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NATO – public policy and image support orientation in a post Cold war era.

by on May 16, 2014



 In the end of 20th century, global politics saw events, which have changed the whole balance of powers. Democratic revolutions and reforms in Eastern and Central Europe, the collapse of the Soviet Union signaled the end of the bipolar world, the system that was determining during the Cold War era. With the end of the Cold War, Russia lost all its Soviet bloc allies, which not long before that, were in the Warsaw Pact agreement. At the same time, NATO kept and strengthened its military and political capability. However, as the Cold War was over after 1991, the major reason for NATO’s existence was now gone, Communist opponents now turned pro-democratic, which meant that in order to keep the alliance up and running, it became clear that it had to transform and evolve to find its new functions in a post-bipolar world. 


 “In [today’s] environment, no organization can afford to be bad at communicating…. public institutions exist only by public consent and you need to take with you the hearts and minds of the people who consent to your existence.”[1] The modern world is a world of high technology based on highly development communication and information systems and therefore it is crucial for NATO to have an effective public diplomacy program in order to be able to influence foreign publics and agendas. For this purpose NATO created its own Public Diplomacy Division in 2004. Another key necessity was the fact that the alliance consists of liberal democratic states, where a national public opinion is a key determinant of any internal or foreign policy, especially the ones implying interventions with following casualties and military spending. Taking into account NATO’s strategic theories, all member states of the alliance have to be prepared for any crisis and its management, which makes it crucial for NATO as a whole and each individual member state to convince their populations of those operations’ necessities.



 There were, however, some harmful for NATO’s reputation events, one of which occurred during the bombing of Belgrade in 1999. The operation itself was not sanctioned by the UN, which already made it look less of a legitimate, but also one of the bombs hit the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, causing several reporters’ deaths. Until today it is believed that it was NATO’s payback for China’s official position against NATO’s operations in Balkans




 Acknowledging its image problem, NATO started to amend its public diplomacy via the Committee on Public Diplomacy, created in 2004, which acts as an consultative body for the NAC on public relations matters[2], including giving certain guides to the NAC on how to maximise public support for the aims and values of NATO. Consequently, the committee is responsible for NATO’s whole public diplomacy strategy, its amendments and planning, depending on certain factors. The main public diplomacy strategy consists of 6 main principles:

1) Public diplomacy is about listening

2) Public diplomacy must be credible to be effective

3) Public diplomacy is not always about you

4) Public diplomacy must be connected to policy

5) Public diplomacy needs to respond to the challenges of the 2.0 web world

6) Public diplomacy requires proper planning, training and resources[3]


( – public diplomacy division within NATO video)





The whole initiative for the public diplomacy within a New Strategic Concept of NATO is regarded as a success. The Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen stated that it was “the most open and inclusive process ever in the history of the Alliance”[4]. The Public Diplomacy Division managed to organise around 150 activities on the Strategic Concept within member states, which included various conferences, seminars, press-conferences, some contests for university graduates; all done to give young people opportunities to share their views and ideas about NATO’s present and possible future development[5]. Surely, those efforts are extremely important for NATO’s future, especially in a long run, as the main effect of these public diplomacy programmes and image creation will be tangible in years to come.


[1] (accessed 10/05/2014)

[2] (accessed on 10/05/2014)

[3] Stephanie Babst “Public diplomacy” p 4

[4] Stefanie Babst, “NATO‟s New Strategic Concept: Inspired by the Masses?” p 62

[5] Stefanie Babst “NATO‟s New StrategicConcept,” p 63.



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