How should we think about the future of war? Is there a new revolution in military affairs? How much can we really learn from contemporary conflicts? Is NATO ready for its next challenges?
On 27 September 2023, HCSS, in partnership with NATO Headquarters Supreme Allied Command Transformation (HQ SACT), held a day-long symposium in The Hague to discuss the topic “rethinking fire and manoeuvre across physical and non-physical aspects of domains”, focused on what the future of warfighting means for the alliance.
The overall purpose of the event was to set the scene for the next Chiefs of Defence Conversation led by SACT in January 2024. The speakers invited were senior academics, researchers, and defence officials from across Europe and North America who shared perspectives across three core theme panels: Warfighting, Technology, and Command.
The problem statement shaping the discussion of this event was: Refining the path for the Alliance to operationalise its approach to multi-domain operations. Each panel centred around how NATO might adapt its way of warfighting for the coming era and considered how NATO can better operate across all five warfighting domains, command and control armed forces, coordinate with non-military actors, and leverage new technologies.
This conference report offers a consolidated review of the discussions held during the seminar. It is divided into five sections:
- The first section, based on the opening discussions, provides an overview of the debates held on the future of warfare, and what contemporary conflict has revealed as weaknesses within NATO’s approach.
- The second, third, and fourth sections detail the respective panel discussions on (1) Warfighting across Shaping, Contesting and Fighting; (2) Technology and the Changing Fight; and (3) The Future of Command in NATO.
- The fifth section concludes the report; it identifies core dilemmas and outlines a set of recommendations for NATO and NATO members.
A core conclusion of this symposium is that NATO will be challenged, in its current approaches and thinking, to engage in the type of high-intensity war seen in Ukraine. However, we should not overlearn from current wars. The character of a war is inherently bound up in its unique political ends, geographies, actors, and ways of warfighting. Better thinking on how to use fire and manoeuvre (in both its physical and non-physical aspects) and on how to build necessary capacities can open a window into turning Europe’s latent military potential into something real.
The event included a keynote address and three op-ed presentations, which can be downloaded here:
- Paper 1 | The Promise and Peril of Emerging Disruptive Technologies for Joint and Combined Multi-Domain Operations, by Dr Nina Kollars
- Paper 2 | The Changing Character of Command, by Dr Jim Storr
- Paper 3 | Multi-Domain Operations: Passing the Torch, by Dr Dwight “Buzz” Philips
Authors: Davis Ellison and Tim Sweijs, with contributions by Tom Connolly.
With special thanks to: Ben Barry, Rob de Wijk, Olivier Schmitt, Dwight “Buzz” Philips, Heather Venable, Antonio Calcara, Nina Kollars, Elie Tennenbaum, Simona Soare, Elena Wicker, Jim Storr, Henrik Breitenbauch, and Paul van Hooft.