A Small State’s Foreign Policy Communication in a Changing Environment
According to traditional understandings of geopolitics and the dominant international relations theories (Realism, Neorealism or Neoliberalism), small states are mainly irrelevant players in the international arena, because of a lack of “hard power” – economic power, military power, territorial size. Issues on the global agenda are initiated and framed by “big powers”, and a small state’s position is unavoidably constrained by the transcendent security dilemma question, where balancing policy is the main option. The globalised information environment, new communication technologies and the growing role of social media in the political communication process are changing this understanding and creating a new environment in which foreign policy initiatives are formed and conducted – the increased speed of diplomatic messages, quick responses to emerging diplomatic events and crises, the breakup of hierarchies, closed societies and emerging openness, integration, freedom, and democratic tranquillity (J. Diebert 1997; E. Gilboa 2004). In this context, traditional, vertically hierarchical and closed diplomacy is losing ground and a new globally integrated, hyper-libertarian system is emerging, where information and knowledge can be used as soft power instruments (S. Nye, 2005). So, what do such changes mean for how a small country formulates and conducts foreign policy ? Are there any new possibilities emerging? Which strategies and instruments of soft power could be used to compensate for a small state’s lack of hard power resources? Can proactive foreign policy (FP) communication and communication strategies be regarded as effective tools for the promotion of a small state’s foreign policy? One possible way of finding answers to those questions is the social constructivism paradigm and its main claim that meaning is socially constructed through social interaction actors. From this perspective, the global media domain resembles virtual communities of interest, where various actors have the ability to express their goals and initiatives, to try to persuade, to form virtual alliances on a specific issue, and a proactive communication strategy (applying „Cyber diplomacy“, „Digital diplomacy“, „Real time diplomacy“ and „Informational geopolitics“ concepts) could be treated as a small state‘s „virtual foreign policy enlargement“. Research data based on analysis of the discourse that accompanied the riots that followed Belarus’ presidential election in 2009 (analysis of official statements and messages by foreign countries transmitted by AFP, Interfax and Reuters) show that Lithuania was visible in the media agenda despite its lack of „hard power“. Playing an active part in condemning the violent post-election events in Belarus, and joining and supporting other countries’ positions and initiatives, led to the formation of a form of virtual alliance. This foreign policy strategy, active participation through the mass media, can be treated as a „soft power“ practice, an effective tool to promote a small state’s foreign policy.