All posts in Insights from the Wiki

Rethinking U.S. Navy Partnerships

Rethinking U.S. Navy Partnerships

In August last year, Wikistrat ran an online crowdsourced simulation to identify existing and prospective partnerships for the United States Navy, outline the main challenges in achieving success in such partnerships, propose solutions for overcoming those challenges, and red-team the proposed solutions.

To that end, participants were divided into two groups:

  1. Group Alpha consisted of 17 analysts role-playing the U.S. Navy.
  2. Group Bravo consisted of 20 analysts role-playing prospective partners.

The teams included such experts as former U.S. Navy Captain Scott Stanley, retired U.S. Marine Corps Lieutenant General Richard Natonski, retired British Royal Air Force Vice-Marshal Steve Chisnall and former Director General of Navy Strategy and Management in the Royal Australian Navy Dr. Jack McCaffrie.

They found that Navy partnerships in Asia will become even more important and that the U.S. Department of Defense needs to invest more in them.

Rising tensions with China and Russia appeared to be the key issues driving the analysis, implying that any “rethinking” will need to be done in the context of pressing geopolitical issues and potential major conflict. The South China Sea theater is the location where the U.S. Navy needs to have the most flexibility, maneuverability and reliable allies.

The relationship between the U.S. Navy and ASEAN South China Sea claimants received the most attention from the crowd, adding credence to the notion that China is the key issue to manage in pursuing naval partnerships. Read More →

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Impact of Artificial Intelligence on Commercial Transportation

Impact of Artificial Intelligence on Commercial Transportation cover

Late last year, Wikistrat conducted a crowdsourced simulation to study how the application of artificial intelligence to commercial transportation and delivery will affect the energy and financial industries as well as electricity and transportation infrastructure.

More than 20 artificial intelligence and industry experts from around the world developed 21 scenarios mapping the AI-led technological breakthroughs that may occur between now and 2026.

In this presentation, Wikistrat Senior Analyst Andreas Dal Santo summarizes the simulation’s key findings: Read More →

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Assessing the Cold War’s New Front Line

Assessing the Cold War's New Front Line

Earlier this year, the RAND Corporation published the results of a series of wargames designed to test NATO’s ability to fulfill its Article V commitments to the Baltic states. The scenario posited a conventional Russian invasion of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia – and concluded that in all circumstances, Russian forces would be poised to lay siege to each nation’s capital within 60 hours of a decision to employ force. No team playing the role of NATO was able to prevent such an outcome using available forces.

The RAND report added weight to those voices calling for NATO to move additional conventional forces into the Baltic in order to strengthen deterrence. At the recent NATO summit in Warsaw, the Alliance did just that.

In the run-up to the summit, and inspired by the RAND report, Wikistrat sought to contribute to the ongoing debate by providing additional insights and examining alternative interpretations of the report’s key elements.

In a red-teaming exercise entitled “Assessing the Cold War’s New Front Line”, 50 Wikistrat analysts from 20 countries – including Russia, Estonia, Moldova, Ukraine, the United States and Germany – identified key assumptions in the RAND report; examined whether any major assumption was open to an alternative interpretation; and supplemented the recommendations put forward in the RAND report with additional proposals. Read More →

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ISIS After the Fall of Mosul

Wikistrat ISIS After the Fall of Mosul

The Iraqi government has launched a coordinated offensive to dislodge ISIS from its strongest redoubt: Mosul, the second-largest city in Iraq with a population of one and a half million. Up to 74,000 Iraqi soldiers, 40,000 Peshmerga troops and various Western support units are engaged in what is the most important battle in the war against ISIS in Iraq.

In late July, Wikistrat simulated the likely impact and follow-on consequences of the liberation of Mosul. Its analysts were tasked with identifying key potential outcomes, grouping them thematically before considering the effects of such developments on ISIS — and the possible risks for the U.S. and its allies regarding the likely ISIS response.

40 analysts from 18 different countries and 12 areas of expertise (including military affairs, counterterrorism, the Middle East and energy security) took part in this exercise. This summary outlines the key findings of the simulation: Read More →

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The Fall of North Korea

Wikistrat - The Fall of North Korea cover

North Korea is the last truly totalitarian regime on earth. It is unlikely to forever stay that way.

In June, Wikistrat ran an 11-day multistage crowdsourced simulation to explore the various pathways by which North Korea could collapse, assess which of the pathways are the most plausible/likely, and “game out” the ways in which other actors are likely to respond.

More than 70 analysts participated in the simulation – including PhDs, former military and diplomatic personnel, and other expert members of our Asia-Pacific, Russia, North America and Military desks.

This presentation contains their findings: Read More →

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Turkish Coup Attempt: What Comes Next?

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In the early morning hours of July 16, elements of the Turkish military attempted a coup against the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan while the Turkish leader was reportedly on vacation away from the capital.

After a few hours of uncertainty, the Erdoğan government gained the upper hand, with the President landing his plane in Istanbul and loyal units of the Turkish military and police capturing or killing many of those involved in the plot.

In this presentation, Wikistrat’s experts reflect on the geopolitical and security implications the coup attempt may have on global and regional actors.

Dr. A. Kadir Yildirim, a Research Scholar at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, worries too that the plotters have given Erdoğan carte blanche to do whatever he pleases. The Turkish leader now enjoys a concentration of power unprecedented since the country’s transition to democracy, Yildirim argues. “This is likely to irrevocably shift the dynamics of the country.” Read More →

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Brexit: The Day After

Wikistrat - Brexit The Day After cover

With 52 percent of voters in the “Brexit” referendum in favor of leaving the EU, the world woke up last Friday to a new geopolitical reality which some have compared to the day after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

The vote rattled global stock markets, generating sharp declines in major indexes, with the price of gold and silver seeing dramatic increases.

At the same time, Eurosceptics and far-right parties across Europe welcomed the results, seeing a boon to their domestic political fortunes. Moscow seems to view the referendum as having a positive impact on its global position, anticipating a boon in relations with an EU now dominated by Germany.

Wikistrat provides in-depth analysis of the consequences of Brexit, including for Germany, the Netherlands, NATO, Russia and China. Read More →

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Can ISIS in Libya Be Contained?

Wikistrat - ISIS in Libya infographic

Most Wikistrat analysts believe the self-declared Islamic State (or ISIS) in Libya can be contained by Western powers, but a sizable minority cautions against complacency.

In a recent online voting exercise, two-thirds of our analysts agreed ISIS can “definitively” or “probably” be contained — meaning allowing them to consolidate, but not expand, and strike once they’ve reached a pre-determined level of “state-ness”.

Dr. Joel Sokolsky, a Wikistrat Senior Analyst and professor of political science at the Royal Military College of Canada, argued that ISIS does not pose an existential threat to Europe or the United States. “It is a bad situation,” he admitted, “but one that can be managed via hard conventional attacks from combined Allied sea-based forces, strike aircraft and the quick in-and-out of special forces.”

Contributing Analyst Thomas Wade, a U.S. Army veteran and history professor at the University of Phoenix, agreed, pointing out that the relatively lightweight Western military presence in Iraq is helping national forces there push back ISIS.

But Steve Chisnall, a former Royal Air Force Air Vice-Marshal and now the director of strategy at the University of Southampton, was more cautious, arguing that — like Iraq and Syria — Libya is awash in different factions. “No one fully knows who is fighting whom.” That makes containment a dicey proposition.

Monica Jerbi, a Wikistrat Contributing Analyst, drew on her expertise of organized crime to argue that when a criminal enterprise is shut down, those who aren’t caught in the sweep aren’t scared into becoming law-abiding citizens — “they disperse, learn and start over somewhere else.” ISIS fighters in Libya could do the same.

Click here or on the thumbnail to download the infographic.

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Impact of Akhtar Mansour’s Death on Reconciliation and ISIS

Wikistrat Infographic

Akhtar Mansour’s Death Unlikely to Affect Peace Talks

Last week, after Mullah Akhtar Mansour was confirmed killed in a U.S. drone strike, Wikistrat ran a two-day voting activity in which experts were asked to assess the implications of the Taliban leader’s death for the future stability of Afghanistan.

Specifically, analysts rated the impact on peace talks between the group and the government in Kabul as well as the chances of ISIS taking advantage of Mansour’s death to expand in Afghanistan.

Most analysts did not see a significant change in the prospects for reconciliation. 81 out of 94 said Mansour’s death would have no or little bearing on the possibility of an accord.

Pascale Siegel, one of Wikistrat’s top counterterrorism experts, argued that whomever succeeds Mansour as Taliban leader will first have to build up his authority. “I’d say reconciliation is pushed back to the backburner for now,” she said.

Wikistrat Infographic

An Opportunity for ISIS – Maybe

Analysts were more divided on the question of how this affects ISIS. Nearly half said Mansour’s death could lead to a moderate increase in ISIS’s presence in Afghanistan, but a large minority argued it would have no such impact.

“ISIS does not have a significant presence,” said Dr. Smruti S. Pattanaik, who is also a research fellow at the Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis in New Delhi, India. “Only a breakaway Taliban faction has owed allegiance to ISIS.”

Tim Foxley, a former British Ministry of Defence analyst with experience in Afghanistan, was more cautious, saying any conflict in trying to find a new Taliban leader may well cause more splintering.

The worst possible outcome, argued Siegel, is ISIS playing a role in adjudicating an intra-Taliban conflict. “That would be even more worrisome.” Read More →

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Connecting the Dots: Russia at the Crossroads

Wikistrat - Russia at the Crossroads cover

Over the past six months, Wikistrat has conducted five crowdsourced exercises (simulations, wargames and forums) focused on Russia. While each of these had its own theme, additional insights can be gained from “connecting the dots” between the various drills from a bird’s-eye perspective.

In this paper, Wikistrat’s Dr. Jelena Petrovic argues that, despite the conventional wisdom which places Russia outside the U.S.-led world order and hence in the role of antithetical outlier, Moscow is constantly searching for partners.

After the start of the Ukraine crisis, it reached out to China, with whom it finalized a gas deal. In Syria, it was the Assad regime, Hezbollah and Iran.

“It is clear that Moscow is seeking to break out of its diplomatic isolation, and sees its military as an instrument it can use to cultivate friendly relations with a host of other actors,” writes Dr. Petrovic.

She also contests analysis that tends to oscillate between extremes: Either the Russians are about to put the West off-balance with a brilliant initiative or Vladimir Putin’s regime is about to collapse. The reality is more nuanced. As one analyst put it, “Russia is never as strong as it wants to be and never so weak as it is thought to be.”

The degree of political centralization around Putin lends itself to stability rather than shock. Mainstream Western analysis sees this as a weakness for the system as a whole, but Wikistrat’s exercises indicated it actually creates a self-perpetuating stability because it is almost impossible to imagine an alternative. Read More →

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