The following pieces have been released as Special Edition Publications. This means that they are pieces derived from DSFG network members or are responses to inquiries from the Department of National Defence or the Canadian Armed Forces.

Practical Guide to Writing Briefing Notes in the Government of Canada

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Robert Fonberg, former Deputy Minister of the Department of National Defence as well as several other departments in the Government of Canada, worked with the DSFG to train our Junior Fellows in writing policy briefs. 

In the process, he developed the Practical Guide to Writing Briefing Notes in the Government of Canada, which you can use as a tool in your own policy brief development.

DSF Group Practical Guide to Writing Briefing Notes in the Government of Canada July 2020 (PDF)

DSF Group Guide pratique pour la rédaction de notes de breffage pour the gouvernement du Canada (PDF)


Black Sea Region

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The Maritime Dimension of the Russian-Ukrainian War (PDF)

Hanna Shelest

Russian-Ukrainian war has been traditionally analysed in two dimensions - the Crimean occupation and the military activity in Eastern Ukraine. However, a third dimension - maritime – has been developing steadily, presenting higher risks and multiply manifestations. As the Russian Federation uses Eastern Ukraine and the Black Sea region as a testing ground for many military and hybrid tactics, later applying them in other regions, the maritime dimension of the Ukrainian-Russian war is worthy of study for better understanding Russian actions in the Baltics, Northern Sea, Arctic, Japan Sea, Mediterranean, and elsewhere. The April 2021 military build-up that attracted the attention of all NATO allies demonstrated the significance of the maritime domain for the Russian Federation, as the deployed ships remained despite the announced withdrawal of forces. Moreover, increased activities in the Black Sea region during the last two years give us arguments to consider the maritime domain a full-fledged third theatre of confrontation. 
It is necessary to understand that Russian actions in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov are not aimed only at Ukraine, but first of all to project power against NATO as an organization and against Turkey as an individual state. 


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The Ukrainian Navy in the Black and Azov Seas after 2014 (PDF)

Sergey Sukhankin and Alla Hurska

This policy brief analyses the current military-political environment in the Black and Azov Seas, concentrating on Ukrainian capabilities in the light of Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. This piece discusses trends and future scenarios for Ukraine, outlining, among others, potential implications for NATO, in general, and Canada, in particular. The background segment provides the contextual framework, aiming to realistically assess the losses suffered by Ukraine as well as its achievements in restoring its military potential. Thereafter we highlight scenarios and implications for NATO/Canada’s regional security interests. Given Russia’s military power, the general complexity of military-political nature of the region, and growing frictions within NATO as well as Canada’s geographic remoteness from the area, we argue that Canada’s role in supporting Ukraine should be primarily concerned with:

  • Rendering political-diplomatic and informational support;
  • Financial assistance and knowledge transfer through cooperation in the realm of defence industry;
  • Providing (non)lethal weaponry; and
  • Continued participation in joint/multi-lateral military exercise and war games in the framework of NATO.

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Turkey's Policies in the Black Sea: Horizon 2030 (PDF)

Dr. Yevgeniya Gaber

Turkey plays a leading role in maintaining security in the Black Sea region. Being a NATO member and developing close military cooperation with Moscow, Ankara has traditionally adopted a strategy of balancing between Russia and the West in its quest for a leadership role and stability in the region. However, with changing regional dynamics amid a more aggressive Russia, Turkey’s stance on a number of regional issues might need to be revised.

This paper aims to look at how Turkey’s policies in the Black Sea might evolve in the next five to ten years, and what these changes would mean for Canadian and NATO’s interests. Based on a short overview of Ankara’s post-Cold War policies and analysis of its current strategic vision, several possible scenarios for the mid-term future are discussed. The general assumption is made that while the ad hoc tactics and situational coalitions might vary depending on the current domestic and regional conjuncture, Turkey’s long-term interests in the region will most likely remain unchanged: to keep NATO out, littoral states in and Russia down. For this purpose, Ankara will most likely try to strengthen its own position in the region and prioritize multilateral regional formats of cooperation over boosting NATO’s presence in the Black Sea.


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NATO and the Black Sea in 2030: With or Without Ukraine and Georgia? (PDF)

Sinem Akgül-Açıkmeşe

This paper aims to explain the current dynamics and the potential future form of NATO’s Black Sea strategy. The overarching questions are: first, to what extent has NATO been an influential player in the region; and second, how would a robust NATO Black Sea strategy look in 2030? In order to answer these questions, among various variables, this paper will only look into NATO’s relations with Ukraine and Georgia as littoral countries that aspire to receive, and that have been promised, NATO’s membership. Accordingly, it will look at NATO’s current policies, especially after the Georgian war in 2008 and since Russia’s occupation of Crimea in 2014 when Russia expanded its presence in the region in a more aggressive manner. Thereafter, in order to forecast NATO’s robust Black Sea strategy in 2030, this paper will include three scenarios: 1) Ukraine and Georgia as members; 2) Ukraine and Georgia as non-members and less-integrated; and 3) Ukraine and Georgia as non-members, but deeply integrated into NATO’s structures.


Middle East and North Africa Policy Briefs

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Iraqi Kurdistan in Context: Disorder Within the New Political Order (PDF)

Megan Connelly and Mera Jasm Bakr

Over the past several years, the conditions supporting the consensus-style government that had previously defined relations between the two ruling parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), have diminished considerably. Meanwhile, partisan rivalries and a preoccupation with surveilling dissidents have left the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) ill-equipped to meet external threats to its security and mend its relationship with Baghdad. In this brief, we describe the shifting political climate in the KRI and its effect on governance within the region, as well as how it has influenced its relations with its neighbors in Iraq and the broader region.


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Iraq in 2021: Why the status quo will prevail (PDF)

Renad Mansour

Eighteen years after the United States and its allies invaded with a promise of democracy, the Iraqi state remains fragmented and unaccountable. Faced with multiple intertwining economic, political, regional and security crises, Baghdad is unable to respond to the basic needs of its citizens. Ideologically and economically bankrupt after years of corruption and misgovernance, the Iraqi state network is relying more on systematic violence, assassinating, arresting, and intimidating civil society activists across the country. While many had hoped that the territorial victory over the Islamic State in 2016 could usher in a new era for Iraq’s fledgling democratic project, the reality seems to suggest that the country is once again falling into another conflict cycle, the likes of which have defined post-2003 Iraq and peaked at times such as 2014 when ISIS took over one third of its territory.


North American Security Policy Briefs

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NORAD Renewal: Strategic Shifts, Technological progress, and Political Constraints (PDF)

Richard Shimooka 

This briefing note will explore what the changing Integrated Air and Missile Defence (IAMD) challenge and the allied response to that change means for Canada, strategically (e.g. in terms of implications for deterrence), operationally (e.g. in terms of NORAD and domestic defence requirements), and in terms of public support (e.g. for ballistic missile defence, the CAF role in defence of critical infrastructure, etc.).

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The United States Department of the Air Force's Arctic Strategy, Space Force, the Unified Command Plan and the Implications for Canada (PDF)

Andrea Charron

Canada’s wish has come true. For years, the United States seemed to completely ignore the Arctic, even forgetting it was an Arctic state. Canada had to convince the United States to join the Arctic Council in 1996. In the background, NORAD regularly surveilled the Arctic and Canada and the United States exercised in the Arctic, albeit more tactically than strategically, and not for extended periods of time. Fast forward nearly twenty-five years later and the United States has concluded that the Arctic is now one of the most geostrategically important regions in the world. In rapid succession, the United States has released more Arctic strategies, including the first ever United States' Department of the Air Force's Arctic Strategy. What does this latest strategy portend for the future and specifically for Canada? What does the creation of U.S. Space Force and the U.S. Unified Command Plan suggest for Canada in the future? Will this be a case of regretting or embracing the increased United States' attention to the Arctic?


Special Edition Covid-19 Policy Briefs

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Assessing the Geopolitical Effects of the Coronavirus on Canada-United States-Asia Relations (PDF)

Shaun Narine

This paper addresses three distinct questions related to the geopolitical effects of the coronavirus pandemic: what is the impact of coronavirus on American global power and influence? How has the pandemic affected the rise of China? What should be Canada’s political and security responses to the emerging redistribution of global power? The arguments of this policy brief are the following: the US mismanagement of the pandemic is the latest, and perhaps most consequential, in a series of significant failures by the US state over the past 25 years. These failures demonstrate that the US is an unreliable and unsustainable global hegemon. The pandemic has also damaged China’s standing in the world. Even so, China is likely to consolidate its position as the dominant power in Asia within the next decade. Canada needs to accommodate American decline, China’s relative rise, and the emergence of a multilpolar world. Canada should respond to the changing global order by increasing its support for international institutions and develop a military capacity to protect its sovereignty. It should also develop economic and political relationships with as wide a variety of states as possible. Above all, Canada must avoid becoming embroiled in an American “new Cold War” with China.

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Geopolitical Impacts of the COVID-19 Challenge (PDF)

Jane Boulden

The United States has the potential to shift from being a security asset for Canada to a security liability. The very fact that this potential exists represents a change in the geopolitical foundation of Canadian security policy and thinking. The Covid-19 pandemic is not the cause of this change. Rather, the pandemic has been a catalyst, drawing together, consolidating and deepening pre-existing patterns of US behaviour at the domestic and international levels. This development has the potential to change thinking about Canadian security primarily at the international level, but it also has implications for the national and regional levels.