After leaving school, Rod served in an infantry regiment of the British Army for nine years. He left the Army in 1988 to study Russian and Serbo-Croat at the University of Nottingham. On graduating, he rejoined the Army to serve as an interpreter in Bosnia (1992-93). After leaving the Army again, he went to work in Moscow and then took two consecutive master’s degrees at the University of Birmingham (UK). The first was in Russian and East European Studies and the second in International Security. He also studied at Johns Hopkins University.
He then received full funding to pursue a PhD at Birmingham looking at peace support operations. On finishing his PhD, Rod worked for Oxford Analytica for a while and then took up a lecturing post in 2002 for King’s College London at the UK Defence Academy. In 2007, he left to teach at the University of Nottingham. He moved on in 2012 to take up a post at the University of Erbil in northern Iraq. He once more came to work for King’s when teaching under a contract the university had with the Qatari Defence College. After three years in Qatar, Rod is now back at the UK Defence Academy.
He is also the editor of Defence-in-Depth, DSD’s research blog.
- Military responses to COVID-19
- State resilience
- The Russian armed forces
- Russian non-kinetic strategies
- Cyber warfare, especially AI-enhanced cyber warfare
- Asymmetric, hybrid, sub-threshold warfare
- Military ethics
- Multi-domain operations
Rod is currently using a British Academy COVID-19 Small Grant to examine (along with Dr Marina Miron, KCL) the role of civil defence, paramilitary and military organisations across Europe in mitigating the effects of COVID-19. This research falls out of ongoing work on states’ domestic resilience measures. These measures have to adapt to the changing character of war. His overall research concentration is thus on modern warfare, particularly on how adversary state actors (Russia, in particular) will be using non-kinetic means to weaken and ultimately defeat their opponents from within. As such, Rod looks at the role of information warfare, especially cyber and AI-enabled cyber warfare. He is also concerned with how strategy has to change in light of new technologies – such as A2/AD arrangements – and how modern military organisations have to bring together the domains of warfare to create battlefield synergies. Rod also looks at the ethics of utilising robotic systems in kinetic engagements.
Dr Thornton teaches across a variety of military and international security areas.
Dr Thornton is accepting PhD students looking at issues relating to the Russian military
- Forthcoming. Russia’s Armed Forces: A Modern Military for 21st Century Warfare? (Cass Military Studies)
- (And Tim Benbow) (eds), Dimensions of Counter-Insurgency: Applying Experience to Practice (Oxford: Routledge 2008)
- Asymmetric Warfare: Threat and Response in the Twenty-First Century (Cambridge: Polity Press 2007)
Recent Journal Articles
- And Marina Miron, ‘COVID-19 and homeland resilience in the United Kingdom: is it now time for both a dedicated civil defence organisation and a paramilitary force?’, Reform (October 2020), [Using British Academy COVID-19 Small Grant]
- ‘Covid-19: How a pandemic shows the flexibility of the new Russian military’, Russland-Analysen, Issue 387, 30 May 2020.
- And Marina Miron, ‘Towards the “Third Revolution in Military Affairs”: The Russian military’s use of AI-enhanced cyber warfare’, RUSI Journal, 28 May 2020.
- 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).
- ‘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).
- ‘The Russian Military Commitment to Syria and the Eastern Mediterranean: Power, Prestige and Popularity’, RUSI Journal, 163/4 (October-November 2018).
Recent Blog posts
- And Marina Miron, ‘Homeland resilience weakness in the UK: Defence’s lack of preparation for a CBRN event’, Wavell Room, 29 November 2020. [Using British Academy COVID-19 Small Grant]
- And Marina Miron, ‘What is Russia’s interest in Libya?: From regional influence to hunting NATO submarines’, Defence-in-Depth blog site, 17 December 2020
- And Marina Miron, 'Russia's "revenge" after Nagorno-Karabakh: reprisals in Syria for Turkey's support of Azerbaijan', Defence-in-Depth blog site, 7 December 2020.
- And Marina Miron, 'Another Russia-US naval confrontation', Defence-in-Depth blog site, 27 November 2020.
- ‘Covid -19 and why state resilience in the UK needs to be strengthened’, Defence-in-Depth blog site, 8 April 2020.
- ‘Deterring Russian cyber warfare: the practical, legal and ethical constraints faced by the United Kingdom’, Defence-in-Depth blog site, 25 March 2020.
- ‘One to ponder: The UK’s ethical stance on the use of Artificial Intelligence in weapons systems’, Defence-in-Depth blog site, 17 June 2019.
Recent policy papers
- ‘The Russian military’s aim of controlling an adversary’s decision-making’, Report for UK Defence Concepts and Doctrine Centre, October 2018. (Using £4,000 MoD grant.)
- 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 (November 2017). (Using £2,000 MoD grant.) This now appears as Annex A in a major MoD report: MCDC Countering Hybrid Warfare Project: Countering Hybrid Warfare, March 2019.
Dr Rod Thornton PURE Profile