The Bear has Awoken!

The escalating crisis in Ukraine and the tense relation between Russia and the West have come as a surprise to most companies. Few had expected that 25 years after the end of the cold war, we were to witness battles involving tanks in Europe.

It is a new situation which challenges conventional thinking, risk assessments and strategic prioritisations in large parts of the Danish business life.

In order to understand the situation and the dynamics in play, in January 2015 we hosted a private symposium in Copenhagen with participation from the Danish Foreign Ministry, Forsvarets Efterretningstjeneste and representatives from large Danish companies with a particular interest in Russia and Eastern Europe and relevant public authorities.

Using a "war room" strategy game, we played through possible scenarios. 

The symposium set off with a brief from one of the leading experts on the relationship with Russia, which was then followed by a reflection round where the company representatives shared their worries and views on the situation. 

During the game the participants were divided into two teams; Russia against the West. Each team was handed a detailed brief and a number of strategic prioritisations, which were to be followed throughout the three rounds of the game. The game focused on the potenmtial escallation of the conflict during the coming 12 months, from Ukraine to the Baltic States and the Arctic. 

We attempted to play through a natural development from the current situation that was neither solely optimistic nor solely pessimistic. In each round of the game, each team had the opportunities to play a number of strategic moves – military, political or diplomatic – that the counterpart then could react to. Along the way a number op unexpected events would occur – from the sinking of the ferry to Bornholm to reports of ethnic cleansing in Donetsk. All events in the game were continuously evaluated in relation to their importance concerning Putin's popularity, the oil price, the international financial markets and the Danish financial interests.

The symposium concluded with a joint reflection where the participants transferred learning from the experience to their own companies and interests.