Amid the rollout of the February 2018 U.S. Nuclear Posture Review, security analysts have understandably focused much attention on its implications for the U.S. nuclear arsenal, intra-alliance ties with key North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) partners, and Washington’s icy relations with Moscow. But nuclear deterrence only partially addresses NATO members’ shared concerns about Russian behavior, especially in light of Moscow’s growing propensity to undermine the alliance with nonkinetic operations and other tactics that nuclear warheads cannot easily deter.
The risk of escalation sparking a wider conflict—deliberately, inadvertently, or accidentally—between Russia and NATO is dangerously high. This is particularly the case in the Baltics, a region that would be difficult for NATO to defend because the military balance there very much favors Russia; moreover, Moscow could instigate unrest among the Russian minorities living there. To mitigate these risks and remain united, NATO members must complement deterrence with resilience and risk-reduction measures better tailored to addressing Russian behavior below the threshold of outright conventional and nuclear conflict.
By ULRICH KÜHN