A diplomatic dialogue between Russia and the U.S. will take place – believe participants of an international conference organized at the Gorchakov Fund

11 October 2018

International conference “Diplomatic Dialogue. Public Opinion and Public Diplomacy in International Relations” took place on October 11 at the Alexander Gorchakov Public Diplomacy Fund. Partners of the event were Russian Public Opinion Research Center and the U.S. Mershon Center for International Security Studies at University of Ohio.

When opening the conference, Deputy Executive Director of the Gorchakov Fund Roman Grishenin emphasized importance of the Russian-U.S. dialogue since, according to him, the level of relations had practically hit the bottom. It is necessary to maintain contacts not only on the level of policymakers, but research organizations and educational institutions.

Roman Grishenin’s opinion was supported by Executive Director of Russian Public Opinion Research Center Dr. Valery Fedorov. He mentioned that at present we were at one of the lowest points in diplomatic relations and public opinion in both countries. This incurs high risks not only for the United States and Russia, but for the whole world as well. Based on results of statistical studies, about 25% of Russian citizens think positively of the U.S. and the same number – negatively.

All participants of the roundtable “Information Gaps in Russian-U.S. Relations: What Do We Know and Do Not Know about the Role of Public Opinion and Strategic Communications in Developing the Foreign Policy?” agreed that we should clearly differentiate between public opinion about the government and the people. Thus, the Americans think positively about the Russians, but negatively about the Russian government as for decades the image of Russia as an enemy had been cultivated in them and now it can be easily reborn. The experts noted that new media, which also included social media, were becoming more and more popular. Their role in the modern world should not be underestimated as they represent the most important tool of shaping public opinion.

Director of the Mershon Center Christopher Gelpi acknowledged that one of key moments in developing opinions in a civil society were political problems. Only after resolving them we can talk about improvement of the Russians’ opinion of the Americans and vice versa. It is important to thoroughly study the issue of how much public opinion can be manipulated because very often politicians and media abuse that.

Professor of Political Sciences and Co-Director of the Program on New Approaches to Research and Security in Eurasia Henry Hale agreed that public opinion had not been sufficiently studied and its influence should not be underestimated.

Professor of the Department of American Studies at St. Petersburg State University Natalia Tsvetkova, in her speech, called digital diplomacy, where the main element was represented by social media, a characteristic of cooperation between the two countries and, according to the speaker, it should be used to start the process of rebuilding the dialogue between Moscow and Washington.

Dean of the School of Global Studies and Partnerships at Oklahoma State University Randy Kluver stated that presently we were observing a new era of mass media. Their logic is based on short messages, which are available for any person at any time. This is similar to a principle of database, which allows us taking what we want and when we want.

Associate Professor of the Department of Regional Studies and Foreign Policy at the Russian State University for the Humanities Sergey Markedonov identified rendition of results of the cold war as the main moment, from which the problems in the Russian-U.S. relations had begun. He also urged the Expert Council of Russian-U.S. Relation to carry on a meaningful dialogue and speak about interests of each country without trying to re-educate each other.