Dean Vuletic on how authoritarian regimes have participated in the Eurovision Song Contest as a way to enhance their international image.
...[D]emocratic governments need to apply some of the street-level lessons activists have learned to the arena of geo-strategy and public diplomacy. Don’t be intimidated and stand up for your cause — but also don’t let yourself be dragged into endlessly trying to debunk the dictator’s fantasies. Instead, focus on developing an alternative vision that would enable a country like Serbia or Russia to flourish by treating its civil society as a legitimate partner, developing positive relationships with its neighbors, and joining the international community.
In recent months, German, Swiss, Swedish, and Polish bids to hold the 2022 Winter Olympics have been withdrawn over concerns about cost. Munich and Davos-St. Moritz withdrew after voters rejected their Olympic bids. So did Krakow, where more than 70 percent voted against the idea in a referendum, despite the perceived success of the feel-good European soccer championships held in Poland and Ukraine in 2012.
The current strain in U.S. relations with Russia sums up the challenges of dealing with authoritarian rulers...The time has come to formally review U.S. relations with authoritarian regimes around the globe and identify ways to support human rights and democracy activists while continuing cooperation on common security and economic interests... Senior U.S. officials and diplomats should conduct vigorous public diplomacy to communicate the values of freedom directly to people living under authoritarian rule.
...[previously] I posited that historical attitudes reaching back to the dawn of the Zionist movement provide a context, if not a continuous mode of thought, lying behind Israel’s inability and unwillingness to construct a public diplomacy program that directly engages newly empowered Arab publics.