soft Coercion: Russia's Influence Abroad
Hard Diplomacy and Soft Coercion: Russia's Influence Abroad
By James Sherr
Chatham House, 2013, 152 pp

In the debate over just how alienated Russian foreign policy has become from the interests of the United States and Europe, count Sherr among those arguing that the sides are worlds apart. His case, however, is neither strident nor crude. On the contrary, Sherr subtly traces the historical roots and complex character of Russian power. His starting point is the political scientist Joseph Nye’s notion of “soft power.” But in his examination of Russia’s relations with states that were once within the Soviet Union’s borders or that were part of the extended Soviet empire, Sherr reveals the Russian approach to instruments of influence -- trade, energy, the Russian Orthodox Church, and Russian cultural exports -- as more brutal than dulcet. He interprets the fundamental impulse behind Russian policy as a desire to create an international environment that protects the Russian regime’s preferred domestic order, but he views the steps Russia takes to further that stark agenda as intricate and artful. As for the policy’s success, Sherr’s judgment lingers between mixed and suspended. As for the policy’s permanence, he allows for the possibility of change -- perhaps, ultimately, out of necessity.