Effective communications are today recognised as central not simply to achieving foreign policy or diplomatic success, but to realising any and all strategic aims. Consequently, strategic communications professionals play a critical role in a wide range of government agencies. In the light of an ever-transforming global media ecology, and the proliferation of state and non-state political actors who are able effectively to intervene in this fluid communications space, this observation has rising salience for international relations as a whole. Faced with rising geopolitical tensions, and public anxiety associated with terrorism, strategic communications has been viewed as an essential component of an effective response to campaigns by hostile state and non-state actors seeking to shape public opinion and attitudes in pursuit of their own strategic objectives. This article asks whether NATO members have given sufficient thought to the ethical puzzles raised by the changing landscape of strategic communications for international relations practitioners, and seeks to shed light on the practical ethical challenges faced by all strategic communicators in international relations today. We argue that effective strategic communication is an action that necessarily takes place within, and draws its efficacy from, ethical architectures that are settled constitutive features of international practices. 

Keywords: ethics, truth, international relations, practice, lies, strategic communications 

About the authors 

Mervyn Frost is Professor of International Relations in the Department of War Studies, King’s College London and Senior Research Associate in the Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Johannesburg. His research focuses on ethics in international relations. 


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