Strategic defense: NATO’s conventional deterrent

A German armored unit stationed in Lithuania
NATO’s key to an effective defense in depth is to have troops positioned forward, but not too far forward. Here, German Leopard 2 tanks on review in Rukla, Lithuania (source: dpa)
  • New threats have made conventional defense a crucial element of NATO’s deterrent
  • Non-territorial aggression makes the choice of defensive strategy even more difficult
  • Strategies of preemptive attack and defense in depth are politically unacceptable
  • Frontal defense has military drawbacks, but can be adapted to the alliance’s needs

The undeclared, hybrid Cold War between Russia and the West shows no signs of abating. Instead, it seems to be intensifying and spreading into new theaters. This includes cutting-edge threats such as hybrid or below-the-threshold operations, cyberattacks and cyber defense, and information warfare through social media.

However, we are also seeing a comeback of more traditional, 20th-century forms of confrontation dating back to the first Cold War: arms races, staged military incidents, proxy wars, nuclear blackmail and deterrence, and containment strategies. One of the latest manifestations is the decision to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which may intensify and widen the current arms race in strategic nuclear weapons into tactical systems as well.

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