Soft power – using diplomacy, co-operation and the powers of attraction rather than coercion – has become a more potent force in international relations over recent decades. During the Ukrainian crisis, Germany, with its conciliatory, sanctions-focused approach, has been a leading exponent of the approach. Yet faced with what looks increasingly like the use of "hard power" by Russian soldiers on Ukrainian soil, its limits are being tested.
No. 1: Will there be a deal on Ukraine? The crisis in Ukraine has been a colossal failure of analysis and of diplomacy, with plenty of blame to share on all aides. The main victims, alas, have been the unfortunate Ukrainian people. As I've written before, I think the United States and the West played a key role in causing the crisis, mostly by failing to anticipate that Russia was going to respond forcefully and vigorously to what its leaders regarded as a gradual attempt to incorporate Ukraine into the West.
For about three hours Wednesday morning, the Ukrainian flag was flying high over Russia’s capital city. Protesters fastened a blue-and-yellow banner to the Soviet star atop the spire of one of Moscow’s Stalin-era “Seven Sisters” skyscrapers on the Kotelnicheskaya Embankment about a mile from the Kremlin.
Ten years ago, Robert Kagan famously compared the relationship between the EU and the US to the one between Venus and Mars. Brussels would be the amicable face of the couple wielding its normative influence and soft power potential, in contrast with Washington's aggressive foreign policy. Recent developments, however, have shown that the EU might be giving up its soft politics for a more bellicose stance, at least on Russia.
Lorries from a Russian convoy carrying aid to eastern Ukraine have reached a border post controlled by separatists. But they seem unlikely to cross into Ukraine immediately as the Red Cross said it had still not received security guarantees for the convoy to continue. Earlier Ukraine's military said that separatists had shot down a government fighter jet near the rebel-held city of Luhansk in the east of the country.
European Union foreign ministers met in a emergency meeting on Friday to discuss the ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and Iraq. EU leaders welcomed the resignation of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, saying it paved the way for a potential political solution in that country. The Czech Republic and the Netherlands joined France in agreeing to send military equipment to aid Kurdish forces.
Australia and Russia have been engaging in a war of words over the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17. The rhetoric is of course a minor part of the larger ongoing propaganda war over the way in which the crisis in Ukraine is perceived globally. Still, in addition to sanctions, Russia and Australia have continued to trade some particularly pointed remarks in recent weeks.
Amid controversy in Russia and Ukraine, a U.S. Department of State scholarship program aims to enhance public diplomacy, beginning in Kansas. Two exchange students, from Russia and Ukraine, arrived Friday afternoon at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport. They arrived on the same flight. Both students have been awarded the prestigious scholarship through the Department of State.