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 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.
h/t Ivanka Barzashka
UPDATE: Need a map so you can run this as a matrix game, using the Matrix Game Construction Kit? Tom Mouat has kindly provided one for the Ukraine (pdf):
A tiled version can be found here.
Well, the Russian government is at it again—that is, using modified images from video games as part of their propaganda efforts. In this case, they released images of supposed US-ISIS collaboration:
Except, one of these was actually a modified screenshot from the mobile phone game AC-130 Gunship Simulator:
The other pictures were fakes too, drawn from videos of other incidents. The excellent open source intelligence website Bellingcat has the full story.
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 Kuznetsov to 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).