In today’s increasingly multipolar world, with only one country considered a true superpower, the middle is where most of the nations that influence shifting international agendas exist. This crowded space necessitates particularly innovative public diplomacy if countries are to distinguish themselves, and garner international attention for their niche causes. In short, it is a contested space where the players themselves struggle to determine what roles they want to take on.
In addition to dealing with the inherent problems of crafting public diplomacy strategies that prove complementary to domestic and foreign policy priorities, many of these countries must also confront a scarcity of resources related to their size, and must operate within their respective geopolitical realities. Many middle power countries must perform a balancing act, carving out a space in which they are indispensable to the international community and in command of the attention they crave, while continuing their development at home. They have fewer opportunities in the international spotlight, therefore it is all the more imperative that their messaging, and branding, is strategic and memorable. It must convey their capabilities and aspirations; replacing outdated stereotypes with realistic contemporary narratives. The fact that middle powers often engage in multilateral coalition building and exercise good global citizenship speaks to the rising importance of norms-building in the 21st century, as well as the spirit of collaboration implicit in the concept of “new public diplomacy.”
In Navigating the Middle, our contributors offer a framework for defining and analyzing the behavior and characteristics of middle power nations. Eytan Gilboa asserts that the foreign policy priorities of middle powers are distinct from those of small and great powers, and that public diplomacy provides them with the most effective tools to accomplish their goals. Andrew Cooper argues that ‘middle power’ status is fluid, with shifting global power structures allowing countries to move around the middle, either increasing or losing soft power in the process. In his book “Branding Canada”, which we excerpt here, Evan Potter offers recommendations for reconstructing Canadian public diplomacy that could also prove useful for many other countries.