The concept of ‘Soft Power’ will be increasingly important to all European ‘middle powers’, and not least to Britain, in the troubled years to come, as the world deals with the economic damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the increasingly antagonistic relations between the major powers. The western liberal democracies will have to rely more on the attractiveness of their societies to others, rather than what levers of power their governments are directly able to pull. They will have greater abilities to encourage imitation in the behaviour of others – a key soft power indicator – than they will have abilities to pursue their interests by explicitly ‘wielding power’ in some great game of world politics. ‘Hard’ and ‘soft’ power are both part of a spectrum that is intrinsic to any understanding of political power and influence – particularly in global politics. And it is more important than ever that Britain and its partner countries have a good understanding of what soft power is, and is not; from where it can spring; how it can work to a state’s advantage; and how the spectrum from hard to soft power can be most effectively used in ‘smart’ ways.
As part of our research into Britain’s strategic future in the 2020s, and in light of the government’s Integrated Review of Britain’s security, defence and foreign policies in 2021, we invite commentary on all aspects of Britain’s soft power attributes, the challenges of understanding them better, of mobilising them, and contributing to future policy with ideas and recommendations.