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Russia-EU Dialogue: how should we behave today and what to expect from tomorrow?

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Confrontation in the international arena often aggravates relations between different countries. Russia and European countries are no exception. Today, in order to develop mutually beneficial international cooperation in Europe, it is crucial to define the role of strategic communication in relations between Russia and the EU.

Members of the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA), the Diplomatic Academy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia and their colleagues from Romania, the United States and France have published a comprehensive study on this.

Strategic communication in international relations

According to the authors of the study, the concept of strategic communication implies that the State projects the long-term values, interests and objectives in the minds of its own citizens and the foreign public, as well as their perception in the international arena.

An important condition of this projection is to properly synchronize the real actions (facts) of the State in all spheres of society and the support of professional communication (words and images). The facts are more important, since the real changes in the economy, politics and the social sphere affect people’s conscience alone. Without strategic facts, communication often becomes a propaganda, efficient for a short time.

“The advantage of this approach to evaluate the political line of the State is that it is emphasized that the established goals correspond to the real progressive changes in public life. However, strategic communication is a tool of public administration that has a military dimension and When international relations are sharpened, it is used for psychological and informational confrontation,” said Yevgueni Páshentsev, concept developer and principal investigator of the Institute of Current International Problems of the Diplomatic Academy of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and professor of the Moscow State University.

Russia and the European Union

The relationship between Russia and the EU must be considered in the context of European changes as a whole. The emergence of Eurosceptic parties in Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, France and other countries does not mean that the majority of the population of these countries wants to break economic, political and cultural ties with each other. However, European citizens do not always accept the serious mistakes made at the level of the central EU authorities, including that of holding Russia solely responsible for the crisis in Ukraine.

In 2015, in response to the request of the Heads of Government of the EU countries to consider the “current disinformation campaigns of Russia”, the East StratCom Working Group was created. This, together with the constant mention of Russia and ISIS among the actors that threaten the EU, weakens the creative potential of strategic communication in the EU, subjecting it to the opportunistic interests of the confrontation informative Unfortunately, this can cause further degradation of relations between the EU and Russia.

The difference in how the two sides are perceived is also revealed in the fact that Russia has so far perceived the European Union primarily as an economic organization, and it has taken a smaller place in its foreign policy than NATO. Therefore, according to the book’s co-author, Romanian researcher Marius Vacarelu, Russia continues to consider bilateral relations with traditional “great European powers”, such as Germany and France, as a normal way of dealing with the EU. The scientist described promising areas of cooperation between Russia and the EU, including security, environmental protection and education.

The problem of mutual damage to reputation

The use of strategic communication components – words and images – separately from the obvious facts for citizens (measures to resolve contradictions) is practiced today at the level of psychological confrontation and information in the international arena. Researchers have studied the tone of the main messages used in the EU and Russia during this confrontation.

According to US scientists Sergey Samoilenko and Marlene Laruelle, Russia is characterized by a “state-oriented language” at the formal level, which implies a call to cooperate and does not allow personal insults or incendiary rhetoric. However, Russian political interview programs often vulgarize EU mistakes by talking about a decline in Europe or its dependence on the US.

There is no common EU position on Russia. Scientists have identified at least four positions : suggestion of a “Russian threat”; accusation of disrespect for democratic norms by modern Russia; a more moderate position that balances cooperation and criticism; and a friendlier position on Russia. This diversity is reflected in the European media and leaves a lot of room to overcome contradictions.

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Reputation of Russian companies in the European Union

A lack of attention to corporate reputation increases the risk of errors, after which it is difficult to justify, even more difficult than to deny defamation. When assessing the reputation of companies, analysts take into account such factors as the degree of centralization to make decisions and the formalization of rules and procedures; the propensity to cooperate or compete; short or long term planning; Stability or innovation

Researchers pay attention to the real actions of Russian companies such as price policy, quality control, Russian state support and (at the level of images) their perception in the partner country, the dynamics of business expansion and, Of course, the tone of the official publications of the company and the “feedback” in the media.
“The difficulty in building a reputation in EU countries is that several groups of target audience values have to be taken into account . For example, reputation management in Austria requires taking into account a wide range of standards determined by the European culture, cultural traditions of German-speaking Europe and specific Austrian cultural attitudes in business communication, “said Daria Bazárkina, a professor in the RANEPA Department of International Security and Foreign Policy Activities of Russia.

The researchers considered the reputation factors of Gazprom, Lukoil and Sberbank in the context of European consumer preferences and studied the related notes in the European media.

For example, in 2018, EU countries introduced a new standard in the field of personal data protection; Sberbank responded with the introduction of a unified system of processing and storage of this type of data, which creates a favorable basis for the news.

Russian private companies are more active on social networks than state-owned companies, while the banking sector is more active than oil and gas, said Kaleria Kramar, a researcher at the International Center for Social and Political Studies and Consulting. This can be explained by greater competition in the European market and a focus on different categories of customers. However, during the “shale revolution” in the US, the Russian oil and gas sector may face a new round of competition for the European market.

Global technological changes

It is particularly important to overcome existing differences in the face of new technological trends and common problems, say the scientists. The European Commission has presented a plan to promote the development and use of artificial intelligence in Europe. EU countries are considering editing the genome of the human embryo .

Russia is a world leader in bioinformatics, and its progress in robotics, genetics and cyborguization creates a ground for cooperation with Europe. The book identifies new risks associated with artificial intelligence and presents five future scenarios, from the most progressive to the most dangerous.

There is no open debate on ‘ human engineering ‘ at a high state level, since both sides are occupied with geopolitical issues. An analysis of possible models of social development is especially important in scientific debates, taking into account the thorough evaluation of the role of promising technologies, which increasingly influence social development.

What do we do?

The study authors recommend focusing on the positive experience of cooperation between Russia and the EU. According to the co-author of the book, the French political scientist Pierre-Emmanuel Thomann, broader consultations between countries are necessary to avoid excessive militarization of words and images in strategic communication.

It is important not to allow the revenge agenda to prevail in the public debate in Russia or in the EU countries, and to make political decisions on the basis of a balanced and comprehensive analysis, taking into account alternative developments of events.

However, the most important thing today in the field of communication is to develop, as far as possible, expert evaluations of relations between the EU and Russia in positive debates, which are not based on past ideologies, but in a rational analysis of the interrelated processes of human development, which naturally lead to a new qualitative condition. As will be? Well it depends on the whole society.

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