Rituals of Extended Conventional Deterrence:
NATO-Russia (post-Cold War)

This case study will provide an interactive analysis of NATO and Russia’s deterrence narratives and counter-narratives, ritualised actions and reactions focusing on the context of NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence in Poland and the Baltic states. The study will dissect in detail NATO’s ‘speaking’ and ‘acting’ of deterrence to Russia since 2014 (Russia’s annexation of Crimea and intervention in eastern Ukraine) and Russia’s responses to NATO’s deterrence messages and moves in its turn through interpretive practice tracing. Particular attention will be paid to delineating the ‘lessons’ either side has drawn from the earlier post-Cold War dynamics of NATO-Russia relations (including the many earlier points of tension, e.g., the 2008 war in Georgia).

The key task is to investigate how the abstraction of allied deterrence is made real and believable in case of NATO’s forward presence in the Alliance’s eastern flank, and assess its effects for the (re)production of the North Atlantic solidary security community. These are issues of high policy relevance in light of Russia’s ongoing war against Ukraine and the intra-Alliance debates on solidary burden-sharing for territorial defence and out-of-area missions, defence spending, general and tailored deterrence options in light of ‘hybrid’ challenges, and NATO’s rotational vs permanent military presence in its north-eastern flank.

Questions addressed:

  • How is NATO’s modern deterrence politically and militarily performed vis-à-vis Russia?
  • What are the political meanings attributed to the Alliance’s Enhanced Forward Presence in NATO’s eastern flank?
  • How has NATO’s posture in its eastern flank evolved post-enlargement? Which historical analogies and lessons have informed the specifics of NATO’s allied posture in Poland and the Baltic states? How has Russia reacted to and reciprocated NATO’s deterrence moves in the region?
  • What have been the prevalent understandings about the credibility of deterrence on NATO’s eastern flank throughout the different phases in the post-Cold War era, particularly since 2014, and the 2022 full-on Russian war on Ukraine? How is Finland and Sweden’s pending membership in the Alliance perceived to contribute to allied deterrence in the Baltic Sea space?
  • How have various conventional deterrence models (e.g., tripwire, forward defence, deterrence by denial, deterrence by punishment; permanent versus rotational presence) been debated and reasoned about in the context of building NATO’s posture in the eastern flank?