Latvia Between the Centers of Gravitation of Soft Power – the USA and Russia

Andis Kudors (Centre for East European Policy Studies, Latvia)

As a democratic country, Latvia is open to the influence of different foreign actors. Two countries – United States and Russia have better opportunities to implement soft power policy toward Latvia than others. According to the soft power theory of Joseph Nye, soft power can be implemented through the use of public diplomacy. Nye identifies three dimensions of public diplomacy: daily communication, strategic communication, and work with opinion leaders. Since the restoration of Latvia’s independence in 1991, the political elite has traditionally been pro-American, and the same applies to the majority of ethnic Latvians. A significant characteristic is the difference of attitudes toward the USA and Russia between ethnic Latvians and the Russian speaking part of society. Previous studies show that the U.S. “loses” to Russia in daily communication. The latter has many more chances to comment on events in Russia and in the world on a daily basis to the Latvian audience. Russia’s daily and strategic communication influences the political socialization of Latvian citizens, as well as social integration processes. Besides that, the securitization of culture in Russia completely changes the assessment of Russian soft power. If the United States is interested in the future support of Latvia for its global foreign policies, then it is important to comprehend the attitudes of Latvian citizens toward the U.S. and Russia and the factors that form these attitudes.

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