Professor Beatrice Heuser’s NATO-funded research project utilises her findings in the East German Archives which contained a wealth of documentation on Warsaw Pact military exercises until 1990, and also on the last big crisis of the Cold War, from c. 1979 until 1984.  Her research suggested that Soviet military leaders were afraid that NATO would use a military exercise as a smokescreen for a surprise attack on the Warsaw Pact’s territory.  She has used this case study to draw attention to the dangers of accidents and ambiguities in military exercises that might lead the other side to launch a pre-emptive war out of a miscalculation of exercise motivations.  Moreover, the field of military exercises in their political dimension is extremely under-researched despite the great importance of such exercises.  

In a research project involving 25 other scholars and practitioners they addressed this lacuna.  She has in several fora sought to bring the dangers of military exercises aimed at intimidating neighbours to the attention of Russian academics and practitioners, most crucially at a session of the Structured Dialogue of the OSCE in Vienna, pleading for an updating of the Vienna Document to contain language on this issue.  Russia has so far blocked the updating of this document as long as the post-2014 sanctions have not been lifted. 
Her work in this area continues.

Project Participants


  1. Professor Beatrice Heuser (University of Glasgow)
  2. Diego Ruiz Palmer (NATO HQ, Brussels)
  3. Lt Col Dr Tormod Heier (Norwegian Command & Staff College)
  4. Dr Tore Listou (Norwegian Command & Staff College)
  5. Bjorn Hansen (Norwegian Command & Staff College)
  6. E. Tomter (Norwegian Command & Staff College)
  7. Baard Ravn (Norwegian Command & Staff College)
  8. Olstein Bauer (Norwegian Command & Staff College)
  9. (ret) Harold Simpson (UK MoD)
  10. Wing Commander Gerry Doyle (UK MoD)
  11. Professor Paul Schulte (University of Birmingham and Carnegie Institute, London)
  12. Dr Lynette Nussbacher (Brunel University)
  13. Dr Kristian Gustafson (Brunel University)
  14. (ret) John Gill (Assoc. Prof., NESA Center, Washington)
  15. Dr Robert Davis (Fort Leavenworth, KS)
  16. Dr Jeffrey Appleget, (US Naval War College)
  17. Dr Jeffrey Kline (US Naval War College)
  18. Dr James Wirtz (US Naval War College)
  19. Dr Peter Dombrowski (US Naval War College)
  20. Ilay Ferrier (formerly IS, NATO HQ)
  21. Dr Erwin Schmidl (LVA, Vienna)
  22. James Sheahan (University of Reading)
  23. Dr Spiros Plakoudas (Athens):
  24. Mr Johan Norberg (FOI, Sweden, and University of Glasgow)
  25. Col Dr Robert Young, (US Army)
  26. Dr Amr Yossef, Independent academic
  27. Dr Christopher Yung, (Marine Corps University, USA)

Programme of Activity

• talk at defence academy, austria, 21 july 2015
• written evidence submitted to house of commons defence committee,
http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/defence-committee/an-sdsr-checklist-of-potential-threats/written/22519.html [15 x 2015]
• first conference at reading, march 2016, to define project aims further and bring in preliminary project contributions.
• papers presented at conferences: moscow, people’s friendship university, september 2015; paris, ceri, april 2016.
• participation in track ii diplomacy “ottawa dialogue” with indian and pakistani defence experts, 13 april 2016
• participation as expert in bbc radio 4 programme: “winter exercise”, broadcast 14 dec 2015, see http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03lkmpy 
• paper given at conference, king’s college london, 8 march 2017 “military exercises as strategic communication”.
• nato-sponsored conference in brussels, 10-11 july 2017.
• launch of nato-sponsored publication, new nato hq, brussels, may 2018:  nato’s forum paper 26 “military exercises: political messaging and strategic impact” can be downloaded from the ndc website at http://www.ndc.nato.int/news/news.php?icode=1157
• talk given by prof heuser to plenary meeting of structured dialogue, osce, vienna, 28 october 2018

• 2019, 2020 – work ongoing with sections of the uk, french and german mod and the uk armed forces on military exercises.


Norwegian Defence Command and Staff College, for our first conference in March 2016

NATO-sponsored conference, July 2017, in Brussels