Natalia Burlinova: If we think of the Card of Compatriot in the beginning of 2022, what would you call the biggest obstacle on the way of implementing the project?
Firstly, the scope and the price of it. The project envisages creating an administrative structure, developing an attractive and convenient application, adding services and bonuses. These things take time and money. The project is future-oriented, and in Russia investors prefer short-term projects.
Secondly, many partners I addressed refused to recognize the necessity of the project. Appallingly few people in Russia realize the significance of the expat communities.
People have got used to the existing structure that functions more or less efficiently and do not feel like engaging in such major projects. Natalia Burlinova: You are right. I often come across this lack of understanding why soft power and public diplomacy are necessary. Meanwhile Eduard Lozansky had researched the Russian diaspora in the USA, the lobbying activities of diasporas in Congress, and the contribution the diasporas make into the bilateral relations. Getting back to the Card of Compatriot, I believe the project will remain on the agenda due to the large number of Russian expats. Please, tell our readers what the Card has to offer and what makes it attractive? Sergey Petrosov:
First of all, it offers the consolidation of the expat community. Here I must admit that the term "consolidation" is beaten to death and has been proclaimed as the goal since the II Congress of Compatriots (2006) but not filled with any practical measures, like creating a distinct structure or developing horizontal and vertical integration. But perhaps the Card will be the long-awaited practical step.
Secondly, participants will enjoy certain bonuses and privileges. Again, I must admit that it is counterproductive to call upon people to participate in an unclear and indistinct initiative, such as this virtual "consolidation", without offering anything in return. But there are things to offer: privileges when traveling to Russia, discounts from Russian companies! It involves the vast spheres of culture, transport, insurance, hotel business, tourism, advertising. The spheres are extremely interested in such clients. Even a pessimistic scenario, when only 1 – 5 % of the target audience will wish to receive the Card (download it as an app), promises 300,000 – 1,5 million people. The scheme is not new, it has been successfully used worldwide, but the Russian know-how is to apply the scheme to the Russian expat communities. Natalia Burlinova: Mutually beneficial cooperation is a sphere more suitable for business than the state, but business nowadays shuns such projects to avoid sanctions. Sergey Petrosov:
The thing is, it cannot be a state project. Like I said, it is about the establishment of an NGO abroad. The state support can be merely political and ideological. For example, the establishment of the NGO should be approved at the next Universal Congress of Compatriots. Also, the state should then cooperate with the NGO in representing Russian compatriots in the Russian governmental agencies, creating dialogue platforms, tackling such crucial issues as citizenship, legal protection, consular services, resettlement programs, Russian schools abroad and so on. The state should also bring the NGO together with the Russian civil society organizations like Creative Diplomacy.
As for business, it is indeed difficult to find investors today (by the way, the state might assist in finding them). But the time will come to reconstruct our relations with the West, and the Russian expat communities might drive the reconstruction activities. I am convinced that responsible and socially oriented business should not be afraid to support our project.