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Reinforcing Deterrence on NATO's Eastern Flank: Wargaming the Defense of the Baltics

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Technical Report

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RAND Arroyo Center Santa Monica United States

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Russias recent aggression against Ukraine has disrupted nearly a generation of relative peace and stability between Moscow and its Western neighbors and raised concerns about its larger intentions. From the perspective of the North Atlantic Treaty OrganizationNATO, the threat to the three Baltic Republics of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuaniaformer Soviet republics, now member states that border Russian territorymay be the most problematic. In a series of war games conducted between summer2014 and spring 2015, the RAND Corporation examined the shape and probable outcome of a near-term Russian invasion of the Baltic states. The games findings are unambiguous As currently postured, NATO cannot successfully defend the territory of its most exposed members. Across multiple games using a wide range of expert participants in and out of uniform playing both sides, the longest it has taken Russian forces to reach the outskirts of the Estonian andor Latvian capitals of Tallinn and Riga, respectively, is 60 hours. Such a rapid defeat would leave NATO with a limited number of options, all bad a bloody counteroffensive, fraught with escalatory risk, to liberate the Baltics to escalate itself, as it threatened to do to avert defeat during the Cold War or to concede at least temporary defeat, with uncertain but predictably disastrous consequences for the Alliance and, not incidentally, the people of the Baltics.

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