Publications

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Since its takeover of Crimea in 2014, Russia has become increasingly emboldened, undertaking actions that, rather than propping up a failing regime, strike directly against the functioning of Western democracy. Employing a combination of "hybrid" actions–political, diplomatic, informational, cyber-, economic, covert and low-level force–the Kremlin has targeted countries not only on the fringes of its sphere of influence, but in the heart of Europe and even the United States. 

 


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A turbulent security environment in Europe and strong rhetoric from President Trump have brought renewed attention to NATO, its role in dealing with shared security challenges, and the future of the United States’ relationship with its allies. Front and center are legitimate questions about commitments to defense burden sharing, as well as NATO’s role in counterterrorism. This serves an opportunity to renew the transatlantic security relationship. As part of the Atlantic Council’s project ‘A New Deal for NATO,’ NATO and Trump: The Case for a New Transatlantic Bargain provides pivotal insight and recommendations on how the United States and European allies can move forward to renew the transatlantic security and defense agenda, and make progress on these crucial areas, with the goal of bolstering our shared security.

 
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The European security environment is at its most volatile since the Cold War, and much of the friction between NATO and a newly assertive Russia can be found in the maritime domain, particularly in the Baltic Sea region. This means that NATO must once again address the role of the maritime domain in collective defense and deterrence, and in particular NATO’s ability to conduct sea control and effect reinforcements across the sea. Germany, a key NATO ally in the Baltic Sea region, is currently rebalancing its navy toward the Baltic Sea, and to a lesser degree the North Atlantic, after more than two decades of tending to crisis management tasks. This presents a real opportunity to strengthen collective defense and deterrence in northern Europe and to help fill some of the capability and command and control gaps in the region. 

 
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This spring, the Swedish government is expected to bring back its military draft after seven years. In this, Sweden will join its neighbor Norway, which never abolished its military draft but did make it gender-neutral last year. A third European country, Lithuania, has also reinstated the draft after abolishing it a decade ago. “The Return of the Draft” by Elisabeth Braw, a nonresident senior fellow in the Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security, takes a deeper look at how the draft is returning in a modernized fashion. The author outlines the key policy issues related to recruiting the best conscripts and how to maximize their benefit to the armed forces.

 
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Over the past decade and a half, Russia has placed an increased emphasis on nuclear weapons in its military strategy and doctrine. Moscow’s assertive “escalate-to-de-escalate” nuclear strategy poses a distinguishable threat to NATO nations, and requires greater strategic thinking about NATO’s nuclear posture. After a quarter century of reducing its reliance on nuclear weapons, NATO now lacks a credible deterrent for Russian “de-escalatory” nuclear strikes. To grapple with this possibility, NATO must consider the development of new, more flexible nuclear capabilities of its own.

 
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A permanent rotational presence of NATO troops in the Baltic States and Poland, the outcome from the recent NATO Warsaw Summit, will form an integral part of NATO’s increased deterrence measures against Russia in Europe’s east. One of NATO’s key challenges as it seeks to enhance its presence in the Baltic Sea region is the lack of modern military infrastructure, especially the kind that meets the needs of large Allied units. The Baltic states have not been unaware of their military infrastructure gaps, and all three countries have built their armed forces from the ground up, focusing on manning the force and equipment requirements. But if NATO troops cannot get their tanks and supply convoys to training ranges and bases far from the Baltic coastline, they will not be of much use. Additionally, improving military infrastructure is not just a matter of presenting a more palatable offer to NATO allies; it is also an issue of operational capabilities.

 
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The Baltic Sea region has emerged as a key friction zone between the West and Russia since the onset of the Ukraine crisis in 2014. Russia has built up its military presence and activity in the region, challenging the post-Cold War order in Europe and spurring new concerns in the United States, NATO, and its partners about the region’s security. The overriding US security priority in the Baltic Sea region is to provide deterrence against aggression toward the Baltic States and effective defense if that deterrence fails. The Baltic States are arguably NATO’s most vulnerable members, and their small geographical size and limited military resources mean that they cannot, by themselves, offer strategic depth to the United States and NATO during a crisis. However, the region also contains two of NATO’s most valuable partners—Sweden and Finland—along with the emerging leader of NATO’s east, Poland.

 
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NATO faces a worsening security environment defined by Russia's growing willingness to challenge the West and a Europe whole, free, and at peace. In this new geo-political context the Black Sea region is one of the central friction zones between Russia and NATO. While the Alliance has recently pledged to protect its eastern flank against aggression, overall capacity challenges have resulted in little increased presence in the Black Sea. "A NATO Strategy for Security in the Black Sea Region" takes stock of the security and defense challenges in the broader region and offers operational and policy recommendations for NATO to address security in the Black Sea region. 

 
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The Warsaw Summit was a watershed moment for the NATO Alliance. The twenty-eight member states had a unique opportunity to demonstrate NATO’s enduring relevance and ability to defend Europe and the transatlantic area by laying down a marker to build strong and effective conventional and nuclear deterrence. Poland, in particular, should play an important role in NATO’s adaptation to a new and challenging security environment.  

 
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On the eve of the 2016 Warsaw Summit, NATO faces a new and challenging security environment dominated by a revanchist Russia increasingly willing to challenge the West and turbulence and violence across the Mediterranean's southern rim. In this new security environment, the maritime domains around Europe are potential friction zones and where these challenges increasingly play out. The Russian navy is growing its capabilities, is increasingly active, and challenges NATO at sea. In April, Russian attack jets buzzed the USS Donald Cook at close range in the Baltic Sea, but that is only one example of recent risky interactions. The Alliance, however, has not yet done enough to prepare for these new challenges in the maritime domain. The current Alliance Maritime Strategy, approved in 2011, does not reflect this challenging security environment and is instead focused on lower-end missions and challenges, such as counter-piracy.

 


    

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