There are significant differences of opinion between the thirty member nations of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) as to the appropriate place of influence within military strategic communications. This paper finds that the sensitivities of some nations regarding influence stem from concerns of being accused of propaganda. While definitions of propaganda are diverse and complex, NATO’s particular definition is unhelpful in distinguishing between propaganda and the legitimate rhetorical influence activities of NATO and its nations. Therefore this paper proposes a new definition of propaganda for NATO, incorporating academic arguments of propaganda as a coproduced strategic process of deception. By creating distance from NATO’s communications activities, this new definition is intended to guide NATO nations beyond the sensitivities and towards a common approach to communications influence operations.

Keywords - military strategic communications, influence, propaganda, NATO, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Smith-Mundt, Psy-Ops, public affairs

About the Author: Elizabeth Fry is the Head of Communications Analysis at NATO’s Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe. All opinions expressed are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of NATO or its member states.