Table of Contents

Because deliberate, inadvertent, or accidental escalation—or a murky combination thereof—could occur under current conditions, it is necessary to examine the specific options at NATO’s disposal for better addressing these escalation risks. The three means NATO is pursuing, to varying extents, to deal with the Russian challenge—(1) deterrence and assurance; (2) resilience; and (3) risk reduction—all have their pros and cons. There are trade-offs and potential synergies between the discrete objectives of calibrating deterrence, maintaining alliance unity, and preventing inadvertent or accidental escalation with Russia.

Deterrence and Assurance

NATO has two basic military approaches at its disposal for mitigating the risk of deliberate Russian escalation: (1) deterrence by denial—that is, deterring Russia by generating a military posture capable of credibly preventing Russia from achieving its goals militarily; and (2) improving the alliance’s current trip wire approach—that is, more convincingly demonstrating to Russia that even though NATO forces in the region are comparably weak, the costs of aggression would still outweigh the benefits. Both options would create political trade-offs to varying degrees.

Deterrence by Denial

If NATO wants to deny Russia the ability to successfully attack one or more Baltic states, it has little choice but to deploy forces on a much larger scale than it currently does. Such forces could be deployed gradually to avoid giving Russia a casus belli and to make such deployments more palatable to skeptical NATO members. The 2017 RAND study proposed deployments of around 35,000 personnel, with an additional reinforcement capability of up to about 70,000 personnel;1 this would certainly prevent a Russian military fait accompli and force Moscow to fight a bloody and drawn-out conventional war, should it attack. These deployments would also, perhaps, eliminate most of the difficulties—and some of the resulting escalation pathways—that stem from the alliance’s current need to reinforce troops rapidly and on a large scale in a crisis. In addition, these troop deployments would raise the costs to Moscow of deliberately forcing a military crisis with NATO.

If NATO wants to deny Russia the ability to successfully attack one or more Baltic states, it has little choice but to deploy forces on a much larger scale than it currently does.

While such measures might mitigate the short-term risk of deliberate Russian escalation, they would create a number of severe political trade-offs. First, a deterrence-by-denial approach would risk overstretching the delicate political consensus among NATO members about conventional deterrence and assurance. A number of member states, perhaps led by Germany and France, would not support such a policy and would seek to block it. Even more importantly, perhaps, not even the Baltic states are supportive of such a maximalist approach. While many Baltic officials and experts would like to see greater U.S. military engagement in the region, some of them are highly skeptical of the assumptions underlying the RAND war games and think that they are too pessimistic about Baltic defenses. While they would like to see a strong, unified allied response to the growing threat from Russia, they also recognize the need to avoid unnecessarily escalating general tensions with Russia.2 Also, against the background of often contentious debates within NATO about financial and military burden sharing, it would not be clear at all who would provide the necessary funds and forces for such a large military footprint. Neither the United States nor most other allies currently seem to be both willing and capable.

Second, instead of preventing deliberate Russian escalation this deterrence-by-denial approach could, in fact, reinforce Russian perceptions of insecurity. Russia would be loath to accept a NATO force that size so close to its borders. Moscow might seek to prevent NATO force deployments through various means, including, not inconceivably, by considering the preventive use of force (that is, Russia might wage a war because it could only see its position deteriorating in the future). This risk might become more acute in the early stages of a crisis when Russia could misinterpret the large-scale movement of sizable forces, such as the 70,000 personnel reinforcement the RAND study suggested, as NATO preparations for a preemptive attack on Russia. Third, large-scale conventional deployments could help further solidify Russian reliance on its nuclear deterrent and could even serve to lower Russia’s threshold for nuclear use, making the early employment of nuclear weapons more likely.

There is, however, also a potentially positive synergetic effect here. If large-scale NATO deployments precluded a deliberate Russian conventional military attack, there would be no reason for Moscow to employ escalate-to-deescalate in an offensive fashion.

Improving the Trip Wire

NATO could also seek to improve its existing trip wire approach in the conventional realm and eliminate some of the ambiguities inherent to the alliance’s nuclear deterrence approach. Different options are available. First, if NATO wants to increase its capability to impose costs on Moscow, while at the same time avoid escalating general tensions with Russia and maintaining alliance unity, it could add additional personnel and equipment significantly below the level of seven permanently deployed heavily armed brigades. Whether NATO could reach consensus on deploying, for instance, two additional brigades is nevertheless not sure at all. Moscow, meanwhile, would probably view this as an invitation to reciprocate—something it has not done so far in response to EFP deployments. Furthermore, it is more than questionable from a military point of view whether two additional brigades would be able to hold off a Russian attack long enough for NATO to send in reinforcements. That said, even two additional brigades would raise the military costs Russia would face for invading a NATO member, thereby threatening pain that Moscow might hope to avoid.

NATO could improve its existing trip wire approach in the conventional realm and eliminate some of the ambiguities inherent to its nuclear deterrence approach.

Second, a more modest approach would be for NATO to address some of its existing military shortcomings—by increasing the chance that the trip wire were triggered and would result in a timely political decision by NATO to respond—with the goal of strengthening the credibility of NATO’s deterrence approach and thus preventing deliberate Russian escalation. For instance, if NATO wants to make sure that the EFP is involved in combat as early as possible in the event of a Russian attack, it could rethink the geographical location of EFP bases or add an additional small element of forward-deployed forces that would continuously patrol and monitor the borders with Russia. That way, NATO would limit Russia’s ability to send small disguised units over the border. NATO could also consider asking Washington to add some U.S. forces to the three Baltic states to address any concern that some of the EFP’s contributing nations might lack resolve in the event of a Russian attack. In doing so, NATO would strengthen assurance by heeding calls by the Baltics for U.S. boots on the ground.

Another necessary adjustment, if not already under way, would be to forge a clear political understanding within NATO of its role pertaining to possible domestic protests that Russia may foment in the three Baltic states. In a similar vein, NATO should seek to avoid any overlapping or even conflicting chains of command for the EFP and consider the additional option of devising harmonized rules of engagement before its Graduated Response Plan comes into play.

Beyond the EFP, NATO should seek greater clarity internally about what military or perhaps even political events would trigger deployment of the Spearhead Force and the eNRF. This process should result in streamlined political and military decisionmaking in the event of a crisis. NATO has already started to rehearse its crisis decisionmaking,3 but that is not the same as streamlining necessary processes. Perhaps allies should determine, in advance, which general contingencies will trigger reinforcement so that, in times of crisis, the North Atlantic Council can act swiftly.

Furthermore, NATO needs to enhance its capabilities to reinforce forward-deployed forces given its atrophied logistics capabilities in Europe as well as Russia’s A2/AD capabilities. NATO has already begun to review and revise its logistics approach so as to move forces faster in the event of a crisis.4 But allies should also discuss strengthening air defenses aimed at protecting NATO’s vital transportation and logistics nodes in Western Europe as well as strengthening Baltic airspace.

None of those options would be entirely uncontroversial within the alliance. They would, however, almost certainly be much less contentious than adopting a deterrence-by-denial approach and would help strengthen assurance of the alliance’s eastern members. It is also less likely that Russia would (mis)perceive such measures as escalatory.

Alliance unity will be much harder to maintain when it comes to NATO’s nuclear deterrent, given the aforementioned ambiguities in NATO’s current approach for political reasons. One way to convince Russia of NATO’s resolve and readiness would be, perhaps, to tighten the link between NATO’s conventional and nuclear forces by integrating both elements in exercises—as NATO did during the Cold War. Another option would be to increase the readiness levels of nuclear forces in Europe (none of which could currently be made ready for use in less than a few weeks). An even more provocative step would be for NATO to extend its sharing arrangements to select eastern members, such as Poland, by allowing them to certify national aircraft for nuclear weapon delivery, and/or by deploying B-61 gravity bombs to their territories.

None of these nuclear measures would have any realistic chance of being adopted by NATO at the moment. Opposition by countries including Germany, France, and others to such far-reaching measures would simply be too strong. Pushing back against them would risk alliance unity. Moreover, some of those measures could help to increase—instead of decrease—the risk of escalation if, for instance, Russia were to fly attacks against newly certified dual-capable aircraft deployed close to Russian territory in the early stages of a war. Extending sharing arrangements to eastern members could also lead Russia to reciprocate, perhaps by producing and deploying new tactical nuclear weapons. These actions could spark a new nuclear arms race in Europe, which would contribute to increased general tensions and make inadvertent escalation more likely.

Given these risks, NATO alternatively could seek to enhance the overall security of its members in other ways, while hoping to avoid a costly and potentially destabilizing nuclear arms race with Russia and without undermining alliance unity in the traditionally controversial field of nuclear deterrence and assurance.5 This alternative option would involve relying more heavily on U.S. bombers for signaling and exercises. Indeed, NATO allies are already moving in this direction. In conjunction with NATO’s 2017 Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) and Saber Strike exercises, for example, the U.S. Air Force sent B-52 and B-2 nuclear-capable bombers to the United Kingdom.6 While increased reliance on U.S. bombers allows NATO to avoid the toxic debate about its forward-deployed nuclear deterrent, this choice comes with the downside of increasing the risk of inadvertent escalation. In the event of a nuclear crisis with Russia, Moscow could misread bomber deployments as preparations for a strategic strike against Russian territory and, in response, opt for early nuclear use. NATO could therefore consider communicating alert levels to Russia in the event of a (nuclear) crisis.

Given these trade-offs, the alliance could further strengthen the credibility of its nuclear deterrent posture—not by adding (new) capabilities or missions—but by conveying a clearer message of political resolve. This approach would require an inclusive political process, backed by all allies. Public as well as private messages from individual NATO heads of state and government should convey the unified message to the Kremlin that NATO is willing to defend its members with all means necessary. High-level political and military leaders from NATO members should also appear regularly in the Baltic states to publicly stress that NATO is able to inflict unacceptable damage on any opponent in the event of an attack on one of its members.

As for NATO’s response to alleged Russian INF Treaty violations, the alliance could opt to deploy its own ground-launched, medium- or intermediate-range cruise missiles if Washington were willing to produce and provide them and if European allies agreed to host them. In so doing, NATO could impose significant costs on Moscow, which despite its efforts to enhance its precision-strike capabilities, seemed mindful, at least in the past, of the likely economic and security consequences of a new arms race.7

This policy would, however, mean abrogating the INF Treaty. Given the strong opposition to doing so in most of Western Europe, there would be immense political costs and risks of undermining NATO unity. Allies could therefore explore alternative options compliant with the INF Treaty, such as limited forward deployments of conventional cruise missiles on U.S. bombers and ships in Western Europe, as well as enhanced cruise missile defenses at NATO’s vital transportation nodes. In parallel, NATO and non-NATO members should increase diplomatic pressure on Moscow.8 In doing so, allies should seek to bring additional countries from Asia, also directly affected by Moscow’s alleged violations, to voice their discomfort vis-à-vis the Kremlin.


Unlike the threats Russia poses in the military realm, Moscow’s intimidating NATO allies through nonkinetic operations across various civilian domains cannot be countered by traditional military means. Instead of deterrence and defense, civilian resilience measures are better tools for dealing with most of Russia’s NGW tactics. In particular, increasing the resilience of ethnic Russians in the Baltic states to Russian propaganda should become a key feature of NATO policy. The example of Ukraine, though very different compared to the three Baltic states, shows that existing ethnopolitical tensions can serve as a gateway for Russian intervention.

Increasing the resilience of ethnic Russians in the Baltic states to Russian propaganda should become a key feature of NATO policy.

In Ukraine, Russia exploited existing ethnopolitical problems as a pretext to resort to the use of force. Its methods should lead to two important realizations: the Kremlin cares about its image on the global scene, and it is mindful that any narrative justifying intervention should receive broad domestic support in Russia.9 Both realizations have implications for managing deliberate as well as inadvertent escalation pathways. Prior to an act of aggression against NATO, Moscow would have to create a pretext of a magnitude that would justify war with the world’s most powerful military alliance. While that seems unlikely, one cannot exclude the possibility that unrest in the Baltics involving minority ethnic groups could lead to inadvertent escalation if domestic pressure mounts in Moscow. For NATO, there are not many military options for mitigating these escalation risks. Deterrence is only applicable in so far as Russia decides to react to a domestic crisis in the Baltics—deliberately instigated or randomly occurring—with military pressure or the use of force.

A more effective approach would be to reduce the initial risk of domestic unrest as much as possible. Resilience measures could be an important way to help make minorities more immune to nonkinetic Russian operations, such as propaganda and disinformation. However, NATO’s current efforts to strengthen resilience focus on preventing disruption to military deployments to ensure effective deterrence and defense.10 Beyond the military realm, NATO treats resilience as one facet of its efforts, not a core task.

But NATO has several options as its disposal to broaden its resilience portfolio. To begin with, NATO could provide technical assistance funds to the Baltic states to help them build Russian-language media outlets from the ground up. This assistance should cover capacity building, program development, public relations, and branding. To be comprehensive, these efforts should include traditional media outlets—such as newspapers, television, and radio—as well as social media and internet resources. The aim would be to provide a counternarrative to Russian propaganda and help audiences distinguish between facts and fake news.

While such efforts to build resilience would be much cheaper than most military options, any positive effects would only be seen in the coming decades. At the same time, allies might struggle to reach a consensus on whether NATO, a military alliance, is really the right organization for a soft power approach, not least because such efforts would run the risk of being seen as NATO-sponsored propaganda. Since NATO already cooperates with the EU on resilience,11 Brussels would, perhaps, be better placed to lead such efforts.

The contentious debate about NATO members’ goal to spend 2 percent of their GDP on defense may unleash positive synergies. Certain allies, including Germany, argue that nonmilitary measures such as post-conflict reconstruction, conflict prevention, development aid, and the integration of refugees contribute to allied security and that NATO should count spending on them toward the 2 percent target.12 Even though NATO’s secretary general has rebuked German calls,13 allies could make a virtue out of necessity by encouraging Germany and others to finance and organize independent Russian-language media outlets and recognizing that such resilience efforts count toward the target.14

The contentious debate about NATO members’ goal to spend 2 percent of their GDP on defense may unleash positive synergies.

Another option for NATO could be to closely monitor the state of integration, rights, and treatment of Russian minorities in the Baltics, and to intervene, perhaps through a special civilian monitoring and advisory mission, in cases of concern. Such a watchdog institution could help signal to Russia that NATO is taking the issue seriously. NATO does not currently play a role on minority rights within member states and is wary about infringing on members’ sovereignty. It could, therefore, be quite difficult to reach a consensus about allowing NATO to intervene directly in the domestic policies of its member states. Allies with a poor track record in terms of democratic institutions and the rule of law, including Turkey or Hungary (and, to a lesser extent, Poland), might even view this as a dangerous legal precedent. In addition, institutionalized monitoring might inadvertently come across as exactly the kind of stigmatization of the Baltic countries that Russia wishes to generate.

But NATO is an alliance of shared values, and the integration and fair treatment of Russian minorities in the Baltic states is too important a matter to leave unattended. If allies found NATO monitoring to be unacceptable, they could opt for self-reporting. Obviously, self-reporting by the Baltic states would have its weaknesses, but such an approach could be accompanied by behind-the-scenes pressure from other allies to ensure reports were meaningful. Another option would be to task the OSCE, which is also concerned with human rights, with an enhanced monitoring role. The problem there, however, is that Russia has a veto in that organization.

Increasing the resilience of NATO members against Russian meddling should not stop with the Baltic states. As Russian attempts to interfere in the elections of France, the Netherlands, and the United States have all shown, strengthening the cyber defenses of governmental agencies as well as political parties is a first necessary step to prevent the deliberate leaking of confidential information. NATO should make national resilience measures in the cyber realm count toward the alliance’s 2 percent defense spending target.

Allies need to make their publics aware that they are being influenced by Moscow, either directly or through proxies.

Furthermore, allies need to make their publics aware that they are being influenced by Moscow, either directly or through proxies. Since a growing number of citizens treat their own governmental institutions with skepticism, national governments should cooperate, by sharing information about Russian interference, with independent civil society groups that are often seen as more credible. This approach carries the risk of looking like collusion, but it is a risk worth taking. One of the downsides of NATO focusing so heavily on Russia over the last few years, though entirely warranted, is a tendency to portray the Kremlin as an undefeatable “superman,” which it clearly is not. Allies could therefore send a more determined public message to their own populations that what Moscow is doing is neither new nor significant enough to bring down Western democracy and the rule of law.

One final area where NATO could enhance the resilience of its own populations pertains to public acceptance of deterrence in general and nuclear deterrence specifically. While polls show that approval rates for NATO are on the rise on both sides of the Atlantic,15 parts of Western European societies remain quite skeptical of NATO’s deterrence and defense policies vis-à-vis Russia.16 Open disagreement with official policies is one of the most precious achievements of democratic societies. But it bears the risk of being exploited as envisaged in the Russian NGW playbook. NATO allies could do a better job at explaining to their publics NATO’s deterrence and defense policies, and in particular why NATO remains a nuclear alliance and what that actually means.

Risk Reduction

Neither deterrence and assurance nor enhanced resilience is applicable to preventing accidental escalation. For this task, NATO’s goal of achieving security cooperatively with Moscow comes into play. Jointly reducing various risks that stem from limited transparency and potential military incidents calls for agreed-upon rules and good communications in crisis situations. Beyond such immediate risk-reduction measures, more ambitious CSBMs and arms control measures would be more challenging to attain. Some, such as modernizing the OSCE’s Vienna Document, might be achievable even in the current environment. Others—such as limitations on conventional weaponry—would be tougher sells. Much will depend on NATO’s ability to reach a robust consensus on these matters.

In parallel to implementing agreed-upon measures to strengthen deterrence and assurance, NATO should continue to engage Moscow on enhancing communication in the event of an accidental crisis. Together, these two efforts could prepare the groundwork for NATO to present concrete CSBMs and conventional arms control arrangements to Moscow. The upside of this approach would be to reconcile the positions of alliance members that are skeptical of a stronger military response to Russia with those skeptical of more cooperation.

There are three chief ways NATO could seek to reduce the most pressing risks of accidental escalation.

There are three chief ways NATO could seek to reduce the most pressing risks of accidental escalation. First, NATO should aim to re-establish military-to-military crisis communications channels with the Russian General Staff at the working level. NATO holds some sporadic meetings of the NATO-Russia Council, which is a useful tool for general political dialogue, but might not be sufficient in the event of a crisis because the council does not provide the necessary military-to-military communications channels. Second, initial talks about avoiding accidental escalation should aim at commonly agreed-upon and adhered-to rules for preventing accidents in the busy civilian and military airspace over the Baltic Sea. More ambitiously, Washington and Moscow should make continuous use of the readily available bilateral U.S.-Russian Agreement on the Prevention of Dangerous Military Activities. In addition, NATO should encourage Poland and the three Baltic states to seek to conclude individual agreements with Russia similar to the Agreement on the Prevention of Incidents On and Over the High Seas. Third, reconvening NATO-Russian talks about military strategy and nuclear doctrine, which had been ongoing prior to Russia’s annexation of Crimea, could help dispel misperceptions and thus avoid inadvertent escalation. Such discussions would be particularly important since the strategic nuclear dialogue between Washington and Moscow effectively petered out after the New START entered into force in 2011 (though efforts to revive the dialogue are under way). NATO could use such talks to emphasize its resolve and address Russia’s supposed nonlinear approach to the threat or use of nuclear weapons.

Those short-term options are unlikely to spark much contention within NATO because they would not undermine deterrence, assurance, or alliance unity. However, implementing them in the current political environment would be difficult because Russia reaps benefits from appearing unpredictable. Going beyond these initial measures to address the risk of accidental escalation and engaging Russia on more far-reaching CSBMs and arms control measures would be even more difficult.

On this front, NATO should start to put more intellectual effort into identifying what specific measures would increase allies’ security. First, allies’ concerns about large-scale Russian exercises close to NATO territory highlight a lack of transparency and predictability that could be mitigated by mutually agreed-upon CSBMs, such as an updated version of the OSCE’s Vienna Document addressing snap exercises, as well as large ones broken down into multiple components. Second, mitigating the risks that stem from the numerical imbalance in regional conventional forces should be possible if the two sides can devise limitations on heavy conventional weaponry. The worst-case scenario for NATO would be a Russian attack against one of the alliance’s militarily weak eastern members. For such an attack to be successful, Russia would have to use its tanks, armored vehicles, aircraft, and helicopters. Enabling technologies such as cruise missiles, command and control assets, and air defense systems­ are crucial for such operations, but they cannot seize and hold enemy territory. This reality points to the continued utility of an arms control arrangement limiting states’ ability to move boots on the ground.

As the Cold War ended, NATO and the Warsaw Pact agreed to the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE), which reduced and limited five specified types of conventional military land and air equipment in designated geographical zones. In 2007, Moscow suspended the CFE Treaty in reaction to NATO making the ratification of an Adapted CFE Treaty conditional on Russia’s withdrawing remaining weapons and personnel from secessionist regions in Georgia and Moldova.17 Even though the treaty is de facto still in place, without Russia’s participation it has lost much of its utility. Still, particularly in today’s tense environment, a CFE-type arrangement could increase security on NATO’s eastern flank. Since many of the current military tensions emanate from the Baltic Sea, perhaps a naval arms control component could be added, though addressing rapid naval military movements could prove difficult.

NATO should be mindful, too, of the critics of a conventional arms control approach. Critics from the Baltics, in particular, voice concerns that regional limitations on conventional forces, even if reciprocal, would solidify the notion of an alliance with different zones of security, thus undermining assurance and unity.18 While this perception certainly has its merits, NATO allies should convince the Baltic states that more security can be built around increased deterrence and assurance, ideally coupled with reciprocal arms control arrangements.

Perhaps the greatest obstacle would be overcoming Russian reluctance to engage on conventional limitations, given that the regional balance of power is still in its favor.

Perhaps the greatest obstacle would be overcoming Russian reluctance to engage on conventional limitations, given that the regional balance of power is still in its favor and that Moscow has not completed its conventional force modernization program. Moreover, regional limitations would entail geographical limits in Russia’s Western Military District in particular. Russia generally has had problems accepting such limits, even under the terms of the original CFE Treaty. That said, over the long run, the cause is not hopeless. Russia’s regional military superiority and NATO’s military superiority across Europe as a whole could allow for some kind of mutually beneficial deal. If that were impossible to achieve, NATO could still use the threat of additional deployments as leverage for pressing Moscow on arms control. As a matter of fact, the Kremlin would be loath to accept additional permanent NATO deployments to the Baltic states and Poland, should the allies, at some point, agree on the necessity of such a step.

Back in the late 1970s, NATO used a similar strategy to respond to the Soviet missile buildup. While threatening to reciprocate Soviet actions with its own missile buildup, NATO made a concrete offer of dialogue and arms control. A few years later, and after NATO had put its threat to the test, Moscow finally came to the table. The resulting U.S.-Soviet INF Treaty eliminated all those intermediate-range missiles that NATO and the Soviets found most threatening. In a similar fashion, any potential additional NATO force deployments to the Baltics should include an offer of dialogue to Moscow with the aim of forging a new regional and reciprocal conventional arms control mechanism. Such a mechanism, if successfully concluded and implemented, could make additional deployments redundant.

Finally, allies could try to use the ongoing INF crisis in a similar way. If Russia does not return to compliance with the INF Treaty, U.S. military deployments become increasingly likely within the next few years.19 Washington and its allies could use the pending threat of these deployments as an opening bid for broader talks with Russia about European security and arms control. If arms control talks were to result in a satisfactory outcome, NATO could renounce its arms buildup. To be successful, such an approach would have to be carefully timed, have broad support within the alliance, and be carefully communicated to Russia.

The new U.S. NPR tries to establish such a link when arguing that pursuing a new U.S. sea-based nuclear cruise missile “will provide a needed non-strategic regional presence, an assured response capability, and an INF-Treaty compliant response to Russia’s continuing Treaty violation.”20 The NPR states further that “if Russia returns to compliance with its arms control obligations, reduces its non-strategic nuclear arsenal, and corrects its other destabilizing behaviors, the United States may reconsider the pursuit of a SLCM [submarine-launched cruise missile.”21 Unfortunately, this approach is not very promising because the linkage established by the NPR is too broad and goes well beyond the issue of the alleged Russian INF Treaty violation. In particular, the NPR does not definitively promise to cease the SLCM program if Russia complies with U.S. demands.


1 Shlapak, Deterring Russian Aggression in the Baltic States.

2 Interviews conducted by the author with Baltic officials and experts.

3 NATO, “The Secretary General’s Annual Report 2016,” 35,

4 NATO, “Logistics,” June 21, 2017,

5 In interviews with the author, experts and officials from Latvia and Lithuania did not express a desire for a stronger nuclear response by NATO. However, all expressed concern with regard to the alleged Russian INF violations.

6 Oriana Pawlyk, “US Sends All 3 Bombers to Europe for the First Time,” Business Insider, June 9, 2017,

7 According to President Putin in 2006, “We must take into account the plans and development vectors of other countries’ armed forces, and we must keep ourselves informed on promising developments, but we should not go after quantity and simply throw our money to the wind. Our responses must be based on intellectual superiority. They will be asymmetrical, not as costly, but they will unquestionably make our nuclear triad more reliable and effective.” Kremlin, “Annual Address to the Federal Assembly,” May 10, 2006,

8 Consequences and Context for Russia's Violations of the INF Treaty, 115th Cong. (2017) (prepared statement by Jon Wolfsthal before the House Committee on Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces and the Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade, March 30, 2017),

9 Kadri Liik, “What Does Russia Want?” European Council on Foreign Relations, May 26, 2017,

10 See NATO, “Allies Take Further Steps to Enhance Resilience,” March 28, 2017,

11 See NATO, “Joint Declaration by the President of the European Council, the President of the European Commission, and the Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization,” July 8, 2016,

12 “Development Aid Cannot Be Part of Defense Spending: NATO’s Stoltenberg,” Reuters, March 31, 2017,

13 Ibid.

14 Germany is already cooperating with media partners in the Baltic states. “Working Together for Security – Foreign Minister Gabriel Visits the Baltic States,” German Federal Foreign Office, March 2, 2017,

15 Bruce Stokes, “NATO’s Image Improves on Both Sides of Atlantic,” Pew Research Center, May 23, 2017,

16 Michael Birnbaum, “Survey: Western Europe Wary of Supporting Russia’s NATO Neighbors,” Washington Post, June 10, 2015,

17 Ulrich Kühn, “Conventional Arms Control 2.0,” Journal of Slavic Military Studies 26, no. 2 (2013): 189–202.

18 Interviews by the author with officials and experts from Latvia and Lithuania.

19 Wolfsthal, “After Deployment: What?”

20 Department of Defense, Nuclear Posture Review 2018, 55.

21 Ibid.