Skip to main content
KBS_Icon_questionmark link-ico


Prior to academia, Dr Thornton served nine years in a British Army infantry regiment. He saw service in Germany, Cyprus, Northern Ireland. On leaving the Army in 1988, he took a degree in Russian and Serbo-Croat and, on graduation, rejoined the Army to serve as an interpreter in Bosnia (1992-93). He became a civilian again and took two masters degrees (MSocSc in Russian and East European Studies and an MA in Security Studies). He has studied at the following universities: Nottingham, Birmingham, Johns Hopkins (SAIS), Sarajevo and at the Kiev Institute of Aeronautical Engineering.

Dr Thornton’s PhD is from the University of Birmingham (supervised by Professor Terry Terriff) and involved a comparison of British, Russian and US peace support operations. On completion, he began working for King’s College London at the UK Defence Academy (2002-2007) where he was the subject matter expert for terrorism and insurgencies.

Between 2007 and 2012, Dr Thornton taught at the University of Nottingham. He specialised in international security issues and, specifically, terrorism/insurgencies. After leaving Nottingham, he spent one year at the University of Kurdistan in Erbil, Iraq, where he taught Kurdish history and politics and Middle Eastern history and politics. He then spent three years (2013-16) working again for King’s College London at the Qatari Command and Staff College. He has been back at the Defence Academy since 2016 and after work with the Academy's Centre for Defence Education Research and Analysis he is now teaching students again. His current research concentrates on cyber and artificial intelligence development - particularly within the Russian military - but he also works on the Russian military more broadly. He is writing a book on the Russian armed forces

Research Interests

  • Future Warfare
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Electronic Warfare
  • Professional Military Education
  • Russian military
  • Asymmetric warfare
  • Cyber warfare
  • Information warfare
  • Reflexive control
  • Insurgencies
  • Organisational change in militaries
  • The Kurds
  • Western Balkans



  1. (And Tim Benbow) (eds), Dimensions of Counter-Insurgency: Applying Experience to Practice (Oxford: Routledge 2008)
  2. Asymmetric Warfare: Threat and Response in the Twenty-First Century (Cambridge: Polity Press 2007)


  1. Organizational Change in the Russian Airborne Forces: The Lessons of the Georgian Conflict (Carlisle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Department of Defense, 2011). [Using grant from SSI]
  2. Military Modernization and the Russian Ground Forces (Carlisle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Department of Defense, 2011). [Using grant from SSI]

 Journal Articles

  1. (And Marina Miron) ‘Deterring Russian Cyber Warfare: The Practical, Legal and Ethical Constraints Faced by the United Kingdom’, Journal of Cyber Policy, 4/2, (2019).

  2. ‘Countering Prompt Global Strike: The Russian Military Presence in Syria and the Eastern Mediterranean and its Strategic Deterrence Role’, Journal of Slavic Military Studies, 32/1 (2019).

  3. ‘The Russian Military Presence in the Eastern Mediterranean: Power, Prestige and Popularity’, RUSI Journal, 163/4 (October-November 2018).
  4. ‘The Russian Military’s New ‘Main Emphasis’: Asymmetric Warfare’, Royal United Services Institute Journal, 162/4 (October-November 2017).
  5. (And Manos Karagiannis) ‘The Russian Threat to the Baltic States: The Problems of Shaping Local Defense Mechanisms’, The Journal of Slavic Military Studies, 29/3 (Aug. 2016).
  6. ‘The Kurds as Proxies in Iraq and Syria. A Problematic Relationship for Western Powers’, 21 April 2016.
  7. ‘Countering Islamic State after Kobane: The Problem with the Kurds as Proxies’, Small Wars and Insurgencies, 26/6 (Dec. 2015).
  8. ‘Russia and Syria in Iran: Alliance or Competition?’, Research Papers, Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies, Doha, Qatar (Nov 2015).
  9. ‘The Changing Nature of Modern Warfare: Responding to Russian Information Warfare’, RUSI Journal, 160/4 (Aug-Sept 2015) 40-48.
  10. ‘Using the Kurds as Proxies: The Dangers of Divisions’, On Track, 20/1 (Summer 2015).
  11. ‘“There Is No-one Left to Draft”: The Strategic and Political Consequences of Russian Attempts to End Conscription’, Journal of Slavic Military Studies, 26/2 (June 2013) 219-241.
  12. ‘Russia-India Military Cooperation: Which Way Forward?’, Journal of Defence Studies, 6/3 (July 2012), 50-63.
  13. (And Bettina Renz) ‘Russian Military Modernisation: Cause, Course and Consequences’, Problems of Post-Communism, 59/1 (Feb 2012), 44-54.
  14. (And Bettina Renz), ‘Military Reform in Russia’ (2012), Center for Security Studies (CSS), ETH Zurich, Switzerland. Available at:
  15. ‘Russia’s Conscription Problem’ (2012), Center for Security Studies (CSS), ETH Zurich, Switzerland. Available at:
  16. ‘Counter-Terrorism and the Neo-Liberal University: Providing a Check and Balance?’ Critical Terrorism Studies, 4/3 (Dec 2011), 421-430.
  17. ‘“Minimum Force”: A Reply to Huw Bennett’, Small Wars and Insurgencies, 20/1 (2009).
  18. ‘A Bear with Teeth?: The Russian Military in 2008’, Royal United Services Institute Journal, 153/4 (2008).
  19. ‘Getting it Wrong: The Crucial Mistakes Made in the Early Stages of the British Army's Deployment to Northern Ireland (August 1969 to March 1972)’, Journal of Strategic Studies, 30/1 (2007) 73-107.
  20. ‘Countering Arab Insurgencies: the British Experience’, Contemporary Security Policy, 28/1 (2007) 7-27.
  21. ‘Conclusion: The Way Forward’, Contemporary Security Policy, 28/1 (2007).
  22. ‘Russian Military: Toothless Bear?’ World Today, 63/6 (2007).
  23. ‘The Lessons of Bosnia’, World Defence Systems, (2007), 58-62.
  24. ‘Russian military reform’ [online], Forschungsstelle Osteuropa Bremen, Germany, Center for Security Studies (CSS), ETH Zurich, Switzerland. Available at: <> [20 Mar 2007].
  25. ‘Fourth Generation Warfare: A New Form of Warfare?’ Contemporary Security Policy, 26/2 (2005) 270-78.
  26. ‘Military Organizations and Change: The Case of the Russian 76th Airborne Division’, Journal of Slavic Military Studies, 17/3 (Sept 2004).
  27. ‘Brutality and Desperation: Russian Army Reform’, World Today (Oct 2004).
  28. ‘A Considered Response’ (Asymmetric Warfare), Defence Management Journal, No.26 (Sept 2004).
  29. ‘Asymmetric Lessons in Iraq’, World Defence Systems, (Oct 2004).
  30. ‘The British Army and the Origins of its Minimum Force Philosophy’, in Small Wars and Insurgencies, 14/2 (Spring 2004).
  31. ‘A Welcome “Revolution”? The British Army and the Changes of the Strategic Defence Review’, Defence Studies, 3/3 (Autumn 2003).
  32. ‘Cultural Barriers to Organisational Unlearning: The United States’ Army, the “Zero-defects” Culture and Operations in the Post-Cold War World’, Small Wars and Insurgencies, 11/3 (Winter 2000).
  33. ‘Peace Support Operations and the Military Organization: The Role of Doctrine’, International Peacekeeping, 7/2 (Summer 2000).
  34. ‘The Press and the Soldier in Bosnia’, South Slav Journal, 15/3-4 (Winter 1993).


Other publications

  1. ‘Russian Hybrid Warfare and the National Defence Management Centre (NTsUO)’, in Hannah Smith and Bettina Renz, ‘After hybrid warfare, what next? Understanding and responding to contemporary Russia’, Finnish Prime Minister’s Office, Oct 2016,
  2. ‘Turning Strengths into Vulnerabilities: The Art of Asymmetric Warfare as Applied by the Russian Military in its Hybrid Warfare Concept’ in Bettina Renz and Hanna Smith (eds), Russian Hybrid Warfare: Going Beyond the Label, March 2016, at

Chapters in Books

  1. ‘Revisiting Sarajevo: A Stay Less Ordinary’, in Philip Jones (ed), Professor Malcolm Jones: A Retrospective (Nottingham: Bramcote Press, 2013).
  2. ‘The Conflict in Afghanistan and the Evolution of Counter-insurgency Strategy’, in A. Sisodia, K. Raman, Asian Security at the Dawn of the 21st Century (2011).
  3. ‘Prescribing Proscription: The British Use of Air Power between the Wars’, in James Fergusson and William March (eds), No Clear Flight Plan: Counterinsurgency and Aerospace Power (Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press 2008)
  4. ‘Fourth Generation Warfare: A New Form of Warfare? in Terry Terriff, Aaron Karp (eds), Global Insurgency and the Future of Armed Conflict: Debating the Fourth Generation (Oxford: Routledge 2007)
  5. ‘Current UK-Russia Security Relations’, in Hanna Smith (ed), The Two-Level Game: Russia’s Relations with Great Britain, Finland and the European Union (Helsinki: Finnish Institute 2006) pp. 155-176
  6. ‘Historical Origins of the British Army’s Counter-Insurgency and Counter-Terrorist Techniques’ in Thedor Winkler, Anja Ebnother, Mats Hansson ( eds), Combating Terrorism and its Implications for the Security Sector (Gotab: Elanders 2005) pp.130-53


Commissioned Reports

  1. ‘The Russian military’s aim of controlling an adversary’s decision-making’, Report for UK Defence Concepts and Doctrine Centre.
  2. [Forthcoming}] ‘Strategic Dimensions of Fourth-generation War: Tactics, Techniques and Procedures’, for National Defense College, Abu Dhabi.
  3. ‘The concept of pace and Russian military operations’, Report for US Army War College.
  1. With Tim Benbow and Tim Bird, ‘A review of Defence’s contribution to homeland resilience and security in light of the changing global context’, Report written for UK Ministry of Defence (April 2017).
  1. ‘The United Kingdom as a target of Hybrid Warfare’, for German Foreign Ministry through Atlantische Initiative (November 2016).
  2. And Manos Karagiannis. ‘Jordan’ in Security Sector Horizon Scanning 2015 – Near East (Shrivenham: British Army, 2015).
  1. Network Centric Operations (NCO) Case Study. The British Approach to Low-Intensity Operations: Part 2 12 Feb 2007’. I wrote Case Study 2 - Northern Ireland (August 1969-March 1972) and Case Study 5 - Bosnia (1992-1996) (US Department of Defense, Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office 2006). See
  2. Gave written evidence to House of Commons Select Committee on Defence concerning British Army operations in Iraq (February 2005).


Dr Rod Thornton PURE Profile