08TBILISI682, SOFT POWER RULES: A CASE STUDY FROM TBILISI IN COUNTERING

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08TBILISI682 2008-04-22 12:25 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO4502
OO RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHBW RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA
RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHSI #0682/01 1131225
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 221225Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9320
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 000682 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
FOR EUR/CARC, EUR/PPD 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KPAO GG
SUBJECT:  SOFT POWER RULES:  A CASE STUDY FROM TBILISI IN COUNTERING 
ANTI-AMERICANISM 
 
1.  SUMMARY:  Polls on U.S. policies, society, and values show 
support in the high 90%s in Georgia.  But after Opposition 
politicians opportunistically introduced anti-American elements into 
public discourse this past winter, AmEmbassy Tbilisi re-calibrated 
its public diplomacy approach, including with the media, to 
emphasize our neutrality as regards internal Georgian politics as 
well as all that we do for the people of Georgia.  END SUMMARY. 
 
The Context for "Anti-Americanism" 
--------------------------------- 
 
2.  The International Republican Institute's (IRI) semi-annual 
opinion poll of Georgian citizens and all other polling data show an 
extremely high level of support for U.S. policies, society, and 
values.  In IRI's February 2008 survey, 94% of those polled 
evaluated Georgia's relations with the United States as good, and 
49% of those polled evaluated the U.S. as Georgia's most important 
partner.  These numbers have held relatively steady for several 
years.  All political parties and leaders consistently look to the 
U.S. as a model and regularly identify their platforms with U.S. 
values and policies. 
 
3.  However, on a few occasions during the extended political crises 
of this past winter and spring, Opposition figures used a perceived 
U.S. Government bias in favor of President Saakashvili and his 
National Movement Party to rally their supporters.  Even when 
opposition figures tell us privately they want our continued 
support, they may attack us publicly.  Opposition leader Kobe 
Davitashvili, head of the People's Party, organized two 
poorly-attended anti-U.S. demonstrations outside the Embassy, and on 
January 13, at an opposition demonstration in downtown Tbilisi, 
protesters held up placards claiming voter fraud in the presidential 
elections. 
 
Our Response - What We Have Done for Georgia Lately 
--------------------------------------------- ------ 
 
4.  To counter this, the Embassy adopted a new dual approach:  hard 
policy statements on NATO, the conflict zones, and other issues 
would be made jointly by Ambassador Tefft together with other 
western diplomats in Georgia or by senior State Department and 
European Bureau representatives from outside Georgia, while 
statements and public diplomacy opportunities from inside Georgia 
would focus on what the U.S. Mission is doing for the people of 
Georgia, emphasizing the broad range of U.S. support. 
 
5.  On March 8, from Zurich, Assistant Secretary Fried conducted a 
telephone interview with Rustavi 2 Television after the Russian 
government moved to unilaterally lift sanctions on Abkhazia.  On 
March 20, AS Fried conducted a televised bridge interview with 
Rustavi 2 television from the DOS Brussels media hub.  In the lead 
up to the April 2-4 Bucharest NATO Summit, the Embassy posted 
statements by Ambassador Khalilzad, AS Fried, and Senator Biden on 
the USG's support for MAP status for Georgia on the Embassy 
website. 
 
6.  Meanwhile, inside Georgia, our public diplomacy and media 
strategies shifted to emphasizing all that we have done for the 
people of Georgia.  Ambassador Tefft gave an interview on February 
14 to Radio Liberty focused on providing the broadest possible 
picture of U.S. government support to the people of Georgia.  He 
cited USAID, the work of the Peace Corps, the Millennium Challenge 
Corporation, and the Ambassador's Fund for Cultural Preservation as 
examples.  On February 29, the Ambassador showcased USG support for 
Georgian wine-producers under USAID's Ag-vantage program after three 
Georgian wine producers signed contracts to sell their products in 
the U.S.  On March 6, the Ambassador helped open the newly-restored 
Police Academy, and Georgian media highlighted the Embassy's role in 
the renovation and in introducing English language training for 
police at the Academy.  On March 13, the Ambassador presented a 
local NGO activist with the Embassy's Woman of Courage award. All 
events received broad media coverage.  After the Radio Liberty 
interview, listeners phoned the station to express their gratitude 
for everything the U.S. Government has done for Georgia. 
 
Cultural Diplomacy in the Conflict Zones - 
Jazz as a Symbol of Freedom and Liberty 
------------------------------------------- 
 
7.  The Embassy also used the March 30 - April 6 visit of Cultural 
Envoys Joel Harrison, the Artistic Director of the American Pianists 
Association (APA), and Dan Tepfer, the APA's 2007 Cole Porter Fellow 
in Jazz, to emphasize people-to-people ties and to bring an American 
cultural experience to the regions and conflict areas of Georgia. 
Throughout western Georgia, Dan and Joel performed and conducted 
master classes including in Sokhumi, the capital of the disputed 
region of Abkhazia.  For the concert in Zugdidi, the local governor 
arranged for a group of 30 ethnic Georgian high school students from 
across the line of control in Gali, southern Abkhazia, to attend the 
conc
ert.  In Tbilisi on April 5, the Ambassador, in partnership with 
 
TBILISI 00000682  002 OF 002 
 
 
the Mayor of Tbilisi and the Minister of Refugees, invited 80 school 
students from the Georgian administered regions of South Ossetia to 
attend a concert in the Embassy Atrium followed by lunch at 
McDonald's and a visit to the Tbilisi zoo.  For most of these 
children, it was their first visit to Tbilisi, not to mention their 
first McDonald's happy meal, events widely and positively covered by 
the national media. 
 
DAS Graffy's Visit - Outreach to the Georgian People 
via the Media 
--------------------------------------------- ------ 
 
 
8.  The visit of EUR's DAS for Public Diplomacy, Colleen Graffy, 
April 5 - 11, provided additional opportunities for Embassy Tbilisi 
to emphasize soft power and our contributions to the people of 
Georgia.  Graffy's visit was widely covered by the local and 
national media, and highlighted our American Corners program; our 
support for Georgian NGOs and educational institutions; our 
Democracy Commission small grants programs; independent media; and 
USG exchange program alumni. 
 
9.  In particular, the Embassy used Graffy's visit to show respect 
for recent Georgian history.  On April 9, a local holiday 
commemorating the Georgians killed and wounded by Soviet soldiers in 
a melee following a protest rally in 1989, but also the date that 
symbolizes the beginning of Georgia's freedom and independence from 
Soviet rule, DAS Graffy visited the Church of Ateni Sioni outside of 
Tbilisi.  While at the church, DAS Graffy viewed the restoration 
works conducted with funding from the Department of State's 
Ambassador's Fund for Cultural Preservation and commented to the 
media on the USG's support for Georgia's cultural heritage.  Later 
that same day, Graffy visited the Museum of the Soviet Occupation 
and gave statements to the media on the significance of April 9. 
Media coverage of these visits commemorated the victims of April 9; 
emphasized the U.S.'s role in preserving the national icon of the 
Ateni Sioni church; and also served to remind Georgians of the 
strong U.S. support for Georgian democracy and freedom. 
 
COMMENT: 
-------- 
 
10. Anecdotal evidence indicates that this soft diplomacy approach 
has been effective in Georgia.  While we can't claim full credit for 
this, opposition politicians have reduced anti-American statements 
after seeing it doesn't resonate with the Georgia public.  At the 
same time, members of the Georgian government have made strong 
public statements thanking the U.S. for our support of Georgia, and 
members of the public have echoed these sentiments to us privately. 
And, our contacts uniformly tell us how much they appreciate our 
cultural outreach efforts in the conflict zones. 
 
TEFFT

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