Understanding people’s perception on national security risks and increasing resilience through social media in V4 countries in the light of NATO 2030

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The ICDT, in cooperation with Bakamo, sponsored by NATO PDD implemented a project on resilience. Our aim was to investigate what people in V4 countries think on national security. We used an unorthodox methodology: the observation of social media.

Analysis of public social media conversations by regular citizens mentioning national security, revealed the topics and issues driving the conversations on the one hand. On the other hand, the analysis sheds light on the different layers in which national security is being perceived, which point to a wide range of occasionally conflicting meanings of national security.

To elaborate, all of the national security threats discussed in social media are perceived as either on a national, community and personal level. At each level different narratives and emotions are a work in shaping the public perception and response. For example, the COVID-19 pandemic is understood to be a national security risk, because it threatens the personal health and well-being of citizens. In contrast migration is a risk to national security, because it threatens our cultural conventions and traditions, in other words our community. National security issues connected to the national level tend to be geopolitical and involve big powers such as Russia, China or the US.

Based on the findings following key conclusions were drawn:

  • If an international defence organisation, such as NATO, does not visibly contribute to the fight against the challenges that people consider the most important, will see public support vanishing. Lack of broad public support NATO undermines resilience and alliance’s ability for credible deterrence and defence.

  • Resilience factors goes beyond military aspects and is multifaceted and often untraditional. NATO capabilities and infrastructure allow it to deal with issues such as pandemics or natural disasters. Considerable and visible contribution to the solution of those challenges would have a huge impact on the public support.

  • Awareness of NATO’s political role and decision making, which are at this moment not known by the wider public, should be also presented with tangible examples and results;

  • Corruption was seen in the discussions as one of the most important threats to national security. Therefore, NATO should increase its efforts to contribute to the fight against corruption and make it more visible to the public, especially in this period of increasing defence spending.

  • NATO should be presented to the people through the impact of the Alliance on their lives. NATO should differentiate its communication to the public in different countries and align it to the public perception of national interest of the country. Given the considerable differences of security perception and national interests in different member states, the generalisation of NATO’s communication and messages will automatically lead to a situation, when no large public will identify itself with NATO.  

  • In order to provide PDD with basic background information ICDT and Bakamo are ready to continue its research to identify the perception of national interests in the V4 countries. An efficient Atlantic Treaty Association could considerably support NATO PDD in its efforts to run tailor-made communication towards the audiences of the individual member states.

On February 16th we convened a zoom conference on the results with the following agenda:

Opening: H.E. Gyarmati István, President of ICDT

Keynote speech: Mr. Nicola de Santis, Head, Engagement Section, NATO PDD

Research report: Mr. Fazekas Dániel , Chief Executice Officer of Bakamo

Report and recommendations: Mr. Zsolt Rabai, Senior Vice President of ICDT

Discussants:

  • H.E. Jiri Schneider – Former First Deputy Minister, Czech Republic

  • Mr. Matej Kandrík- President of STRATPOL, Slovakia

  • Mr. Robert Pszczel, Senior Expert, Former Director of the NATO Information Office in Moscow

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The Project was sponsored by NATO PDD