Western armies today face a triple challenge. First, they have been involved in “wars amongst populations” for twenty-five years, having to cope with failed states, fractured societies, and irregular adversaries. Counterinsurgency (COIN) may be out of fashion, but stabilization operations remain as complex as ever. Whether for maintaining peace or countering an insurrection, military intervention cannot deliver victory on its own, yet other “global approach” actors are often either absent or ineffective, not to mention the lack of political support and the constraints posed by permanent pressure from the media.
Meanwhile, Western forces must retain the ability to conduct high-intensity operations when fighting symmetric or hybrid adversaries that benefit from training and advanced weapons. The constituent parts of military transformation tend to spread to regional powers. Accordingly, our defense systems have to stay in the technological race and incorporate into their equipments and doctrines the multiple innovations fostered by progress in intelligence gathering and miniaturisation (sensors, networks, robotics, precision ammunition, etc.).
Remaining full spectrum is also a challenge as our militaries face unprecedented constraints in terms of numbers and budgets. in addition, operational tempo has increased and enemies have toughened. The armed forces are thus being asked to achieve more with less. The political and budgetary context, especially in Europe, is likely to limit the size of militaries and the conditions of their use. It is therefore necessary in the short term to offer solutions for optimization and set the stage for a necessary military build up in the future. Established within Ifri’s Security Studies Center, the Defense Research Unit - LRD’s analysis focuses on French forces first and foremost, as well as the militaries of their main allies.