Countering propaganda: NATO spearheads use of behavioural change science

The Canadian Ambassador to Latvia, Mr. Alain Hausser, and the Latvian State Secretary for Defence, Mr. Janis Sarts, jointly opened a revolutionary NATO training programme in Riga on 8th May, teaching advanced counter-propaganda techniques designed to help member states assess and counter Russia’s propaganda in Eastern Europe.

Twenty intelligence analysts, psychologists, and military and defence personnel from across NATO countries will be trained in what is known as Target Audience Analysis, a scientific application developed by the UK based Behavioural Dynamics Institute, that involves a comprehensive study of audience groups and forms the basis for interventions aimed at reinforcing or changing attitudes and behaviour. Significantly, the methodology increases the resilience of susceptible audiences and enables them to withstand foreign propaganda effects.

The programme is funded by the Government of Canada through a contribution to the NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence announced by Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the NATO Wales Summit on September 4, 2014.  “The Canadian support being provided for NATO initiatives today will help Ukrainians better defend themselves against the Russian threat and strengthen the ability of NATO Centres of Excellence in the region to better address regional security challenges related to energy, communications and cyber defence,”[1] said Harper when announcing the contribution.

“Canada recognises the threat posed by this new type of warfare from Russia,” said Ambassador Hausser. “Canada is delighted to fund this unique and world-class training course which will act as a real counter to the insidious Russian propaganda.” 

State Secretary Sarts said, “The Government of Latvia greatly values this training which will help us better understand the problem.”

The programme will be delivered by the UK-based Strategic Communication Laboratories (SCL Defence), which has worked for the UK Ministry of Defence and the United States’ Department of Defense for a number of years and is the world’s only company licensed to deliver the Behavioural Dynamics process, and a team of Information Warfare experts drawn from seven nations, called IOTA-Global.

SCL’s team of leading experts in Target Audience Analysis, Military Influence experts from IOTA-Global and leading academics from the Behavioural Dynamics Institute, will run the course over a three-month period at the National Defence Academy of the Republic of Latvia in Riga on behalf of the NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence.  

“The threat of conventional warfare has changed and we have to recognise that information can be a weapon,” said Mark Laity, Chief of Strategic Communications at NATO’s Allied Command Operations in Mons, Belgium.  “Whether used for disinformation, deception or plain fabrication to create false narratives, we have to be aware of and be able to respond to this challenge. This course will improve our ability to operate in the information arena both effectively and in line with our values as free and open societies.”

More Context

Russia continues to disseminate strongly loaded dis-information among Russian-speakers about the supposed threat the EU poses and this course is an acknowledgement by NATO members that new tools are required.

Keir Giles, who has written extensively on Russian information warfare operations for Chatham House in London said, "Many people in the West are now familiar with some of the more outrageous propaganda that comes out of Moscow, and tend to under rate it because it is so obviously implausible.  But the fact is that this is only part of a multi-layered, multi-faceted offensive by Russia.  At the same time there are more subtle and pervasive campaigns at work targeting the populations in the front-line states like Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, and it is essential for NATO that these are effectively countered."

For further information please contact:

Commander (retired) Steve Tatham, PhD, Royal Navy (for SCL Defence and IOTA-Global)

steve [dot] tatham [at] iota-global [dot] com

Telephone +44 (0)203 695 2244


Lieutenant Colonel (retired) Rita Le Page, Canadian Forces (about the COE-sponsored training)

NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence

Telephone: +371 6733 5466


Linda Curika (for event imagery & general information about the Centre of Excellence)

Public Relations Officer

NATO Strategic Communication Centre of Excellence

Telephone +371 6733 5463


About Strategic Communications Laboratories

About IOTA-Global

About Behavioural Dynamics Institute