Most states engage with target groups abroad to further their national interest. The PRORUSS project provides new knowledge about how Russia pursues its interests vis-à-vis Norway and other European countries. The project identifies and analyses the complex and broad patterns of interaction between different segments of the Russian power apparatus and the heterogeneous 'catchment area' of audiences and actors abroad that is potentially receptive to Russia?s initiatives.
The project's main hypothesis is based on the composition of the Russian governing apparatus and the need to balance between internal factions, combined with the fact that the target groups abroad are rather uneven. Together, this makes Russia an inconsistent influencer of European politics and policy-making. In the broadest sense, the Russian power apparatus is divided over the question of whether to primarily turn to populists or pragmatists as partners.
The hypothesis is discussed through four empirical case studies that together reflect the above-mentioned configurations and internal rivalries. The two cases on energy and sanctions mainly involve pragmatic considerations whereas the two cases on the Ukraine crisis and moral conservatism primarily relate to populist discourses.
The main focus is on interaction between Russian and Norwegian actors. In addition, Russian interaction with other European countries, in particular Germany and Poland and Germany.
So far, articles have been published in peer-reviewed, open access journals on the following topics: Gender and moral conservatism in Russia and Poland, Support for and understanding of the annexation of Crimea in the Norwegian debate, Søreide Eriksen's Russia policy (January 2023), plus contributions to an article on the Russian population's views on nuclear conflict. An article on the impact of Russian illiberal cultural conservatism in Norway is about to be submitted after positive peer review and an article about energy conflict is about to be submitted for review. There have not yet been any popular science presentations from the project. A survey on the Norwegian population's attitude towards Russia has been sent out. By combining funds from PRORUSS and RE:BARENTS, it has been possible to increase the number of respondents in Northern Norway, so that any regional differences can be analysed. After Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the researchers in the project have been in great demand as commentators. Insights and findings from PRORUSS have been used actively in these comments.
The PRORUSS research project ("Russian policies of influence in the populist-pragmatic nexus") is about the Russian power apparatus' potential impact through its appeal to populists and pragmatists in Norway and other European countries. The project's basis hypothesis is that the inconsistencies in the Russian power apparatus and the heterogeneity of its potential audiences abroad set limits to Russia’s influence. The hypothesis is discussed through four empirical case studies that together reflect the configuration and internal rivalries inside the Russian regime and its audiences alike. The cases are the "pragmatist" issues of energy and sanctions and the "populist" issues of moral conservativism and official Russian rhetorics on Ukraine.
The findings from the four cases will be synthesized in order to grasp the breadth and inter-linkages of the issues that makes Russia potentially attractive to a variety of audiences abroad, the inherent contradiction of these offers as well as the vulnerability of Russia's appeal given the large variation in its potential audiences abroad. Doing this, the project will draw on and contribute to the scholarly literture on International Relations, soft power, populism and Russian Studies.
The societal impact will consist in enhancing the analytical capacities of four different target groups mainly in Norway but also in other European countries having relations with Russian actors: 1) authorities, 2) the business community, 3) civil society, and 4) the general public.