War in the Balkans: Media War - Campbell helps put the spin into Nato

SIX BRITISH officials have been seconded to Brussels to staff a new unit designed to manage Nato's faltering media operation along the lines of successful election campaigns in Britain and America.

The move was seen as evidence of fears within Nato that it is losing the propaganda war. "It shows they have anxieties about the way that the propaganda war is going," said one critic of the bombing.

There have been a series of propaganda blows to Nato, including the mistaken attack on the refugee convoy in Kosovo, splits in Nato over the bombing of broadcasting stations in Serbia, dissent over the oil embargo, and above all, lack of coherence about Nato's policy on ground troops.

The group, operating from two meeting rooms inside Nato's headquarters in Brussels, is designed to relieve the pressure on Jamie Shea, the alliance's over-worked press spokesman, and modernise his communications operation.

Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair's press secretary, will spend most of this week in Brussels, and at Shape (Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers in Europe, the alliance's military headquarters in Mons, 50km south of the Belgian capital.

Mr Campbell was partly responsible for raising the expectations that Nato would endorse the use of ground troops, but the subject was carefully kept off the agenda at the Nato summit by the Americans. The Prime Minister also went to Washington with headlines suggesting that he was giving a lead to Nato, but having set the tone, he avoided holding any press conferences at the summit, leaving it to Robin Cook, the Foreign Secretary, and George Robertson, Secretary of State for Defence, to answer questions about Britain's role.

There is no doubt, however, that Mr Campbell is leading the behind-the- scenes co-ordination of a tougher, more aggressive media strategy against Serbian propaganda from the Nato headquarters. He is deeply respected by Bill Clinton, who once joked that he wanted him on his White House staff, and was responsible after the bombing of the refugee convoy for co-ordinating Nato leaders in blaming the Yugoslav President, Slobodan Milosevic, for all killings in Kosovo, deflecting the blame from Nato.

Mr Campbell was the first to signal that last week's offer by Mr Milosovic was unacceptable, when Mr Clinton was still saying it was a "step forward", and he has been the most robust in defending the bombing of the broadcasting stations as "legitimate military targets", playing down the anxieties of the Italians.

His task is to set up a unit which will provide all the functions now expected by political parties when they fight campaigns: a daily newspaper cuttings service and wider media monitoring, preparation of "lines to take" for press officers, creation of "story lines" for daily briefings, quick rebuttal of news from Belgrade, and stronger liaison between Nato, Shape and the alliance's major national capitals.

Mr Campbell, who spent yesterday in Brussels in meetings with the new staff, now has six Foreign Office and Downing Street personnel in place, including one aide from the Number 10 press office. However he is said to be treading carefully, aware of the danger of being seen to dictate to Mr Shea.

Washington, meanwhile, has seconded three staff, including Jonathan Prince, a White House speech-writer, and both Bonn and Paris are expected to augment the team, although their staff had not arrived yesterday.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Service Engineers - Doncaster / Hull

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...

Recruitment Genius: Employability / Recruitment Adviser

£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...