Russia’s president Vladimir Putin continues lambasting the United States and its Western and European allies, wholeheartedly predicted the end of the unipolar system and bristled at the idea of creating a new global order that might change living standards of impoverished millions around the world.
But Russia largely lacks far behind with a well-structured
public outreach diplomacy with its supposed “friends” in the
developing world. It has fragmented relations with public institutions that
engage the millions of youth, the future leaders who need to be reoriented
toward emerging model of economic growth and political governance in the new
Putin spoke at the final plenary session of the 19th meeting
of the Valdai Discussion Club held October 27. Under the theme – “A
Post-Hegemonic World: Justice and Security for Everyone” – the four
day-long interactive meeting that gathered academic experts and researchers,
politicians, diplomats and economists from Russia and 40 foreign countries,
fewer than previous years.
In a clear and concise but tense language, he expressed
optimism that Russia would become stronger than before, taking advantage of
emerging opportunities and new initiatives to build a better country. With
Russia under wide sanctions after sending troops into Ukraine, Putin spoke at
length acknowledging the economic difficulties Russia faces as it tries to
promote itself to international businesses, the evolutionary processes in the
new global configuration.
“The so-called cancel culture and in reality – as we
said many times – the real cancellation of culture is eradicating everything
that is alive and creative and stifles free thought in all areas, be it
economics, politics or culture. Today, liberal ideology itself has changed
beyond recognition. It has reached the absurd point where any alternative
opinion is declared subversive propaganda and a threat to democracy,”
Putin told the gathering.
“When we fight for our interests and do so openly,
honestly and, let’s face it, courageously, this fact in itself is highly
contagious and attractive for billions of people on the planet. You can see
Russian flags in many African countries, in some of those countries. The same
is happening in Latin America and Asia. We have many friends. We do not need to
impose anything on anyone,” Putin added along the line during his
Arguably there are interpretations and divergent views to
the above position. In a stark contrast, the United States and Europe rather
relate very “friendly” with Africa, attach importance to long-term
investment especially in the youth. Russia allegedly allows its own
“cancel culture” by the United States and western allies. In
practical terms, creating a multipolar system deals largely with cultural and
social orientation, it deals with openness and friendliness. Comparatively for
now, Russia is only chanting slogans without demonstrating practical attractive
actions in multicultural ways.
In the post-hegemonic world, what role Africa can play, what
could be the expectations and how Russia can contribute in order to realize
these expectations through the use of public diplomacy. At this a new
historical reawakening stage, Russia has to focus on building relations, both
with substance and approach, and strategically engage with African
Still analyzing the processes of creating and sustaining the
new global order, it necessary to invest in the youth. Obviously we are talking
about educating the youth, we are talking about knowledge and technology
transfer, and educational exchanges. And understandably, Russia lacks far
behind the United States and its western and European allies. In addition to
this, Russia does little with public outreach policies that could help form
good perception and build image among the youth and the middle-class that form
the bulk of Africa’s 1.3 billion population.
With the youth’s education, experts are still critical.
Gordey Yastrebov, a Postdoctoral Researcher and Lecturer at the Institute for
Sociology and Social Psychology at the University of Cologne (Germany), argues
in an email interview discussion that “education can be a tool for
geopolitical influence in general, and for changing perceptions specifically,
and Russia (just like any other country) could use it for that same purpose.
However, Russia isn’t doing anything substantial on this front, at least there
is no consistent effort with obvious outcomes that would make me think so.
There are no large-scale investment programmes in education focusing on
He explains that Russian education can become appealing
these days, but given that Russia can no longer boast any significant
scientific and technological achievements. Western educational and scientific
paradigm embraces cooperation and critical independent thinking, whereas this
is not the case with the Russian paradigm, which is becoming more isolationist
and authoritarian. Obviously by now, Africa should look up to more successful
examples elsewhere, perhaps in the United States and Europe.
Series of reports from University World News explicitly show
that Asian countries have become the second most popular destination for
African students studying abroad with China being number one followed by the
likes of India, Japan, Korea, and Israel, among others. For instance, India has
also taken steps aim at building a more practical partnership in a number of
spheres in the continent. New Delhi has a new set of opportunities in human
resources development, information technology and education.
But, number one priority region for studies is still the
United States and European countries. As the world focuses on Africa, it quite
clear that United States and Europe offer many academic fellowships and
internship opportunities for young Africans, both regions have the traditional
annual training programmes in various universities and institutes in the United
States and Europe.
United States and European countries are investing in the
youth. These European and Western countries, which Russians often criticized,
train thousands yearly, ranging from short-term courses to long-term academic
disciplines. The United States and Europe show consistent commitment to ramping
up interesting programmes and activities targeting vibrant young people from
Rossiyskaya Gazeta, a widely circulated Russian daily
newspaper, in article reported that Russia has to focus on young population
from developing countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America. It has to target
the elite and middle class in these markets for the export of education which
has great potential. The Gazeta concluded that Africa’s fast-growing population
as a huge potential market for knowledge transfer and export education.
Russia claims to have substantial influence in the education
sphere. Quite interesting for the coming years, Russia still needs a model
template of social policy for Africa. With the emerging new world order which
invariably incorporates in its fold education and cultural influence – the
importance of soft power – for making alliances and inroads, networking and
collaborating with institutions, in Africa.
Nevertheless, there is a rare need to develop Russian
education export opportunities, take progressive measures to raise interest in
Russian education among foreigners including Africans. This would raise the
collaboration between Russia and Africa to a qualitatively new level and
ultimately contribute to the building of the dreamy sustainable relations between
Africa and Russia.
It is certainly true, and to a considerable extent, that
western and European system classically appeal more to Africans. If Russia’s
ultimate interest is to lead a fairer multipolar system, then it is necessary
to share this through educational sphere in sub-Saharan Africa. Beyond summits
and official meetings, Russia and Africa can map out broad initiatives in the
sphere of education and culture. As Russia charts multipolar system, this has
to reflect in its current foreign policy and approach especially toward the
developing world, in Latin America, Asia and Africa.