Redefining defence in an age of disruption: is Europe up to the challenge?

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Redefining defence in an age of disruption: is Europe up to the challenge?


Bringing together senior decision-makers and innovative thought leaders from think tanks, academia and civil society, Friends of Europe’s annual Peace, Security and Defence Summit allows for an in-depth, creative discussion on the most challenging and pressing security and defence issues facing the 21st century.

A few years ago, the Valdai discussion club in Russia proclaimed the slogan “new rules or no rules”. Yet when it comes to the technological innovation of military systems, the danger is that the ‘old rules’ are rapidly receding while the ‘new rules’ are nowhere to be seen.

This is true first and foremost of the nuclear domain. Nuclear powers such as the US, Russia and China are spending vast sums of money on the modernisation of their nuclear arsenals, along with hypersonic speed and enhanced survivability. Meanwhile, the treaties that provided for restraint and transparency such as INF, START and ABM have been abrogated or allowed to lapse.

When it comes to the emerging and disruptive technologies – such as cyber, artificial intelligence, data exploitation, bio-engineering and quantum computing – their impact on military capabilities and operations are becoming clearer much faster than international consensus on how they are to be used and regulated. This has created concerns of a potential ‘free for all’ in which some states use these new technologies aggressively both at home and abroad while others adopt policies of self-restraint thereby putting themselves at a strategic disadvantage.

These are some of the biggest and most difficult issues that security experts and policymakers have to confront at the beginning of the third decade of the 21st century. The 2020 Friends of Europe Peace, Security and Defence Summit is designed to bring the key players in these areas together for a lively debate and to push this agenda forward – not only by clarifying the problems but also by identifying the solutions.

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PHOTO CREDIT: UN Women/Ryan Brown


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