The German Navy, its allies & the Zeitenwende in international affairs

The Kiel International Seapower Symposium returned, and this year’s iteration (KISS23) coincided with the 175th anniversary of German navies! On 14 June 1848, the Frankfurt Parliament laid the foundation for the first democratically organized (although short-lived) German fleet centered on two key objectives: national defense and the security of maritime trade. In the 2020s, these naval missions remain core tasks for the Deutsche Marine, its allies and partners. As a European power with a medium-sized navy, Germany is emblematic of some of the ongoing fundamental changes in global naval affairs. These include navigating the nexus between high-end and low-intensity missions, shrinking fleets and force modernization, a diffuse and increasingly violent multipolar world, and serving as a bridging function between smaller and larger navies. Leveraging Cold War and post-Cold War experiences, finding the delicate balance between ambitions and economics, and implementing power in alliances are additional issues to consider.
As though these international responsibilities were not already heavy enough to bear, Germany also needs to contend, simultaneously, with two more immediate national concerns: The ongoing Foreign Office effort to draw up a National Security Strategy worthy of its name, the ‘Zeitenwende’ – or sea change – announced in February 2022 in the wake of Russia’s all-out war against Ukraine and European security order; and, a significant force regeneration effort through the 2020s.
At KISS23, we addressed some of these challenges using the traditional format of a one-day summit of experts from academia, policy, the military, and NGOs. The event, built around ISPK´s ongoing research on NATO maritime strategies and naval operations, offered academic perspectives, military expertise and your chance to be part of Europe’s dedicated seapower forum.

Welcome to Kiel, welcome to #KISS23!



Panel I (Keynote): Reflecting on 175 years, going forward

Where does the German Navy stand in 2023? What are some of its major assets and achievements, what are some challenges, and what will the next years bring? A critical appraisal by senior military or defense leaders.


Picture: Skeldar V-200 an Bord (Foto: UMS)



Panel II: The Economics of Seapower – Punching your weight, or above

Seapower and the economies go hand in hand: In peace, crisis and war, navies play an important role for prosperity, social peace, and national and systemic/allied survival. At the same time, navies are capital-intensive institutions. Against the backdrop of Zeitenwende, where will that money come from and are there innovative ideas to pay for ships and sailors?

Picture & header 3, 4 by Helwin Scharn CC BY-NC-SA 2.0


Panel III: Naval Strategy for Medium-Size Navies

Most navies in the Western world would be classified as medium-size navies. What are some of the demands that these forces have to content with? How do they “do strategy”? What does this mean for US naval strategy?






Panel IV: "All in" on uncrewed?

It is already important to test the use and operation of unmanned systems with experimental projects and to gain experience. In this way, navies can finally start the risk-minimized procurement in the quantities desired. What are some of the ethical, technological, strategic, operational and political implications and issues? How many humans does it take to make Zeitenwende a reality?




Rear Admiral (LH) Wilhelm Tobias Abry
Rear Admiral (LH) Wilhelm Tobias Abry Division Head Military Policy and Operations German Navy
Paula Alvarez-Couceiro
Paula Alvarez-Couceiro Foresight analyst – Strategy at Navantia, Madrid
Prof. Jim Bergeron
Prof. Jim Bergeron Political advisor to the commander at NATO MARCOM
Prof. Dr. Sven Biscop
Prof. Dr. Sven Biscop Egmont Institute, Brussels
Dr. Heiko Borchert
Dr. Heiko Borchert Borchert Consulting & Research AG
Lt. CDR (GER N) Dr. Moritz Brake
Lt. CDR (GER N) Dr. Moritz Brake German Navy
Justin Burke
Justin Burke Visiting Scholar at The Lowy Institute and Non-Resident Fellow at ISPK
Paul Chamberlain
Paul Chamberlain Australian National University
Captain (N) Christoph Mecke
Captain (N) Christoph Mecke Head of Naval Concepts and Development Branch, German Navy Headquarters
Dr. Sidharth Kaushal
Dr. Sidharth Kaushal The Royal United Service Institute (RUSI), London
Rear Admiral (DEU N) Sascha Helge Rackwitz
Rear Admiral (DEU N) Sascha Helge Rackwitz Commander Flotilla 1 and Director NATO COE CSW
Alix Valenti
Dr. Alix Valenti Conference Chair
Professor Ryan Wadle, Ph.D.
Professor Ryan Wadle, Ph.D. Associate Professor US Naval War College, Newport, USA


The Institute for Security Policy at Kiel University (ISPK) provides research, analysis and commentary on conflicts and strategic issues. ISPK is committed to furthering the security policy discourse in Germany and abroad by way of focused, interdisciplinary, policy-oriented research.

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The Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) is a political foundation. In Germany, 16 regional offices offer a wide variety of civic education conferences and events. Our offices abroad are in charge of over 200 projects in more than 120 countries. The foundation’s headquarters are situated in Sankt Augustin near Bonn, and also in Berlin. There, an additional conference center, named “The Academy”, was opened in 1998.
We are proud to bear the name of Konrad Adenauer. The first chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany’s name and principles are our guidelines, duty, and obligation. Established in 1955 as “Society for Christian-Democratic Civic Education”, the Foundation took on the name of the first Federal Chancellor in 1964.