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Paschal Donohoe on how nations play the soft power game to win


In a meeting to agree the postwar future of eastern Europe, Winston Churchill suggested to Joseph Stalin that the view of the Vatican be considered. Stalin responded: “How many divisions has the pope?” The Russian leader recognised the difference between the powers of coercion and moral influence, and left little doubt as to which he believed superior.

The different forms of influence available to nations has long been a subject of study by historians and by those who wield such power. Recent thinking on this topic is led by the American political scientist Joseph Nye. He developed the concept of “soft power” and published a signature book on this topic in 2004.

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