The nature of Russia's threat to NATO's enhanced forward presence in the Baltic States
Kristek, Michael R., Sr.
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In the wake of Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea and subsequent military support to separatists fighting in Eastern Ukraine, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has deployed Enhanced Forward Presence (EFP) forces to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland to reassure NATO's members and to deter Russian aggression. The EFP suggests policy makers consider a Russian incursion into the Baltic States a significant possibility. This thesis explores the nature of Russia's threat to NATO's EFP. It details Russia's national security strategy, military doctrine, and foreign policy toward the Baltic States to assess Russia's political-strategic objectives. It analyzes Russia's military reforms, recent performance in Ukraine and Syria, and organization and training for combat to assess the combat potential Russia could bring to bear against NATO's EFP. The research suggests Russia is conducting information operations to achieve policy objectives in the Baltic States and does not seek to cross the threshold into open, armed conflict with NATO. The EFP presents a viable military deterrent against Russian armed aggression through its trip-wire function, which would lead to deterrence by punishment. However, the Baltic States, and thereby NATO, remain vulnerable to Russian political and social influence by way of energy dependence, malign state influence in the information sphere, and Estonia and Latvia's own divisive citizenship policies. NATO's ability to develop consensus on and codify what actions constitute an information operations attack will enhance NATO's ability to deter Russian information warfare.
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