SAVE THE DATE: High North Deterrence Game in Kiruna

The Swedish Defence University (SEDU) and the U.S. National Defense University (NDU), invite you to save the dates 11-12 September 2023, for a tabletop game in Kiruna, Sweden, designed to enhance cooperation in building greater regional security and stability in the High North.

The event is a part of SEDU Strategic Implications and Innovation Center (SIIC) and NDU Institute for National Strategic Studies (INSS) ongoing joint research project High North Deterrence. This project aims to raise awareness of the evolving strategic situation in Europe and the associated deterrence challenges and opportunities for NATO members.

An important perspective is the regional viewpoint on the new situation and its implications for regional actors and their cooperation. The collaboration of Sweden, Norway and Finland in the North offers unique possibilities and challenges to the security of both the region and beyond.

The game will confront participants with scenarios that incorporate the ongoing war in Ukraine, Russian and Chinese regional behavior, climate change, technical and industrial development, and doctrinal changes within NATO members. The premise of the game is that these factors will fundamentally change the security situation in the High North. The challenge is devising appropriate, regional, national and multilateral responses to the changing strategic situation.

Participants will be presented with scenarios that represent significant deviations from today. These scenarios are the products of an Alternative Futures exercise held in December 2022. Participants will explore how each scenario alters the regional environment from their national perspective. They will then come together and explore areas of convergence and divergence in national threat and opportunity assessments for regional cooperation associated with each scenario.

The game will incorporate the following driving forces in the scenarios:

The war in Ukraine, in its second year, has had a dramatic effect on European security. The war led Sweden and Finland to seek NATO membership and start the process of assimilating their defense policies and valuable military capabilities into the alliance. More broadly, all High North countries are in the midst of substantial rearmament programs, creating a new military reality across the region.

NATO-Russia relations have deteriorated significantly, with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine upending Western assumptions about Moscow’s behavior. Russia considers the High North as a key to future economic development of the federation and no longer as just a strategic base for Russian nuclear capabilities.

Russia is facing severe military, economic and political challenges as it prosecutes the war in Ukraine. The war is hollowing out Russian ground forces and depleting their stocks of advanced and precision weapons. Broad economic and financial sanctions are hurting the Russian economy and its ability to sustain its technology and hydrocarbon sectors. The Putin regime faces domestic unrest associated with falling standards of living, domestic repression, and press-gang conscription.

China, too, is investing heavily in in the Arctic, especially in Greenland and Iceland between 2008-2020. More recently, Beijing has sought deeper connections with Moscow to jointly oppose US influence. That appears to be creating Russian dependence on China, even though their interests in the Arctic do not always overlap.

Global warming is occurring faster in the High North than earlier assessed. The region is being reshaped by climate change, melting permafrost, and rapidly advancing technologies among other factors. The game will explore the security implications of climate change and solicit ideas to mitigate risk, improve resilience and response, and expand cooperation across the High North.

Technical and industrial development have led to the increased need for resources from the High North, particularly but not exclusively rare earth minerals. Investments in green technology, cyber infrastructure and space facilities have the possibility to reshape the economy of the region.

Finally, the United States is focusing increased attention on the region. In 2022, the U.S. published new strategic policy documents focused on competition with China and Russia across a wide array of regions, domains, and issues. So-called Integrated Deterrence, a concept that harnesses all elements of power for use across regions, domains, and issues, relies on and expects more from allies and partners. The game will explore how Integrated Deterrence could be applied to the High North, both inside and outside of NATO.

Overall, the Kiruna game will explore regional security cooperation and challenges in the High North given the evolving threat environment and Western security priorities. It will add a wider perspective by discussing deterrence not only as a military responsibility, but also as a task for all elements of society. The transnational regional cooperation in the North, well-established over an extended time, offers valuable experiences and insights not only for actors in the region and the nations involved, but also for other nations engaged in the High North.

The game will be held under strict Chatham House rules of non-attribution to encourage frank and open discussion. The event will be at the unclassified level. It follows a similar event in Stockholm with a national focus.

If you are interested in attending, please apply to be considered as a participant by filling in the online application form below. The organizers will review your request and will inform you if you have been selected to participate.

I would like to apply to participate in the Kiruna game on September 11-12, 2023
I would like to apply to participate in the Kiruna game on September 11-12, 2023