By Andrew Brookes
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And the Yukos Affair had reshaped Russian politics to create state mechanisms capable of delivering those resources. Russia saw itself as competing with the EU’s ‘neighbourhood policy’ and its soft-power instruments. But Russia did not really ‘do’ soft power. It simply used the same political technology methods as it applied at home. According to the blunt and bull-headed Modest Kolerov, one of the key crafters of the neighbourhood policy in the late 2000s, ‘soft power is dead. Soft power means creating points of pressure .
But its means were married to modern capacities. The political technologists were particularly skilled at manipulating information technologies, creating dramas that were literally virtual because they mainly existed on TV; or, later, at nudging, deflecting or reshaping the narratives of social media. Their natural language was Orwellian doublespeak. And as Orwell shrewdly pointed out, the control of language is the first step to the control of meaning, and the manipulation of meaning the first step to the manipulation of politics.
And it’s a storm of applause every time! So Russian ‘neighbourhood policy’ meant bribing local politicians and setting up pro-Russian front parties and sending shadowy funding to new pro-Russian NGOs. 38 It meant working through shadowy front companies like RosUkrEnergo in Ukraine, Prometheus in Greece, Overgas in Bulgaria, Emfesz in Hungary and Vemex in the Czech Republic. It also meant using the less shadowy Gazprom and its offshoots like North Stream and South Stream, polluting all the countries on its route.