The United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) face daunting challenges in the Baltic region. Russia is behaving aggressively. Its military is more capable than it has been at any point since the end of the Cold War. More importantly, Russia is finding creative ways to subvert the status quo and to sow discord without triggering Article 5 of NATO, which declares that an attack against one member is an attack against all.
These problems are formidable, but we have reason to be optimistic. Far from shattering NATO’s cohesion and undermining its resolve, Russian aggression has reinvigorated the alliance. Nor is Russia an unstoppable adversary. It has many weaknesses. Indeed, Russian fears over those vulnerabilities might be driving its aggressive foreign policy. Even if this is not the case and Russia is indeed a relentless predator, it is nevertheless a vulnerable one.
The United States and its NATO allies can take advantage of these vulnerabilities. After assessing Russian intentions, capabilities, and limitation, this monograph recommends a hedging strategy to improve early detection capabilities, enhance deterrence in unprovocative ways, and improve regional defenses against a hybrid threat. Achieving these goals should help the United States deter Russia and reassure regional allies more effectively while managing our own worst fears.