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An Unfavorable Situation: NATO and the Conventional Balance

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The view, long and widely held, that NATO conventional military forces are inferior to Warsaw Pact forces is one of the most important factors shaping postwar history. It influenced the size and nature of the American military commitment to Europe. It is at the heart of the extended deterrence strategy, in which the U.S. commitment to use nuclear weapons in the defense of Europe offsets the Warsaw Pacts perceived conventional superiority. The notion of Western inferiority runs through much of todays public debate on security policy-the INF Treaty, the future of nuclear and conventional arms control, U.S. and Allied defense programs, the burden-sharing debate, and so forth. The debates have spawned a new round of discussions on the nature of the conventional military balance in Europe and will affect U.S. and Western policies. The term balance conjures up the image of a scale, with the Warsaw Pacts military power placed on one side and NATOs on the other. This reflects the normal bean count approach to the military balance Total number of tanks, artillery, combat aircraft, etc. is the surrogate for military power. The image of the scale conveys a deeper meaning, however If the Warsaw Pact were military superior or the balance were unfavorable to NATO, NATO would, by implication, lose a military conflict in Central Europe fought with purely conventional weapons. The perception is the one that has shaped the broader Western policy debate. eg

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  • Military Forces and Organizations

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