Is the government soft on soft power?
The National Security Strategy, published on Monday, placed great emphasis on conflict prevention, intervening less often militarily, and greater intelligence gathering to spot emerging crises earlier.
It all fits with a fashionable approach that is sometimes called "smart" or "soft" power.
Yet how should one interpret these on-trend messages in the light of Wednesday's Comprehensive Spending Review? The Foreign Office faces a 24% cut, the British Council one of 25%, and there will be a 7.3% real fall in the intelligence services' account.
The Foreign Office intends to offload much of the pain on the BBC - by getting the corporation to fund the government's £240m share of the World Service budget from the licence fee.
Once the World Service is taken out of the picture, the cut to the diplomatic service looks more like 10%.
Even so, people at the FCO concede that some diplomatic posts overseas are likely to close as a result of the cuts. Typically, they say, consular offices in some countries may be consolidated. In one or two minor states, the embassy itself will face closure.
So what about the World Service, regarded by many as one of Britain's most powerful "soft power" assets, and hence largely funded up to now by a Foreign Office Grant In Aid to the BBC?
In the past, decisions about increasing the hours of one foreign language broadcast or cutting those of another have been regarded as an important instrument of foreign policy. Ministers have hinted that they still expect call the tune, even though they will no longer be paying the BBC piper.
For the BBC though, trying to maintain these overseas broadcasts (and the BBC Monitoring Service, which will also no longer receive Foreign Office money) in addition to its other services, with a frozen licence fee, will be challenging to say the least.
Cuts are inevitable, and the Foreign Office, I hear, is relieved that it will be pressing the responsibility for wielding the axe on the BBC.
As for forecasting problems through better intelligence collection and analysis, both the agencies (mainly MI6 and GCHQ in this case) and the machinery used to process that information (the Joint Intelligence Committee and Defence Intelligence Staff) are expecting cuts.
The mandarins who deal with these services are sanguine about the reductions, both because they have just had a few years of real growth, and because there will be £600m of new money to be spent on the latest priority - cyber security.
We can expect a good old-fashioned Whitehall knife fight about where this cash will flow.
Although GCHQ can expect a central role, officials caution that the money is expected to be used across the whole of government to increase the security of computer systems.
The MoD announced the formation of its Cyber Operations Group this week, and other agencies, such as MI6, are sure to stake their claim too.
Much of it will no doubt go on equipment, as the government attempts to erect more effective firewalls around its departments, and only a small amount of it on offensive efforts that might help this country's decision makers be better informed.
Some might argue that there is one bright star on the soft power horizon in the increase in funding to the Department for International Development. It is planning to double to around £3.8bn a year the amount it spends in crisis areas or failing states.
Although welcome, the question about how this money might make the world safer or Britain more popular will be very hard to answer. Indeed the department is not meant to pursue British foreign policy objectives by the distribution of aid, and today the prime minister, David Cameron, defended the increase in DfID's funding in terms of a "moral duty" to help the poor rather than advance the UK national interest.
In summary then, the agencies most concerned with wielding soft power emerge unevenly from the events of this week.
It is true they have not been cut as heavily as some departments, but also that it is difficult to reconcile the government's avowed interest in soft power with the cuts to the British Council, withdrawal of its direct support to the World Service, and reduction of its diplomatic presence overseas.