NATO has a public diplomacy department staffed with smart and dedicated people, but it became apparent at a conference on “The Power of Soft Power,” held recently in Brussels, that this contingent is increasingly lonely.

BRUSSELS --- Since its founding in 1949, NATO has been a bastion of hard power, first as an alliance arrayed against the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies, and more recently as a manifestation of Western muscle in conflicts such as Kosovo in 1999 and Libya in 2011. Coming off its decisive performance in helping to end the rule of Muammar Qaddafi, NATO seems to be happily basking in macho glory.

For those wanting to use soft power in foreign policy, social media offer intriguing ways to deliver messages to publics that may have been inaccessible in the past. International organizations such as NATO continue to assess ways that they can enhance their missions by relying at least in part on soft power...

In this context, 2012 will probably be a very important year for the U.S. and Turkey, because they have both been selected by NATO’s Public Diplomacy Division to implementing all of the organization’s capability for public policy.

Through increased military and civilian cultural exchanges possible through the creation of “NATO Academies,” as well as by augmenting NATO’s existing web presence with value-centric initiatives and collaborative efforts in cyber-security awareness, unity among Member states can be fortified.

Putin perceives Russia as being the target of constant and mostly unfriendly pressure – from military challenges such as NATO enlargement to the imposition of social changes through media campaigns and other “soft power” elements...Success is only possible if based on use of power and this must be real 'hard' power.

Today’s NATO suffers from a public diplomacy overload rather than an image problem. Far from being a panacea to its democratic deficit, the dominant influence of public diplomacy strategies and their advocates on Allied decision-making is arguably part of the problem.

February 15, 2012

"First of all, Turkish public opinion perceived NATO as a Western and Christian organisation set up to support anti-Islam feelings," explains Colakoglu, adding that the rise of anti-Islam discourse in the West has fanned negative perceptions.