Needs and Opportunities in Naval Strategy & German Naval History

Side Event to the Kiel International Seapower Symposium 2023

Since the inception of the Kiel International Seapower Symposium, and barring alterations in the agenda, the main one-day event is usually complemented with a more thematically-focused workshop. This side event is by special invitation only and principally aimed at academics such as university professors, war college staff, recent PhDs, and think tank analysts. After all, KISS – Europe’s dedicated maritime security conference – brings together these political scientists, naval historians, and other military experts to confer and collaborate with officers, industry representatives, and NGOs. In addition, team ISPK has found it to be useful to hold these workshops to contribute our own research findings into relevant discussions. The main day of KISS is less useful for that because of the hard work that is involved setting up and conducting the event itself.

Picking up on a theme first devised in 2017, the 2023 side event to the Kiel International Seapower Symposium returned to “Needs and Opportunities in German Naval History and Recent Strategy”. The sessions were two-fold. In the first section, Dr. Sebastian Bruns and Commander (GER N) Dr. Christian Jentzsch presented the joint ISPK-ZMSBw research project on “NATO Maritime Strategies and Naval Operations since 1985”. Three commentators provided their valuable insights. Dr. Jeremy Stöhs (Non-Resident Fellow, ISPK) from Graz, Austria, pointed to the inherent challenges of comparing navies with one another, and the need for a strict and concise methodology. Prof. James “Jim” Bergeron (Political Advisor NATO Maritime Command, Northwood) represented the University of Plymouth and called for very granular research. He reminded participants of the influence of naval technology on strategy and operations. Finally, Commander (GER N) Dr. Moritz Brake (Senior Fellow, Center for Advanced Security, Strategic and Integration Studies/CASSIS at University of Bonn) focused on sources for research in lieu of unclassified material, citing personal archives, Rules of Engagement (RoE) documents, Flag Officer Sea Training (FOST) curricula, et al.    

The second panel took a different, naval historical perspective. Its two panelists shared insights into how to research, teach, and disseminate German naval history and military strategy. Dr. Marcus Faulkner (King’s College London) opened the discussion with useful reflections on the particulars that researchers, aspiring or established, encounter when working on German navies. Dr. Keith Bird (from Pawley’s Island, South Carolina), an independent naval historian and author of the several standard works on Marinegeschichte, provided invaluable insights into the research agenda that awaits tackling by the next generation of naval historians. Both sections were chaired by the indomitable Dr. Sarandis “Randy” Papadopoulos (U.S. Department of Defense, Washington, D.C.), speaking in his role as an independent naval historian and analyst.

In traditional fashion and as “vin d’honeur”, a glass of port was served to each of the 25+ participants after the conclusion of the workshop. Dr. Bird’s birthday offered the chance to add a slice of cake for those so inclined. Participants of the event agreed to reconvene for future Kiel International Seapower Symposia in Kiel, Europe’s home of strategic naval thought.