By Dimitris Anagnostopoulos
Deeply rooted in a logical syllogism, a fundamental rule in chess dictates that the more squares a player dominates, the greater his options and the more constrained become those of his opponent. Comparably, in diplomacy, the more options one side has, the fewer will be available to the opposite side and the more careful the latter will have to be in pursuing its objectives.
Schematically, international politics could be compared to a mosaic which depicts power, both hard and soft. The possession of mosaic tiles expresses the extension of power and the enlargement of one’s sphere of influence. As the preponderant form of soft power and an utterly dynamic process, diplomacy constitutes a perfect field for the implementation of the aforementioned concept. The idea of ‘mosaic diplomacy‘ lies in maintaining a multi-dimensional, polyhedral foreign policy. Simply put, a ‘mosaic diplomacy’ requires a state to retain open as many foreign policy options as it possibly can. The more the foreign policy options, the higher the mobility in the field of international relations and the greater the flexibility in the table of negotiations.
In particular, the concept of ‘mosaic diplomacy’ refers to a multi-faceted diplomacy that seeks to capitalise on any available or potential field that could supplement the realisation of a state’s foreign policy objectives. Plausibly, a highly acknowledged nation-state with a wide network of diplomatic relations and numerous channels of communication extends significantly its sphere of influence in the arena of international politics by potentially creating more leverage against opposing forces. This ability is highly associated with the concept of soft power. As Joseph Nye, the founder of the concept of soft power, has demonstrated, soft power is the ability to co-opt rather than coerce, in other words, the ability to formulate preferences of others through appeal and attraction.
The capacity to hold a certain degree of fascination and seduction to other countries should unquestionably be reassessed to a greater length in the field of international affairs. The great British realist E. Carr classified power into three categories: military, economic and the opinion-forming force. As far as the third category is concerned, interestingly many states possess a degree of political influence that is certainly not proportionate to their relative military or economic weight, as do Norway and Canada for instance. Norway has participated in peace talks in the Philippines, Balkans, Colombia, Guatemala, Sri Lanka and the Middle East, without having any vital strategic interest. This peace-making attitude in conjunction with its respected internal political values contribute to the reinforcement of its soft power status. Canada’s influence and strong negotiating position derives from similar features of soft power.
Although pervasive, in contradiction to those of hard power, the elements of soft power are not tangible. The main but not exhaustive sources of a state’s soft power are its culture, especially in regions where the culture is widely attractive and respected, its political values, when they are compatible both with its internal and foreign affairs and lastly its foreign policy, when it is recognized as legitimate and has moral prestige. Culture is the grid of values and customs that attach significance and give essence to a society. It can be further divided into two main categories: high culture and mass culture. Undoubtedly, the US have a well-defined competence in formulating mass cultural trends, as we can gather by the popular American music and the abundant supply of Coke and Big Macs all around the world. Although questionable in terms of efficiency, features of mass culture definitely have a subconscious effect in other countries peoples.
As far as political values are concerned, as mentioned above, the key lies in demonstrating an important degree of consistency and identification regarding their implementation both in internal and foreign affairs. Moreover, in the field of foreign policy, a state must endeavour to cultivate legitimate axioms and remain consistent in relation to them. A certain level of determination always gains another’s respect, and history proves that this aphorism is well founded in international relations as well. Some other key features of soft power include a country’s commercial branding, institutional structure and its overall international standing. To put it differently, soft power is a currency which reflects how well a nation’s profile is perceived among other international actors. The better the profile, the stronger its currency in the ”market” of international politics.
Emphasising a soft-power oriented foreign policy, with diplomacy as its main driving force, could prove a highly efficient instrument of ‘mosaic diplomacy’ in international relations for middle and lower class powers. Evidently, given that its main features cannot be quantified, the estimation of soft power seems to be a rather difficult task. Some surveys have attempted to measure soft power through composite indexes. Brandfinance’s, Portland’s and Monocle’s are some distinguished examples. Even though there are plenty examples of countries that the concept of ‘mosaic diplomacy’ could be implemented, this analysis will centre around the case of Greece.
Case study: Greece
Greece has seen a notable surge in most soft power rankings during the previous years. Overall, the country asserts itself but does not contend. Traditionally the country has adopted a peace-keeping and peace-making approach in international affairs. As distinct from other countries like Turkey, Greece strives greatly for the consolidation of peace, stability and prosperity in the region, confirming its allegiance not only to ideals but to alliances as well. Far from being revisionist, this foreign policy direction generates a good international profile of reliability and consistency, contributing to the reinforcement of the country’s soft-power status.
For the purpose of this analysis, one has first to narrow down the key components that define its overall power position as well as the direction of its foreign policy at the present time, in other words the main features of its geopolitical profile. To begin with, ideologically and institutionally Greece is identified with the Western block of powers such as France, Britain and the USΑ. Greece is a free democracy and its constitutional structure is similar to the majority of western countries. Moreover, Greece is a member of the European Union and its Economic and Monetary Union. Therefore, in the political and financial domains, Greece is, to a certain degree, constrained to act within a European framework and within the context of the western liberal economic model. Thirdly, in respect to its security issues, Turkey’s aggression is the key factor that dominates Greece’s foreign policy and defensive orientation. The geopolitical antagonism between the two countries has deep historical roots and high intensity, rendering consequently the outbreak of a violent dispute highly probable. By and large these are the main base points that put Greece’s current foreign policy into perspective. However, where does Greece stand in the current global order?
Given that the international order is undergoing severe structural changes and is entering a multipolar state, Greece needs to contemplate its position in the system and its ensuing direction. During the Cold War and shortly afterwards, the United States dominated the international order. Accordingly, due to the threatening presence of pro-soviet neighbours like Yugoslavia and Bulgaria, an alliance with the US and an overall westward direction derived from a geopolitical necessity and appeared as a unidirectional policy that served Greece’s national interests. For all these years, Greece remained adamant over its pro-western orientation. Taking into account the high variabilty of the current international system and its everchanging character, it occurs to some that Greece needs to ponder on whether it actually belongs strictly to the West in a broader sense, as its prime minister Konstantinos Karamanlis famously said, or whether it participates in the West fairly and independently. Evidently, significant changes have altered crucially the character of the international system. Among many, the rise of China and its ‘no limits’ friendship with Russia, the energy crisis, the RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership) and the Ukrainian war, formulate a highly volatile international system. This radically different international environment demands a reassessment of Greece’s foreign policy. Namely, a higher level of plasticity in foreign policy is vital, and it seems that the country is on the right path.
Greece seems to have recently grasped the essence and the importance of the concept of ‘mosaic diplomacy’ as analyzed above. More precisely, under the conditions of a global transmutation, Greece has endeavoured to expand its international network by cultivating and strengthening its relations with a number of non-western countries, such as Jordan, Egypt, China and Israel for instance. Although not tangible, the effects of this kind of foreign policy will prove highly fruitful in the long term. For by developing a wide network of healthy diplomatic relations and channels of communication on a global scale, Greece will gradually increase its soft-power and subsequently its sphere of influence in international affairs. This form of diplomacy, could be seen as a remedy for powers like Greece, for which the cost of developing hard power tools frequently exceeds the available means. What is more, the strategy of ‘mosaic diplomacy’ fits and is closely associated with two other key factors: geography and the country’s soft-power potential.
In respect to the first key factor, geography constitutes the most solid and objective component of foreign policy. Geography has always ‘condemned’ Greece with the necessity of surviving in a geopolitically pluralistic environment. Its geographical position entails interaction with many countries, most of which are non-western and most of which are, or, have been hostile. Having a presence of over 4.000 years and as a part of the Balkans, the South-eastern Mediterranean and of Minor Asia until 1922, Greece had the opportunity and the burden of being the junction of civilisational, commercial, religious and power exchange in a rather turbulent region. From the deterrence of the Persian invasion, to the challenging 1,123 years of the Byzantine Empire up until now, Greece has risen in a very arduous environment. In this context, the historical abundance of perils and existential threats has rendered essential the maintaining of a multi-faceted, polyhedral foreign policy for Greece. Moreover, Greece’s centrality between three major maritime choke points (Dardanelles Strait, Strait of Gibraltar, Suez Canal) entails a high international responsibility regarding seaborne trade. Therefore, from a mere geographical standpoint, the concept of ‘mosaic diplomacy’ in a soft-power oriented policy is imperative for Greece and seems to fit entirely its geopolitical needs.
As far as the second key factor is concerned, ‘mosaic diplomacy’ apart from political acuity hinges upon a certain level of soft-power. In other words, versatility in international relations depends heavily on an overall well-perceived international standing. In the present, Greece’s soft-power status is undergoing important positive changes that reinforce a polyhedral strategy like ‘mosaic diplomacy’. After a severe downturn, Greece seems to have recently regained its dynamic. Monocle magazine (December 2020- January 2021) included the Greek flag in its cover positioning Greece among soft-power super stars. But where does this ranking derive from and what follows in the future ? To put it differently in which elements does Greece’s soft-power potential lay ?
From a financial perspective, the country faced an unprecedented sovereign debt crisis in the aftermath of the global financial crisis of 2007-08. Due to its severe structural weaknesses, the magnitude of the crisis was immeasurable. Apart from the impoverishment and the profound economical impact in the internal, the financial turmoil sapped to a great extent the image of Greece internationally. However, in spite of the loss of confidence in the Greek economy and the undermining of the country’s overall prestige, Greece evinced resilience and managed to retrieve its soft power. In the aftermath of the depression, Greece has strengthened significantly its credibility in the global markets. On April 22 2022, Standard & Poor’s credit rating for Greece stands at BB+ with stable outlook, marking a return to normality. Greece’s credibility constitutes a very important factor for its overall international profile and its improvement presents a positive outlook.
In the same economic context, Greece represents a global maritime powerhouse. According to the latest data of the Annual Report of the Union of Greek Shipowners, Greece remains the leading shipping country in the world as Greek shipowners currently control 5,514 ships, approximately 21% of the global fleet in terms of tonnage (dwt). Greek shipping is the cornerstone of global maritime trade, as Greek Shipowners control: 31.78% of the global oil tanker fleet, 25.01% of the global dry bulk fleet, 22.35% of the global Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) transport fleet, 15.60% of the global fleet of chemicals & petroleum products, 13.85% of the Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) world fleet and 9.33% of the world container fleet. The Greek-owned merchant fleet carries more than 98% of its transport capacity between third countries, making it the world’s largest cross-border carrier. In addition, the Greek-owned fleet accounts for 59% of the fleet controlled by European Union (EU) Member States. Undeniably, Greece’s imprint in global trade as well as in the distribution of global energy is enormous. This fact is an important element of the country’s soft-power status. If handled and exploited more suitably in a national level, this power source could be a catalyst for Greece’s soft-power enhancement.
What is more, another pillar of Greece’s soft-power is its cultural vibrancy. Without a doubt, Greek civilisation determined human evolution arguably like no other, by defining the main features of the modern Western civilisation. Apart from the ancient Greek heritage and the association with the West, the Greek civilisation is also related to Orthodox Christianity, which is found in non-western countries like Russia, Armenia, Serbia and in minorities of the Middle East. Turkey’s promotion of sunni-islam as a foreign policy instrument constitutes a vivid example of how religious ties can support and avail a country’s strategic objectives. In light of this, the Patriarchates of Antioch (in Damascus today), Jerusalem, Alexandria (which has under its supervision all Orthodox Christians of Africa) and of course the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople could be utilised accordingly as religious diplomacy bodies. This reality demonstrates the necessity of a more fluid, broad and versatile foreign policy. Science for instance, a domain where occasionally Greece tends to excel at, forms a perfect field that Greece could capitalise on.
Historically, Greece has been a beacon of culture, functioning at times as the mainspring of progress in every domain. Having shaped the ethos of many cultures and having penetrated deeply into the very conscience of the western world, Greece bears a moral obligation for global cultural affairs. In this direction, Greece created in 2017, the Ancient Civilisations Forum (a.k.a GC10), a cultural initiative among countries from different geographical regions that are archs of ancient civilisations which aims at shaping a broad and multifaceted positive agenda of the ten member-states and transforming culture into a source of soft-power and an instrument of a modern foreign policy. Apart from such initiatives, there are two other fundamental tools that Greece could optimise in order to further capitalise on its cultural imprint. More specifically, Greece could make even better use of its tourism as well as its Greek diaspora insofar as it can, in order to expand its cultural influence and enhance its international prestige.
‘Mosaic diplomacy’ serves the subtle art that E. Carr defined as the opinion-forming force. It is clear that ‘mosaic diplomacy’ is a concept of a soft-power oriented foreign policy. As the example of Greece perfectly demonstrates, this concept is very effective for middle to lower class powers that potentially could have, or, already possess, a certain level of soft-power. ‘Mosaic diplomacy’ in short involves good networking on a global scale. This networking and this plasticity in order to operate at peak efficiency entail a certain level or potential of soft-power. In other words, by emphasising a variety of soft-power tools a state can retain a plethora of foreign policy options available and thus avoid being susceptible to coercion by developing a remarkable versatility in international affairs. There are plenty of ad hoc soft-power tools, such as culture, maritime power, tourism, religion, any convergence of national interests, economic cooperation, participation in international fora etc. ‘Mosaic diplomacy’ constitutes an approach which serves the process of making, remaking or upgrading the brand name of a state globally. In a sense, it is a concept with features of a universal marketing strategy that strives through a multidimensional foreign policy to upgrade a country’s soft-power status, by optimizing every available soft-power field. Hard power is prompt, direct, impermanent and costly. Soft-power is slow, penetrative, innocuous and affordable. In the absence of economic might and vast hard-power options, the acquisition of cheaper soft-power ’tiles’ can still contribute to the strengthening of a state’s position.