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Deterrence in the 21st Century: Insights from Theory and Practice

February 3rd 2021 - 13:19

Deterrence is an essential building block of NATO's Strategic Concept. It is one of the vital strategic functions of the Dutch defense organization. A credible and robust deterrent capability helps to prevent war, especially when international relations are strongly polarized. But what does effective deterrence look like in the 21st century?

In Deterrence in the 21st Century: Insights from Theory and Practice Air Commodore Professor Dr. Frans Osinga and Dr. Tim Sweijs bring together insights from renowned experts from three continents – not only from Europe and the US, but also from countries such as China, Iran, Israel and Russia. This timely book offers food for thought for deterrence theorists but also provides concrete levers for professionals to help shape deterrence in the 21st century security environment.

The open access volume can be downloaded here. With contributions by Sir Lawrence Freedman, Michael Mazarr, Sten Rynning, Karl Mueller,  Alexey Arbatov, Paul van Hooft, Jörg Noll, Dmitry Adamsky, Dean Cheng, Nori Katagiri, Sander Ruben Aarten, Hassan Ahmadian, Eitan Shamir, Martijn Kitzen, Maarten Rothman, Peter Viggo Jakobsen, Francesco Giumelli, Cees Doorn, Stefan Soesanto, Alex Wilner, Roy Lindelauf, Tom Bijlsma, Samuel Zilincik and Paul Ducheine.

Deterrence in the 21st Century: Insights from Theory and Practice

Current military-strategic, technological, and socio-political developments pose a series of challenges to deterrence – as dangerous as they are diverse. Great powers are modernizing their nuclear arsenals. Long-range missile systems are proliferating rapidly. Offensive cyber capabilities pose a direct threat to the integrity of nuclear C2 structures. Sensor technology and algorithms are undermining old Cold War concepts such as Mutually Assured Destruction. Non-state groups are gaining ever greater clout. And new integrated deterrence concepts from countries like Iran, China and Russia make no distinction between war and peace, military and civil, and defensive and offensive. Globally, scholarly and strategic communities are updating, refining and further developing the analytical portfolio of deterrence concepts that take into account both actor-specific and domain-specific features to address these challenges.

The prevalence of multi-domain coercion across but also beyond traditional dimensions of conflict raises an important question: what does effective deterrence look like in the 21st century? Answering that question requires a re-appraisal of key theoretical concepts and dominant strategies of the deterrence literature in order to assess how they hold up in today’s world.

‘Deterrence in the 21st Century: Insights from Theory and Practice’ is this year’s issue of the Annual Review of Military Studies (NL ARMS) of the Netherlands Defence Academy (NLDA).

The book is now available in open access or as hardcover.

Deterrence 21st Century

Dr. Tim Sweijs is the Director of Research at The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies. He is the initiator, creator and author of numerous studies, methodologies, and tools for horizon scanning, early warning, conflict analysis, national security risk assessment, and strategy and capability development. Tim has lectured at universities and military academies around the world. His main research interest concerns the changing character of contemporary conflict. Tim is a Senior Research Fellow at the Netherlands Defence Academy and an Affiliate at the Center for International Strategy, Technology and Policy in the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs at the Georgia Institute of Technology.