Connections NL Defensie 2020

SAVE THE DATE: Monday 7 December 2020, Connections NL Defense 2020 - fully digital

Connections NL 2020 is powered by SAGANET - KVMO

On Monday December 7th 2020, Connections Netherlands gets a special Defence edition treatment. Because of Covid-19 it will be a fully digital edition. Presentations will be given from 6 metres below sea level in the Haarlemmermeer polder. In line with previous Connections NL editions, the 2020 edition (although digital) comes to you from within the UNESCO world heritage location, the Amsterdam Defence Line.


Want to join Connections NL 2020? Please register below.



Connections NL 2020 will be an English language edition. In combination with the digital presentation, it can be attended from all over the world.


Provisional program: (all times are Central European Times)


09.30: doors open, welcome, enjoy your own coffee


09.45: roll call and introduction


10.00: keynote by RAND Europe (Sarah Grand-Clément & James Black) - strategy in north-east Europe


11.00: second part of the RAND presentation + Q&A


12.00: lunch break - lunch suggestion: MRE or C-rations


13.00: Presentation by Slitherine, a wargame publisher for both the hobby and professional market


14.00: Jan Oliver Schwarz - Reutlingen University - strategic management


15.00: Panel discussion - introduced by Lieutenant Ruben, RNl Marines - on gaming in Marine ops

Panel members:

  • Michiel Heijmans
  • Erik Elgersma
  • Lt Ruben
  • Natalia Wojtowicz

16.00: closing remarks, the bar is open for (your own) drinks

The context for the RAND presentation is as follows:

Following the unexpected death of Russian President Vladimir Putin in December 2020, there has been considerable uncertainty about the future direction of tumultuous Russian politics as well as its engagement with the wider world.

After a period of infighting within the Kremlin, a new hardliner ethno-nationalist president has taken power and has sought to embark on a dangerous game of strategic brinkmanship with the NATO. This is both to test the Alliance’s cohesion and resolve at a time when most governments are distracted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and also to help shore up the new hardliner regime’s tenuous domestic support within the Russian political elites, military and general population.

Following a series of apparent ‘false flag’ incidents involving alleged abuses of Russian-speaking minorities in eastern Latvia, non-uniformed “humanitarian volunteers” begin to cross the border from Russia into Latvia, claiming to be there to help restore order. Though no shots have been fired, Latvia invokes Article V of the North Atlantic Treaty and calls on its NATO Allies to discuss possible measures to deter any further escalation or, if necessary, defeat any armed aggression. Both Russian and NATO conventional forces go on high alert and begin mobilising in the Baltic Sea region as well as around the Kola Peninsula and out around northern Norway to the Bear and GIUK gaps. Though not part of NATO, Finland and Sweden both step up their military readiness and implore restraint on all sides.

With political and military tensions rising, and uncertainty in NATO capitals about the new Russian leaders’ intensions, there are concerns where this crisis might go

Keynote speaker & panel members bio's

RAND Europe

Sarah Grand-Clément is an Senior Analyst in the Defence, Security and Infrastructure (DSI) research programme at RAND Europe. Her work spans the defence and security sectors, including counterterrorism and counter-radicalisation; European security and regional geopolitics; and future technology. She is experienced in the use of futures methodologies including scenarios and gaming.

James Black is a Research Leader in the Defence, Security and Infrastructure (DSI) research programme at RAND Europe. His work focuses on defence, geopolitical and strategic decision making in the context of deep uncertainty, including the impact of emerging technologies on society and military operations. He conducts both qualitative and quantitative research through a variety of methods, including strategic-level gaming.


Reutlingen University

Jan Oliver Schwarz is a Professor of Strategic Management and Leadership at the ESB Business School, Reutlingen University, Germany and a Senior Advisor at the Institute for Innovation and Change Methodologies (IICM), Munich, Germany. His academic and consulting work specializes in future-oriented strategy development which includes implementing corporate foresight processes and applying approaches such as scenario planning and business wargaming.   


Panel discussion
Michiel Hijmans, Commodore RNlN ret. served as a naval officer for 36 years, commanding several vessels in the Dutch fleet. He served as commander of NATO forces in anti piracy missions.
International defence policy experience from his posting a defence attaché in Washington DC and as deputy commander of the international military cooperation staff in the Hague and Brussels.

At the moment he is senior consultant in naval security and trainer in leadership of his company LiDRS.

Erik Elgersma is founder and director of Strategic Analysis Services BV – a Dutch-based globally active consulting firm in strategy, market and competitive intelligence and training.

Prior to establishing SAS BV Erik worked for 20 years for FrieslandCampina NV, one of the world’s largest dairy companies. He fulfilled director roles in strategy design, competitive and market intelligence, M&A and innovation.

Erik uses gaming as a tool for analysis and decision making. Tagline for SAS is "Serving those that play to win".



Natalia Wojtowicz is a lecturer at the Hague University of Applied Sciences in Safety and Security Management Studies. She has worked at NATO Headquarters, Brussels in the Defence Investment Division. Thereafter she moved to the Hague to join the NATO Civil-Military Cooperation Center of Excellence where she initiated the wargaming, modelling, and simulation project and led it 2017-2020. She focused on the introduction of the civilian population into wargaming to create new formats representative of modern war. She continues to collect and discuss wargaming experiences of our times. Follow her on Twitter @Wojtowicz_N.

Attending Connections NL 2020 is possible by joining us on the live stream on 7 December 2020. By sending us an email with your name and email address, you'll get a link with the recorded conference later as well as a report in PDF + our digital goody bag.