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In modern world, the scope of soft power means has considerably been growing by implementation of new behavioral features. Soft power is the power of attraction, the influence of example – as opposed to the influence and power derived from military force, economic sanctions and even economic aid. ‘Soft power is the ability to get what you want by attracting and persuading others to adopt your goals. It differs from hard power, the ability to use the carrots and sticks of economic and military might to make others follow your will.'
Synchronic to the world, Russia and Western countries through their soft powers have been contesting in Serbia, once the core state of Yugoslavia. Russia is determined to secure its position in Belgrade relying on the country’s dependence on Russian natural resources and, in particular, strong support for Russian policy on the part of Serbian elites and society. The traditional pro-Russian attitudes have been strengthened as a result of a series of Russia-inspired, wide-ranging soft power initiatives which have proved so successful that a large part of society has begun to believe that Russia’s interests are consistent with Serbia’s.
In spite of the fact that Russia, due to its own domestic turmoil, were not able to actively support Serbia during ethnic clashes and NATO bombing which begun on March 24, 1999, in the sky of Belgrade, Pristina and Podgorica, it was only at the turn of the millennium, when Russia maintained Serbia in its opposition to Kosovo’s drive for independence, that relations began to warm again. Russia’s tricolor flag appeared intertwined with Serbia’s alongside highways, on billboards sponsored by Russia’s Gazprom energy company, while the tiny blue-and-yellow European flag goes down as soon as construction is complete, however E.U. funds paid for many of the roads.
Nevertheless, the West do not intend to cut short in entering Serbian society by the means of soft power, since the role of Balkan states are significant for European integration and NATO, because once Brzezinski popularized the term:
The BBC’s return to Serbia comes as a sign that the West has refocused on the Balkans. Following the British move to Balkan, The EU launched a new strategy for the Western Balkans last month and has said Serbia and its neighbor Montenegro could join the bloc by 2025.
Motions by both sides Russia and the West trigger Serbia to face dilemma to keep the balance of powers. It is well-known that Belgrade is balancing between Russia and West as Serbia is trying both to achieve its top priority interest – EU membership, but also to bolster its traditional ties with friendly Russia. Officials of Belgrade met with hard choice during western sanctions on Russia. The European Union pressured Serbia to join anti-Russian position in return to be approved of integrating into Europe. It shows that the West have been struggling to manipulate the relations between Russia and Serbia emphasizing on the membership will of Balkan state in the European Union, seeing that the EU enlargement along with NATO on the account of Balkan states has successfully completed at the end of XX century and the beginning of XXI.
Nonetheless, the soft power capabilities of the EU are weakening for a number of reasons, including institutional confusion, Brexit, the Refugee crisis, terrorism, the rise of populism, resistance among member states to further enlargement given the Union’s economic problems. There has also been disappointment with the performance of recent members Romania and Bulgaria, as well as with older states such as Greece, Italy and Spain, which are encumbered by massive sovereign debts, and the unfulfilled commitments of several Western Balkan aspirants in their quest for EU accession.
Meanwhile, Russia focuses on more effective elements of society, such as youth or Orthodox church. Despite the predominantly positive attitude towards "Western" models of life, young people have positive expectations from the supposed alliance with Russia, most of whom support Russian foreign policy (64%). Most believe that the alliance with Russia would improve opportunities for employment, travel, education, the arrival of foreign investment, political stability in the country and the region, the democratization of the country, and the image of Serbia in the world.
Taking into account the fact that future generation approves Russia, opportunities of Moscow increase in upcoming decades. Stronger confidence in Russian foreign policy than the West gives a boost for perspectives of Eastern soft power state.
In addition to the publicity among the young age group, Orthodox churches and similarity of moral life put Russia a step further than the Western countries. Despite the Russian soft power leadership in Serbia, non-power manners are not decisive as long as the possibility to use hard power by the West is preserved as occurred in 1999.
How soft powers come to Nash equilibrium
Nash equilibrium is one the fundamental concepts in game theory that determines the optimal solution in a non-cooperative game in which each player lacks any incentive to change his or her initial strategy. Under the Nash equilibrium, a player does not gain anything from deviating from the initially chosen strategy, assuming the other players keep their strategies unchanged. The equilibrium is commonly analyzed relying on the Prisoner’s dilemma (See Figure 1).
Serbia attempts to keep balance between states while Russia and the West are eager for complete influence. As shown in Figure 1, both players are probable to defect since the outcome is larger than cooperation.
Initially, the West are claimed to defect their agreement on the issue of NATO enlargement, whereas the guarantee is sometimes refused by Western countries. Meanwhile, Russian diplomats regularly assert that Washington made just such a promise in exchange for the Soviet troop withdrawal from East Germany -- and then betrayed that promise as NATO added 12 eastern European countries in three subsequent rounds of enlargement. Russian politicians also put attention on the fact that U.S. Secretary of State James Baker’s famous “not one inch eastward” assurance about NATO expansion in his meeting with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev on February 9, 1990, was part of a cascade of assurances about Soviet security given by Western leaders to Gorbachev and other Soviet officials throughout the process of German unification in 1990 and on into 1991, according to declassified U.S., Soviet, German, British and French documents. Currently,
some Western NGOs and military analysts say the Russians have created a thinly disguised military base that is eavesdropping on American military interests in the Balkans. Equilibrium indicates that renouncements by each sides are inevitable since the time when NATO enlarged and bombed Serbia in 1999. Neither Russia nor the West take a risk by going cooperation under the probability of losing Serbia.
As a result of witnessing that counterparts do not hesitate to manoeuvre hard power, Moscow determine to tighten its belts with Belgrade. Russia has expanded its hold on the Serbian energy sector with indirect investments channeled through Russian-owned companies. Russia’s most ambitious project was the South Stream gas pipeline, which was to stretch from Russia across the Black Sea into Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary, Serbia, Slovenia, and Austria. Beyond pipelines, Russian companies have had more luck penetrating energy markets with less ambitious projects in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Romania, and Serbia, where Russian firms have gained stakes in or control of electricity generation, nuclear power projects, refineries, and gasoline sales.
Not to lose game: hard power is beyond equilibrium
The result of Nash equilibrium comes to lose-lose position in which players defect in search for higher gain. Quest for achievement not cooperating ends with infinite competition. However, in foreign policy where exist the influence of hard power differing from business or corporative studies, Nash equilibrium always does not ensure focal point. Consequently, gamers prefer not to take risk by contesting in unpredictable competition.
In the XXI century Russia managed to stabilize its prestige in Balkan. Over the years, Serbia’s leadership has exaggerated the extent of its cooperation with Moscow and portrayed Russia as the main protector of Serbia’s interests. 20 years after the Balkan war, opposition to NATO and the EU runs fairly deep in the country. Serbia turned to Russia for partnership and, crucially, for a source of leverage in relations with the West.
At the same time, Serbia remains the Western Balkans’ strongest military power, with Albania a distant second. Even Serbs outside Serbia are blocking other countries in the region from joining NATO, while Serbia’s army still relies on Russia support. Only about three per cent of Serbian citizens support their country joining NATO.
These facts show that in hard power game Russia has already been ready to react against any operation in Serbia. As a result, the West are no longer able to repeat its action through hard power since the Western states have to reach agreement with Russia in Serbia not to lose the game. Nevertheless, soft powers continue competing to achieve more gains in the country.