Paper Launch - War by Others' Means

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This paper examines how partner nation capabilities are developed and the limits of what is achievable through capacity building in time and scale. 

Working with partnered forces may extend the reach of a small military, but how can access be converted into influence, training into improved capability, and what are the limits of transferring political and fiscal risk on the modern battlefield?

As the size of conventional forces declines, and a new era of great power competition places a strategic value on the efficiency with which states can pursue their aims, there is likely to be an expanded scope for partnered operations and proxy warfare. This is explicitly acknowledged in the UK's Defence Integrated Operating Concept, which outlines how British forces will engage to enable partners to tackle threats at source, and deploy to constrain adversaries by deterrence and denial. Partner force capacity building has a long history, with very mixed results. One might contrast for example British support to the Arab Revolt in 1916 with their 'bolstering policy' in Russia between 1918-1920. Yet there is little historical memory in the institutions tasked with carrying out these activities today. War by Others' Means draws upon five years of archival research, extensive interviews with practitioners, and observation of capacity building operations carried out by the UK, its allies, and adversaries, to understand why states pursue capacity building activates, how they should select, train and equip their partners, and how they should manage the force generation and withdrawal of trainers.

The paper aims to identify the pre-requisites for success, and to determine the limits of what is achievable through capacity building in time and scale. At the launch the authors – Dr Jack Watling and Nick Reynolds – will set out the paper’s primary conclusions. This will be followed by Q&A.

Dr Jack Watling is a Research Fellow at RUSI, responsible for the study of Land Warfare. He has recently published studies on the future of fires, and European allies in US Multi-Domain Operations. Jack's PhD examined the evolution of Britain’s policy responses to civil war in the early twentieth century. Prior to joining RUSI Jack worked in Iraq, Mali, Rwanda, Brunei, and further afield.

Nick Reynolds is the Research Analyst for Land Warfare at RUSI. His research interests include land power, wargaming and simulation. Prior to joining RUSI he worked for Constellis. He holds a BA in War Studies and an MA in Conflict, Security & Development from King’s College London. During his time at KCL, he was Head of Operations of the KCL Crisis Team, which organises large-scale crisis simulation events.

The paper will become available to order (and free for RUSI members) on the day of the launch. 

The event is chaired by Professor Peter Roberts, Director, Military Sciences, RUSI

If you have any questions, please e-mail




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