Thursday 30 May 2024

The Meteoric Rise of Professional Wargaming in NATO


This article is not making a geopolitical statement, it is merely explaining the key driver in the massive expansion of professional wargaming.

The time, effort and money injected into professional wargaming in NATO has increased dramatically in the past five years. The reason is market forces. In defense terms, market forces means war is coming.

A crude summary is that China wants a greater China, which includes areas currently with their own government. A major rival is Japan. Japan’s defense spending is rising and by 2030, it will be the third largest in the world. Shortly after that Japan, own its own, would be able to fight China to a standstill. Anyone who has watched Shogan should grasp that Japan has a warrior culture and when mobilized, the whole national will would be engaged in supporting the war effort.

India is also out growing China. The British Empire valued the contribution of the Indian soldier and no-one who has taught Indian students would doubt they would fight if their country was threatened. So, if China wants to do a regional land grab, it has a limited window of opportunity before its. neighbors reach their full military readiness.

Russia is continually testing Western resolve, on the sea, under the sea, in the air and wants to reclaim the Russian empire. Putin is routinely threatening the West with war and destruction as he seeks to define his legacy. Now Western leaders have broken the cultural norm and have openly threatened Russia (and China) back.  

The impact of Russian/ Chinese rhetoric and policy statements has been to persuade those who really matter in the West, that war is coming. Of course, future history is decided by leaders. Russia and China might decide to become liberal democracies, or at last join the world order again. Western leaders might decide it is not worth fighting over the wilderness of Finland or obscure Baltic Republics. Perhaps some negotiated adjustment of borders might be sufficient to avert war. Wargames are not about predicting geopolitical futures; they are largely focussed on war fighting when diplomacy fails.

In the meantime, there is a surge in the frequency and importance of the wargames behind closed doors. It is no secret that the games are nearly all about fighting Russia and China. War is coming. Professional wargaming is now a career option for school leavers.