Russian Think Tanks and Soft Power


  • Carolina Vendil Pallin
  • Susanne Oxenstierna

Publish date: 2017-09-13

Report number: FOI-R--4451--SE

Pages: 51

Written in: English


  • Russia
  • think tanks
  • soft power


Russia has put increasing emphasis on public diplomacy and the use of "soft power" to achieve foreign policy objectives. The Foreign Policy Concept of 2016 specifically calls for Russian academics and experts to get involved in the country's public diplomacy efforts and to do so in dialogue with foreign specialists on international relations. This report investigates how Russia tries to influence expert communities and wider public opinion in the West with the help of think tanks and similar GONGOs. Nine Russian think tanks or GONGOs (government-organized non-governmental organizations) were selected for closer analysis in this study. They are all directly or indirectly dependent on the Russian state for financial support. Other important donors are Russian big business. All of the think tanks analysed are, moreover, closely linked to the Russian political executive. A finding of the study is that the think tanks that take on less of an advocacy role in their messaging tend to be the ones with the best relations with Western researchers. Their experts are sought after as speakers at conferences and roundtables around the world and their access to Russian government circles adds to their attraction as cooperation partners. The think tanks that are more propagandistic tend to end up creating networks with experts, organizations and institutes in the West that are less mainstream.