With the collapse of the USSR and expansion of the Alliance to the east, NATO decided that its defense and deterrence policy will be based on the ability to send reinforcements. No credible scenarios in which NATO’s military could be used for aggression against Russia, yet Russian propaganda presented NATO as a threat. The conflicting visions of Russia and NATO of the security arrangements in Europe increase the risk that Kremlin will provoke a conflict with NATO under the pretext of acting in self-defense to demand the acceptance for Russian sphere of influence.
The question asked in this paper is how NATO can deter Russia from provoking a military confrontation with the Alliance. The article argues that, the Alliance will have to base its deterrence on the ability to defend its territory, which requires the ability to maintain political cohesion, respond to conventional escalation and fight a large-scale, high-intensity conventional war. It will also have to be able to deter Russia from the use of nuclear weapons.
The paper concludes that strengthened conventional and nuclear deterrence is unlikely to deter Russia from the attempts to exploit political vulnerabilities in member states and in the Alliance as a whole. Russia’s strategic goals will not change as long as the regime defines them in the opposition to the West and NATO is perceived as an obstacle for their achievement.
Author: Wojciech Lorenz
This is the third short paper of a new HCSS series on deterrence for small and middle powers, edited by Paul van Hooft and Tim Sweijs.
Find the other papers from the series here:
- Pick Your Poison: Comparing the Deterrence Problem in Asia and Europe‘ by Eric Heginbotham and Richard J. Samuels of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
- ‘Raising the Costs of Access: Active Denial Strategies by Small and Middle Powers against Revisionist Aggression‘, by HCSS analysts Paul van Hooft, Nora Nijboer and Tim Sweijs.
- Strengthening Taiwan’s Integrated Deterrence Posture: Challenges and Solutions‘ by Jyun-yi Lee of Taiwan’s Institute for National Defense and Security Research (INDSR).
- Deterrence and War Initiation Decisions, by Dr. Jeffrey H. Michaels