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A European Small State Perspective on Change Within Special Operations Forces

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Technical Report,26 Jun 2017,24 May 2018

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US Army School for Advanced Military Studies Fort Leavenworth United States

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Since the end of the Cold War, changes in the global security environment have had a significant impact on the application of military power and special operations forces in specific. Small European states dealt differently with the profound challenges of the environment in which they operated. Confronted with a surplus of heavy conventional military power, constructed to fight a global war against the Warsaw Pact, Poland, Denmark, and the Netherlands turned their interest to counter-terrorism, failing states, counterinsurgency, ethnic civil wars, and nation and institutional capacity building. The steadily increasing importance of special operations forces in the last twenty years in national security and defense strategy is illustrative. In the late 20th century, it became almost standard among armed forces in small European states to establish or reinforce SOF capabilities within their military structures. This research paper tells the story of how three small European states SOF capabilities changed and adapted to their respective operating environment following independent patterns of change since the end of the Cold War. SOF capabilities of small European countries face different national interpretations of their strategic contexts, operational challenges, aptitude to exploit disruptive technologies and organizational culture.Small European states follow an indirect approach facing complex security threats to build on collective defense. Small European countries strategically benefit from small, full spectrum capable SOF forces, able to deploy and rapidly adapt to their operating environment. Small European states that provide these forces gain political impact and higher standing in the international arena. Thus, a highly developed appreciation of the strategic utility of SOF by domestic political decision-makers, results in a top-down change strategy.

Subject Categories:

  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics
  • Military Forces and Organizations

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