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