The Center for a New American Security has issued a call for applications for “Wargaming with the Next Generation: A Russia Crisis Simulation.” The virtual workshop will provide students and young professionals with the opportunity to simulate decision-making in a political crisis and military conflict in Europe.
The one-and-a-half-day event will be held on July 21 and 22, 2021. The first half-day will focus on the basics of wargaming and will teach participants how defense and strategy games are used by U.S. and EU stakeholders to enhance decision-making. During the second day, participants will engage in a virtual crisis simulation with defense and national security experts to gain greater insight into the longstanding diplomatic and defense relationships between the United States and Europe, including NATO and EU dynamics.
Applications will be accepted until 11:59 pm EDT on Friday, May 21, 2021. Selected applicants will participate in a virtual workshop on July 21 and 22, 2021.
To be eligible, applicants must be US citizens between 15 and 30 years old.
Additional information and application details can be found at the CNAS website.
The following item has been provided to PAXsims by our roving correspondent, Tim Price.
I was sent a fascinating insight into Russian training methods, shown on the Russian MOD Website, as well as: https://sdelanounas.ru/blogs/127374 The Commentary reads: “A unique multimedia training complex has been created in the Far Eastern VOKU”
In the Far Eastern Higher Combined Arms Command School, a unique training complex for managing units in modern combined arms combat has been created. It is made in the form of a multimedia layout of the area, turning into a three-dimensional image, on which cadets practice situational tasks.
Classes are organized as part of platoons, where each cadet, in the role of commander, makes a decision in the current situation depicted on the display and, giving instructions to subordinates and attached forces in the position of other cadets, manages the battle. Moreover, each cadet is in a mobile isolated simulator, receives commands through a radio station and independently acts as a specific official of a motorized rifle company.
The complex allows future commanders in the class to work out all the main types of tactical actions using unmanned aircraft, the latest reconnaissance, communications, artillery and other forces, and the means used in modern combat.
The creation of the complex and situational tasks was carried out by the best teachers in the framework of rationalization work. It embodied the analysis of modern military conflicts and some issues of the development of military tactics of the future.”
Translation courtesy of Google Translate. Additional photographs and details are contained here. The rather odd looking red curved shapes in the foreground of the terrain map are cut-outs of the Russian map symbols for a tank platoon deployed in the advance. There is a rough guide to Soviet map marking from The Nugget:
In the comments section several commentators said “All that is new, is that which is old, forgotten”
Despite its global advantages, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)’s current deterrent posture in the Baltic states is militarily weak and generally questionable. A Russian invasion there would almost surely capture some or all of those states’ capital cities within a few days, presenting NATO with a fait accompli. The United States is currently considering tailored deterrence strategies, including options to use nuclear weapons to deter Russian aggression in the Baltic states. This report examines what role nonstrategic nuclear weapons could play in deterring such an invasion. As part of that analysis, the authors review relevant deterrence theory and current NATO and Russian nuclear and conventional force postures in Europe. They draw on wargame exercises and qualitative modeling to characterize the potential outcomes if NATO, Russia, or both employ nonstrategic nuclear weapons during a war in the Baltic states. The authors then discuss implications for using such weapons to deter a Russian invasion. The insights derived from the research highlight the reality that, even if NATO makes significant efforts to modernize its nonstrategic nuclear weapons, it would have much stronger military incentives to end a future war than Russia would. That is, Russia would still enjoy escalation dominance.
I would like to thank Dani Fenning of NATO Headquarters Supreme Allied Commander Transformation for making the BEAR RISING briefing materials available to PAXsims readers.
The full description of the scenarios, together with briefing materials and a map, can be found here. The map alone can be found here.
The briefing pack does not include counters or initial set-up—if running a session, use your best judgment as to what needs to be included. Remember that in a matrix game an asset need not be displayed on a map to be used—it need only exist.
BEAR RISING is a matrix wargame that examines the political and strategic military pre-crisis actions within the Baltic region amid a failing Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty. Earlier this year NATO Allied Command Operations used BEAR RISING to challenge NATO deterrence planning, strategic thinking and decision making. Opposing player teams were invited from several external organisations who were subject matter experts in the nations they played, including some more experienced wargamers from US Center for Army Analysis and US Army War College. The game was played over a three day period, with player teams of 2 to 3 in size, beginning a new vignette each day. Overall, the game met its objectives to challenge NATO’s decision making with deterrence plans and activities, however, one of the unexpected outcomes of the game was the development of a unique narrative through the employment of a white cell “Press Officer” role. During the game the “Press Officer” supported the development of the narrative by injecting likely media (including social media) and news headlines in direct response to actions made throughout the game. The vignettes explored three different situations in which NATO nations and Russia faced escalating tension:
A Darker Shade of Gray: Ethnic Russian protests in Latvia turn violent because of recent changes to laws regarding language instruction in schools; Russian minority groups in Estonia begin to stage sympathy protests with a widespread social media campaign. Through hybrid tactics Russia seeks to exploit the situation in Latvia to win the narrative and gain popular support.
The Islanders: Tensions rise as a NATO vessel returning from a large exercise crashes into a Russian trawler, an unfortunate series of events result in a Russian threat to a NATO partner nation’s territorial integrity in a geo-strategic location.
A Bridge Too Far: Social unrest rises as pro-democracy Russian protests against a ‘rigged’ regional election spread across Kaliningrad. Russia demands that Lithuania allows a large-scale deployment of Russian National Guard units via rail. Tensions begin to rise as military postures heighten in the region.
Back in May, the Centre for Science and Security Studies at King’s College London published a Crisis in South East Europe 2023 scenario for use in wargames, table-top exercises and classroom simulations (link).
The scenario was designed to provide a means through which to think through the potential impact of disruptive technologies, such as missile defence, on any future integrated conflict involving NATO and Russia and, by direct implication, on strategic stability in Europe and the evolution of the wider international security environment. Importantly, the scenario also provides the basis for a more general consideration of how crises and integrated, all-domain conflict between NATO and Russia could potentially evolve in southeast Europe.
The southeast Europe scenario was the second of two scenarios developed by Ivanka Barzashka for a project examining how missile defences may affect nuclear deterrence and stability in the evolving strategic environment. Project adviser Ivan Oelrich and King’s doctoral researchers Johan Elg and Marion Messmer contributed to the scenario’s intelligence reports. The project was funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York under its initiative to explore disruptive technologies and nuclear stability.
The scenarios key assumptions are:
By 2023, the United States, Russia and NATO have all acknowledged a new era of strategic competition involving major powers.
Global economic growth has enabled increases in defence spending and military modernisation.
Six years of “America first” have produced intended results in the form of improved military readiness and morale, and new military capabilities for both the US and its allies.
Russia has pursued a course consistent with its current security strategy and military doctrine and has met its stated armaments targets.
NATO has continued to adapt and strengthen deterrence and defence against Russia beyond the 2016 Warsaw Summit decisions.
Ukraine has continued on a pro-Western path and has modernised its military, resulting in a renewed ambition to regain control of “occupied territories”.
Turkey has had an ambivalent relationship with the West: support for NATO, opposition toward specific NATO member policies and closer cooperation with Russia.
New advanced conventional capabilities, cyber offence and counter-space weapons have been fielded by all sides.
The US, NATO and Russia have made no major changes to nuclear capabilities beyond current plans, but the INF Treaty and New START are no longer in play.
The US and NATO seek protection against Russian cruise and ballistic missile threats to Europe and make progress in deploying those capabilities.
Including in the package are briefing and background materials for the United States, NATO, and Russian teams. The scenario package does not provide rules or procedures for running the scenario—that is up to you.
This isn’t the first time Russia has done this—as we previously reported at PAXsims, back in May 2016 the Russian Embassy in London used screenshots from the game Command & Conquer: Generals to illustrate false allegations of chemical weapons shipments to the Syrian opposition. (The “image used for illustration purposes” disclaimer on the tweet wasn’t added until AFTER the internet had caught them out.)
The actual story of ISIS forces withdrawing from Raqqa has been covered very well indeed by the BBC. As for Russian chemical weapons allegations? Well, the recently leaked report of the OPCW-UN’s Joint Investigative Mechanism found that Syria was almost certainly responsible for the April 2017 use of sarin nerve gas at Khan Shaykhun. A similar conclusion has also been reached by the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria.
The ever-prolific Tom Mouat has completed the design of another matrix game, this time devoted to strategic jockeying by Russia, NATO, and others in the Black Sea and eastern Mediterranean:
President Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin has sought to reverse the post-Cold War era transformations during which Russia lost its satellites, withdrew militarily from Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), forfeited its regional predominance, and curtailed its international power projection. Moscow’s primary strategic objective under the Putin presidency is to create a Eurasian bloc of states under predominant Russian influence that will necessitate containing, undermining and reversing NATO influence throughout eastern Europe. Even where it cannot pressure or entice its neighbours to integrate in the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), the Kremlin attempts to neutralize nearby capitals by preventing them from moving into Western institutions, particularly NATO and the European Union (EU).
In this strategic context, Russia’s supremacy in the Black Sea becomes critical for restoring its east European and Eurasian dominion, as well as projecting power toward the Mediterranean and Middle East. Its offensives in and around the Black Sea are part of a larger anti-NATO strategy in which naval forces play a significant and growing role. Russia is using the Black Sea as a more advantageous method of revisionism than extensive land conquests. Control of ports and sea lanes delivers several benefits: it prevents NATO from projecting sufficient security for its Black Sea members; deters the intervention of littoral states on behalf of vulnerable neighbours; threatens to choke the trade and energy routes of states not in compliance with Russia’s national ambitions; and gives Moscow an enhanced ability to exploit fossil fuels in maritime locations.
All of this assumes particular significance, of course, against the backdrop of Russian deployment of its (rather dilapitated) aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsovto support combat operations in Syria, reports that NATO is again playing hide-and-seek with Russian attack submarines in the Med (and vice-versa), continued conflict in the Ukraine, political uncertainty in Turkey, the regional migrant crisis, and the growing value of eastern Mediterranean oil and gas deposits.
The actors represented in the game include the US, Turkey, Russia, Ukraine, Cyprus, and the UK, and turns represent around 2-4 weeks. Rules, counters, and maps are included, and can be downloaded from here (pdf).
The games’ findings are unambiguous: As currently postured, NATO cannot successfully defend the territory of its most exposed members. Across multiple games using a wide range of expert participants in and out of uniform playing both sides, the longest it has taken Russian forces to reach the outskirts of the Estonian and/or Latvian capitals of Tallinn and Riga, respectively, is 60 hours. Such a rapid defeat would leave NATO with a limited number of options, all bad: a bloody counteroffensive, fraught with escalatory risk, to liberate the Baltics; to escalate itself, as it threatened to do to avert defeat during the Cold War; or to concede at least temporary defeat, with uncertain but predictably disastrous consequences for the Alliance and, not incidentally, the people of the Baltics.
Fortunately, avoiding such a swift and catastrophic failure does not appear to require a Herculean effort. Further gaming indicates that a force of about seven brigades, including three heavy armored brigades—adequately supported by airpower, land-based fires, and other enablers on the ground and ready to fight at the onset of hostilities—could suffice to prevent the rapid overrun of the Baltic states. While not sufficient to mount a sustained defense of the region or to achieve NATO’s ultimate end state of restoring its members’ territorial integrity, such a posture would fundamentally change the strategic picture as seen from Moscow. Instead of being able to confront NATO with a stunning coup de main that cornered it as described above, an attack on the Baltics would instead trigger a prolonged and serious war between Russia and a materially far wealthier and more powerful coalition, a war Moscow must fear it would be likely to lose.
Crafting this deterrent posture would not be inexpensive in absolute terms, with annual costs perhaps running on the order of $2.7 billion. That is not a small number, but seen in the context of an Alliance with an aggregate gross domestic product in excess of $35 trillion and combined yearly defense spending of more than $1 trillion, it hardly appears unaffordable, especially in comparison with the potential costs of failing to defend NATO’s most exposed and vulnerable allies—that is, of potentially inviting a devastating war, rather than deterring it.
The games indicated that lighter and foot-mobile forces could not be expected to substantially slow Russian heavy armour—and that NATO, as currently deployed, has no heavy armour positioned in the Baltics or able to reach them quickly. NATO airmobile forces can mount a stiff defence in major urban areas, but likely at the cost of high collateral damage. While NATO airpower could inflict substantial damage on Russian forces, it would not be able to do enough damage to slow their advance, not would it be able to establish sufficient air superiority prevent the Russian air force from mounting substantial localized air operations against NATO reinforcements (especially given weaknesses in the organic air defence of US formations).
The game itself was conducted as follows:
The general game design was similar to that of traditional board wargames, with a hex grid governing movement superimposed on a map. Tactical Pilotage Charts (1:500,000 scale) were used, overlaid with 10-km hexes, as seen in Figure A.1 [below]. Land forces were represented at the battalion level and air units as squadrons; movement and combat were governed and adjudicated using rules and combat-result tables that incorporated both traditional gaming principles (e.g., Lanchester exchange rates) and the results of offline modeling. We also developed offline spreadsheet models to handle both inter- and intratheater mobility. All these were subject to continual refinement as we repeatedly played the game, although the basic structure and content of the platform proved sound.
Orders of battle and tables of organization and equipment were developed using unclassiffed sources. Ground unit combat strengths were based on a systematic scoring of individual weapons, from tanks and artillery down to light machine guns, which were then aggregated according to the tables of organization and equipment for the various classes of NATO and Russian units. Overall unit scores were adjusted to account for dfferences in training, sustainment, and other factors not otherwise captured. Air unit combat strengths were derived from the results of offline engagement, mission, and campaign-level modeling.
They also note that “full documentation of the gaming platform will be forth- coming in a subsequent report.” We’ll look forward to reading more.