Political Gateway

BRUSSELS, July 16 (UPI) — NATO, the European-U.S. alliance, has hired a Coca Cola executive with experience in image-making and foreign policy to update its brand image.

Michael Stopford, a British-born U.S. citizen, worked for the United Nations and the British Foreign Office before joining the Coca Cola Company, The New York Times reported. He is expected to start work next month as NATO’s deputy assistant secretary general for strategic communication services.

While NATO does not do its own polling, internal NATO documents show that surveys have found that the percentage of people in European countries who think NATO is essential to security dropped sharply between 2002 and 2007.

NATO has already started an Internet-based TV service and a media information center in Afghanistan. Hiring Stopford, who has been in charge of protecting the Coca Cola brand for two years, appears to be the next step.

“We are acting on the basis of public support,” said Jean-Francois Bureau, NATO’s assistant secretary general for public diplomacy. “It was true for the Balkans, and it’s more important for fighting terrorism. If people don’t feel that there is a link between what the soldiers are doing and their own security, then legitimacy is at stake.”