Assessing Russian Reactions to U.S. and NATO Posture Enhancements
RAND PROJECT AIR FORCE SANTA MONICA CA SANTA MONICA
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The escalation in tensions between Russia and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization NATO since 2014 has led to numerous proposals to enhance U.S. and NATO posture on the Alliances eastern flank. Despite its overall military advantages, NATO faces a clear imbalance in conventional capabilities in regions bordering Russia, such as the Baltics. To address this local imbalance, analysts and policymakers have designed proposals to increase the apparent costs and reduce the probability of success of any attack on a NATO member that Russia might contemplate. Whatever posture enhancements the United States and NATO decide to pursue, their goal is to produce a change in Russian behavior. Therefore, the nature of Russian responses will determine the utility and advisability of whatever actions NATO decides to take. Potential Russian reactions could run the gamut, from tacit acceptance of U.S. and NATO actions and a reduction in any willingness to consider an attack on NATO, to a sharp increase in nearby Russian forces designed to counterbalance U.S. and NATO moves, to a precipitous escalation to direct conflict. Russia could also respond to U.S. and NATO military moves by attempting to exploit nonmilitary vulnerabilities in the United States or other NATO countries. Assessing the likelihood of potential Russian reactions is therefore a vital component of any analysis regarding which posture enhancements the United States and NATO should pursue. This report develops a framework that analysts can use for this purpose.
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