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Evolving Geo-strategic Dynamics (Spotlight Brief 7/21)

The content in this article is an extract of Spotlight Brief 7/21.

A star filled sky with water and shoreline with small explosions on the landscape across the lower length of the image and a missile trail arcing from left up and down across the sky with the cover of Spotlight Brief 7/21 in the foreground lower right corner

The Missile Defense ‘Arms Race’ Myth

Strategic Studies Quarterly — Spring 21

There has been a drastic increase in ballistic missile arsenals within the Indo-Pacific Region in the last decade. A natural response to this threat would be for Australia to invest heavily in missile defence systems. Some have argued that this will only lead to an arms race: spending money, time, and energy on missile defence will simply prompt potential adversaries to escalate the threat. Matthew Costlow deploys historical and contemporary evidence to scrutinise this logic. Drawing from the dynamic between the United States and Russia, and the United States and China, Costlow suggests there is little empirical evidence to support the prototypical action-reaction narrative. Whilst perhaps counter-intuitive, his argument supports the idea that we should eschew simplistic arms race rhetoric and ‘focus instead on the unique cultural, historical, and bureaucratic factors the influence threat perceptions, technological innovation, and weapons procurement.’


Australia to Develop New Air Defence Capability,’ Shephard, 21 Sep 21

Aus-US Military Partnership to Enhance Long-Range Precision Fire Capabilities,’ The Mandarin, 25 Aug 21

Do Not Forget U.S. Missile Defense Gaps in This Year’s NDAA’, Real Clear Defense, 31 Aug 21

Why is South Korea developing an Israeli-style Iron Dome?’, Al Jazeera, 16 Jul 21

Missile Defense Strategy, Policies, and Programs in Review of the Defense Authorization Request’, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 09 Jun 21

Competing With Russia Militarily

RAND Corporation — Jun 21

Perceptions of Russia as a threat have risen sharply in recent years, bolstered by its acts of military aggression, political interference and efforts to expand its global influence. This report assesses how a military confrontation between NATO and Russia may transpire. It begins by noting NATO does not currently present a credible conventional deterrent to prevent Russia from attacking its Baltic neighbours (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania). It asserts Russia could quickly overwhelm these countries, reaching the outskirts of their capitals within 60 hours. The report explains that Russia possesses several key advantages in the early stages of a war. These include geographical proximity and the fact that the three largest non-U.S. contributors to NATO (the UK, France, and Germany), would struggle to field a single armoured brigade each. This raises important questions about the importance mass still holds. Russia’s electronic warfare, cyber, and counter-space capabilities would also pose a significant threat to NATO countries’ C4ISR capabilities. However, the report concludes that Russia’s current ground force structure and posture do not present an obvious path to defeating NATO in an extended conventional conflict. The possibility of escalation to nuclear war casts a shadow over any NATO/Russian military confrontation, and the report delves into this scenario. The report concludes with a list of five policy implications and suggestions for the United States and its allies.


‘Russia Votes: State Duma Elections 2021,’ Observer Research Foundation, 16 Sep 21

‘Russia Holds the Largest Military Exercise in Europe for 40 Years,’ The Economist, 13 Sep 21

‘Contours of Russia’s Creeping Expansionism in Africa,’ Observer Research Foundation, 26 Aug 21

‘Afghanistan: Russia Faces its Own Risks and Uncertainty,’ The Interpreter, 10 Aug 21

‘Russia and Vietnam: An Alliance of Convenience,’ The Interpreter, 02 Aug 21

More than Half the Battle

Center for a New American Security — May 21

This report argues that the current American approach to war is an attempt to return to the dominance of the 1990s, but this fails to recognise competitors have developed their own theories of warfare that counteract these advantages. It proposes radical reform must occur within the information and command spheres. In attempting to impose order, US military theories are likely to fail. Rather, they should strive to thrive within chaos, achieving ‘degradation dominance’ instead. This is an idea relevant to the ADF as it further develops C2 doctrine.


‘Losing Small Wars: Why US Military Culture Leads to Defeat’, Small Wars Journal, 12 Sep 21

‘Confronting Chaos: A New Concept for Information Advantage’, War on the Rocks, 09 Sep 21

‘Combatant Commands Worry About Service JADC2 Stovepipes’, Breaking Defense, 31 Aug 21

‘Mission Command and Artificial Intelligence: Obstacles to Integration’, Land Power Forum, 01 Jul 21
‘The connected battlespace, part two: The fault in our (joint) stars’, ARS Technica, 09 Feb 21

The views expressed in this article and subsequent comments are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.

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