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Improving NATO’s Public Image and Building Awareness of the MDM Threat

Below is the first in a four part series of conversations covering NATO and building public awareness of Mis-, Dis- & Mal-Information.

NATO and its members are facing a growing threat in the form of disinformation campaigns that can be traced back to authoritarian regimes and their proxies. Much of this “weaponized” information seems aimed at weakening confidence in member governments and in the alliance itself. While Russia poses the most immediate threat, China and others are also engaged in these antidemocratic campaigns. One important step in countering MDM is measuring the public’s awareness of the threat. This is difficult because efforts are increasingly sophisticated, subtle, and coordinated. To counter this threat, NATO and its members must measure and build public awareness of MDM, communicate NATO.

This event kicked off a four-part series to build public awareness of MDM, communicate NATO’s importance (particularly to youth), and pursue forward-looking, evidence-based, and trust-based policymaking. Informed by their professional experiences and backgrounds, this panel will discuss issues MDM issues that affect NATO countries and put forth actionable findings and policy recommendations on how NATO can combat, counter, and explain MDM threats.

This event is funded in part by a grant from the United States Department of State – NATO Mission. The opinions, findings and conclusions stated herein are those of the author[s] and do not necessarily reflect those of the United States Department of State.


Laura Thornton is director and senior fellow at the Alliance for Securing Democracy at the German Marshall Fund. Prior to joining ASD, Thornton was director of global programs at International IDEA, a Stockholm-based intergovernmental think and do tank with the mission to advance democracy. She managed multiple teams across Europe focused on constitution-building, parliamentary process, elections, gender and inclusion, political parties, and democracy assessment and analysis. In this role she managed the Institute’s Global State of Democracy products, including a COVID-19 monitor tracking the impact of pandemic responses on democracy and human rights. Thornton also worked at the National Democratic Institute for more than 20 years, serving in leadership positions across Asia (Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Sri Lanka) and in the country Georgia. She has written extensively about political party development, political finance and corruption, elections, and disinformation and has led multiple election observation missions across the globe. Thornton did her graduate work at Princeton University and Oxford University, and she earned her BA from Northwestern University.

Jamie Fly resumed his leadership of RFE/RL as President and Chief Executive Officer on February 16, 2021, following his reappointment by the RFE/RL Board of Directors. Fly was first named RFE/RL President and Chief Executive Officer on July 10, 2019, effective August 1, 2019. Prior to his appointment, Fly served as a senior fellow, co-director of the Alliance for Security Democracy, and director of the Future of Geopolitics and Asia programs at The German Marshall Fund of the United States. He served as counselor for Foreign and National Security Affairs to Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) from 2013-17, serving as his foreign policy advisor during his presidential campaign. Prior to joining Senator Rubio’s staff in February 2013, he served as the executive director of the Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI) from its founding in early 2009. Prior to joining FPI, Fly served in the Bush administration at the National Security Council (2008-09) and in the Office of the Secretary of Defense (2005-08). His articles and reviews have been published in a wide variety of outlets in the United States and Europe. For his work in the Department of Defense, he was awarded the Office of the Secretary of Defense Medal for Exceptional Public Service. Fly received a B.A. in international studies and political science from American University and an M.A. in German and European studies from Georgetown University.

Harry Nedelcu has 8 years of experience in policy, research and analysis positions at international organisations in Canada and in Europe. Before joining Rasmussen Global, Nedelcu worked for the Policy Planning Unit at NATO, where he provided policy analysis and research support to the Private Office of the Secretary General. Prior to this, he was a lecturer at Carleton University and Concordia University, Montreal, Canada where for four years he taught on subjects related to comparative politics, security and defence. In 2009, he was a visiting researcher at the Swedish National Defence College. His work has been published in the Review of European and Russian Affairs and East European Politics and Societies and has been presented at over a dozen international conferences. In 2010, he published a book on extremist and populist politics. Harry Nedelcu holds a PhD from Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada in international relations and comparative politics. He also holds a Prince2 certification in project management. He speaks English, French, German, Romanian and has a basic knowledge of Russian.


Paul Fagan is the director of the Human Rights and Democracy programs for the McCain Institute for International Leadership at Arizona State University. Previously, he served as the executive director of the Eastern Congo Initiative (ECI), an organization founded by Ben Affleck that seeks to bring the world’s attention to the ongoing situation in that country but also highlight the abundant opportunities for economic and social development. 

Prior to joining ECI, Fagan worked at the International Republican Institute (IRI), an organization that promotes democracy worldwide by developing political parties, civic institutions, democratic governance and the rule of law. He was IRI’s Africa director for nearly four years, overseeing IRI’s programs during South Sudan’s successful and historic transition to independence; led election observation missions to Nigeria and Somaliland; implemented IRI’s first programs in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and ushered in IRI’s return to Mali. He was also chief of party for IRI’s programs in Kenya and Zimbabwe. Earlier while at IRI, he worked on programs in the former Soviet Union and Latin America, serving as the Latin America and Caribbean division deputy director.

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Dec 14, 2021
1:00pm ET