Project Publications

    Deterrence Icons as Status Symbols: American Forces in NATO’s Eastern Flank

    Cooperation and Conflict (Online First, 2024)

    Mälksoo, Maria. Deterrence Icons as Status Symbols: American Forces in NATO’s Eastern Flank, Cooperation and Conflict (Special Issue: Status Symbols in World Politics, guest editors: Paul Beaumont and Pål Røren), pp. 1-22. © The Author (2024) DOI: 10.1177/00108367241254307

    How can a signal of extended deterrence, such as prepositioning of foreign military forces, signify status for the beneficiaries of the allied deterrence/reassurance chain? This article explores how the manifestation and communication of allied deterrence can concurrently constitute an affectively charged status symbol for the protégé states of this international security practice. It does so on the example of the Baltic states and Poland, probing the presence and functionality of the American forces as a status marker in NATO’s eastern flank states post-2014. Engaging discourse analysis and expert interviews, the article shows (i) how the intersubjectively determined success of deterrence is dependent on historically potent symbols which have become emblematic of extended deterrence, and (ii) how deterrence icons can simultaneously serve as multifarious status symbols in intra-alliance politics. The self-identification of protégé states as worthy stakes to deter over emerges as an ambivalent status position defined by the shortage of attributes, rather than a function of their tally. The article contributes to the understanding of the symbolic form of (allied) deterrence and the multivocal status value ascribed to the American ‘boots on the ground’.

    Accepted author manuscript available here.

    Maria Mälksoo 25 May 2024

    Memory-Political Deterrence: Shielding Collective Memory and Ontological Security through Dissuasion

    International Studies Quarterly (March 2024)

    Gustafsson, Karl and Maria Mälksoo (2024) Memory-Political Deterrence: Shielding Collective Memory and Ontological Security through Dissuasion. International Studies Quarterly 68 (1) (March): 1-12,

    Traditionally used within the context of hard military power in interstate relations, the concept of deterrence has been progressively extended to non-state actors and new issue areas. While scholarship on the social aspects of deterrence has expanded our understanding of this core international security practice, the focus of existing research has largely remained on physical security. This article argues that there is a phenomenon in international politics that can be called memory-political deterrence. Memory-political deterrence refers to the ways in which states seek to dissuade other political actors from taking actions that threaten the collective memory narratives that underpin the ontological security of the deterring actor. Memory-political deterrence works, for example, through political rhetoric, declarations, diplomatic insults, commemorative practices, and punitive memory laws. We illustrate the article’s arguments through empirical examples from Russia’s and China’s recent memory-political deterrence efforts toward Ukraine and Japan, respectively. In doing so, we elucidate the ways in which memory politics is intertwined with geopolitics, underpinning wider world-ordering aspirations.

    Maria Mälksoo 8 March 2024

    NATO’s New Front: deterrence moves eastward

    International Affairs (March 2024)

    Mälksoo, Maria (2024) NATO’s new front: deterrence moves eastward. International Affairs 100(2) (March): 531-47,

    Why has NATO taken so long in adapting its deterrence strategy to Russian revisionism and extending its military presence to the eastern allies? The setting up of NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) in Poland and the Baltic states offers a critical case for examining the changing understandings of allied deterrence in the post-post-Cold War era. eFP is a story of negotiating the political acceptability and military credibility of NATO’s modern extended deterrence strategy in the exposed eastern flank, and the navigation of the alliance security dilemma in relation to Russia while buttressing the eastern allies’ physical and NATO’s ontological security. This article traces NATO’s extended conventional deterrence posture in the eastern flank from the adoption of the tripwire model shortly after Russia’s annexation of Crimea to the commitment to defend ‘every inch of Allied territory’ via embracing the forward defence stance in 2022. Mapping the evolutionary curve of NATO’s post-enlargement politics of deterrence through documentary analysis and interviews with diplomats and military representatives in NATO headquarters and national capitals, the article makes two contributions. Conceptually, it dissects the political rationalities and historical analogies underpinning contemporary allied deterrence strategy and posture in NATO’s eastern frontline. Empirically, the study illustrates how allied deterrence is made to matter on the ground, and why this matters for deterrence credibility.



    Maria Mälksoo 4 March 2024

Other Dissemination

Previous Publications

    The symbolic space of the sea
    In: The Sea and International Relations (eds Benjamin de Carvalho and Halvard Leira), Manchester University Press, pp. 50-71.

    Maria Mälksoo 26 July 2022

    This chapter tackles seascape as a symbolic space. It explores the political symbolisation and the symbolic power of the sea via a twofold empirical focus. The first move examines the maritime imagining of a nation-space with the example of Estonia’s ex-president and ethnographer Lennart Meri’s historical travelogue Hõbevalge [Silver White] (1976). This imaginative reconstruction of Estonia’s ancient seafaring history and connectivities with the Baltic Sea region and beyond was a conscious exercise in linking a forgotten Baltic province to the mental map of a Nordic-Baltic region.

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    A ritual approach to deterrence:
    I am, therefore I deter
    European Journal of International Relations  27(1): 53-78.

    Maria Mälksoo 1 March 2021

    How can ritual help to understand the practice of deterrence? Traditional deterrence scholarship tends to overlook the active role of deterring actors in creating and redefining the circumstances to which they are allegedly only reacting. In order to address the weight of deterrence as a symbol, collective representation and strategic repertoire, this article proposes to rethink deterrence as a performative strategic practice with ritual features and critical binding, releasing and restraining functions.

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    Rituals of world politics:
    on (visual) practices disordering things
    Critical Studies on Security 8(3): 240-264.

    Aalberts, Tanja, Xymena Kurowska, Anna Leander, Maria Mälksoo 1 September 2020

    Rituals are customarily muted into predictable routines aimed to stabilise social orders and limit conflict. As a result, their magic lure recedes into the background, and the unexpected and disruptive elements are downplayed. Our collaborative contribution counters this move by foregrounding rituals of world politics as social practices with notable disordering effects. We engage a series of ‘world pictures’ to show the worlding and disruptive work enacted in rituals designed to sustain the sovereign exercise of violence and war,

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    Konsekverne af den russiske krig i Ukraine for afskrækkelsen i Østersøregionen
    Efter freden: Ukrainekrigens betydning for dansk og europæisk sikkerhed

    Maria Mälksoo 1 May 2022

    Paljasjalgne Volodõmõr

    Postimees: Arvamus ja Kultuur

    Maria Mälksoo 12 March 2022

    Ritual Reverence to Deterrence in Cyberspace

    Directions: Cyber Digital Europe Blog

    Maria Mälksoo 15 February 2021

    The efficacy of deterrence as a method of conflict management is highly disputed. Yet, deterrence persists as a go-to security strategy and is flourishing in the spheres of cyber and information warfare. The EU is now embracing deterrence and its political appeal to advance its cybersecurity posture. But the prudence of this move remains unproven, and it is counterintuitive to the EU’s ambitions as a positive and pacifying force in cyberspace.

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