Combining Hard and Soft Power to Gain Access: Lessons from NATO’s Success

Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
NATO Strategic Concept Seminar
The emerging great power rivalry is causing grave concern amongst policymakers, who fear China’s growing military and economic expansion at the expense of the US and its allies. By focusing narrowly on material sources of power, however, these worries largely ignore the emerging role of soft power or what E.H. Carr labelled “power over opinion” for influence over partners, which sometimes result in tangible security benefits such as operational access, basing, and overflight rights. To change perceptions of the benefits of cooperation, major powers may leverage the information tool of statecraft to alter the preferences of domestic actors, such as politicians, military officers, or the general public. In order to better understand the logics by which major powers gain access, this paper explores a case of NATO’s successful use of soft power for material benefit: the attainment of overflight privileges in Eastern Europe for the air campaign against Serbia in 1999. By understanding NATO’s success, the alliance can better leverage the effective combination of economic and soft power to compete in today’s challenging international system.
International Relations
Kyle J. Wolfley, "Combining Hard and Soft Power to Gain Access: Lessons from NATO’s Success," NATO Strategic Concept Seminar, West Point, NY, February 3, 2022.