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Davis Ellison

Davis Ellison

PhD Candidate

Research interests

  • Conflict
  • Security


Davis Ellison is a PhD Candidate in the King’s Department of War Studies and a strategic analyst at The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies specialising in security and defence affairs. He received his master’s degree in political science from the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, during which time he also studied at Humboldt and Free Universities in Berlin and the University of Bath. He earned his bachelor’s degrees in political science and international studies from Indiana University – Bloomington, where he also studied at the London School of Economics.

He previously worked at NATO Allied Command Transformation in Norfolk, Virginia where he served for over three years as a strategist. In his time at NATO he was a co-author of the NATO Warfighting Capstone Concept, was responsible for military development elements of the Secretary General’s NATO 2030 initiative, and worked across a wide array of military-strategic issues for the alliance.

Research Interests

  • Civil-Military Relations
  • Strategy, NATO
  • Nuclear Security

Davis is an early-career researcher undertaking new efforts to understand the dynamics of NATO and to more broadly understand civil-military interactions.

His research focuses on the internal dynamics of NATO political and military structures both during and after the Cold War, using this lens as an explanatory variable for important NATO shifts over time.


Title: Alliance Politics: Revisiting NATO Through Civil-Military Relations

Answering the question of why the roles of NATO authorities have shifted over time between "militarised" and "politicised" institutions, adds a necessary layer of nuance to a complex history. Tension between civil and military authorities, as widely studied in state-centric literature, has also been found in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. Hardly novel in Alliance history, these unique relations have been largely overlooked due to a selective view of the past. However, there has yet to be written a detailed account of the political-military, or rather civil-military, history of NATO. This continued gap is exacerbated by the scholarly divide between diplomatic and military history. The aim of this dissertation then is to simultaneously address two research gaps: the civil-military gap in the literature on NATO, and the NATO gap in civil-military relations literature, with a primary emphasis on the former. Using both primary sources (archival, interviews, and autobiographical) and the significant secondary, yet separate, literatures on NATO and civil-military relations, it will reconsider the history of the NATO alliance since its foundation. The central question is why and how have NATO's political-military dynamics shaped its historical trajectory and outcomes? Secondarily, how can a civil-military relations approach contribute to explaining this history? It show, inter alia, that NATO's civil-military history as both an alliance and institution largely centres on two trends – a strong military role in policymaking and direction and strong political control over military operations. These trends are consistent throughout its history and remain largely stable despite significant changes such as the end of the Cold War and the war in Afghanistan.


  • Dr David Betz
  • Dr Vinicius De Carvalho 


  • Book Chapter, co-written with Tim Sweijs, “The Next Frontier: Strategic Theory for the Space Domain,” in The Oxford Handbook of Space Security, ed. Saadia Pekkanen and PJ Blount (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2024). 
  • Op-Ed, “Identity Politics and the Orthodoxies of the National Security Policy Community,” 16 January 2024, The Duck of Minerva. 
  • Book Review, “The Atlantic realists: empire and international thought between Germany and the United States,” 4 January 2024, Cold War History Journal.
  • Article, “Civil-Military Relations in Multinational Organizations,” 13 December 2023, The Strategy Bridge. 
  • Research Paper, co-written with Paul van Hooft and Tim Sweijs, “Pathways to Disaster: Russia’s War against Ukraine and the Risks of Inadvertent Nuclear Escalation,” May 2023, The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies.
  • Research Paper, co-written with Paul van Hooft “Good Fear, Bad Fear: How European Defence Investments could be Leveraged to Restart Arms Control Negotiations with Russia,” April 2023, The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies.
  • Book Review, “Review: Military Alliances in the Twenty-First Century,” 1 February 2023, The Strategy Bridge.