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Join us for KISG & The European Foreign Policy Research Group's jointly organised book launch, followed by a short drinks reception

About this event

KISG invites attendees to an upcoming hybrid book launch event to celebrate the release of "Estimative Intelligence in European Foreign Policymaking: Learning Lessons from an Era or Surprise". This event is jointly organised with The European Foreign Policy Research Group, based at the Department for European and International Studies at KCL. In-person attendees are invited to join us for a short drinks reception after the book launch event.

“Learning Lessons from an Era or Surprise” sets out an academically rigorous postmortem approach to learn lessons from the way in which three major European polities – the UK, Germany and the EU – handled estimative intelligence in relation to the three salient crises in the 2010s: the Arab uprisings, ISIS’ rise to power in Syria and Iraq, and the Russian annexation of parts of Ukraine. In their aftermath, intelligence communities and policymakers were accused of failing to anticipate, warn, listen or prepare for these eventualities. In response, some intelligence professionals claimed that some of these events were ‘inherently […] unpredictable’ because ‘there were no sort of secrets there which could have told us they were going to happen’ as the British Chief of SIS (MI6) argued in relation to the Arab uprisings.[1] Strategic documents and reviews issued in Washington, London, Berlin or Brussels in subsequent years painted the picture of a new era of uncertainty. For instance, the European Union (EU) proclaimed: ‘[w]e live in a world of predictable unpredictability. We will therefore equip ourselves to respond more rapidly and flexibly to the unknown lying ahead’.[2]

Did European foreign political analysts and decision-makers see these crises coming or were they surprised by key events? If so, were these near complete “Black Swan” moments or were they more limited and potentially even avoidable surprises? How well did the intelligence community and other relevant knowledge producers perform in identifying, explaining and forecasting these developments? How receptive were decision-makers to any assessments or warnings given the cognitive constraints and political conditions at the time? If knowledge producers or decision-makers should have done better, what were the most significant underlying causes of any performance problems? And which are the lessons that individuals, organisations, governments, and foreign policy communities should learn for the future to be less frequently and completely surprised about major foreign threats and opportunities?

The book launch event will bring editors and contributors to outline and discuss the answers to these questions. The book tests and develops new theories about the causes of strategic surprises, going beyond a common focus on intelligence versus policy failures to identify challenges and factors that cut across both communities. With the help of former senior officials, the book identifies lessons yet to be learnt by European polities to better anticipate and prepare for future surprises. Speakers at this event include editors and contributors:

  • Dr Nikki Ikani
  • Dr Eva Michaels
  • Prof Christoph Meyer
  • Prof Mike Goodman (joining virtually)

You can read more about the book's findings on the Edinburgh University Press's blog, here, and pre-order the book online on the EUP website, here.


[1] Intelligence and Security Committee, "Annual Report 2011–2012," (London: UK Stationary office, 2012), 14.

[2] EU High Representative, "Shared Vision, Common Action: A Stronger Europe. A Global Strategy for the European Union’s Foreign and Security Policy," (Brussels: European Union, 2016), 46.