The Post-Inf European Missile Balance: Thinking About NATO's Deterrence Strategy (Summer 2020)
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The demise of the INF Treaty in 2019 raises questions about the future of deterrence in Europe. For more than a decade, Russia has sought to leverage the potential of precision-strike technologies to strengthen its missile arsenal, having developed systems that either violated INF range regulations or were just below the threshold. As the termination of the treaty removes any outstanding legal barriers to the deployment of ground-based, “theater-range” systems, questions related to the missile balance become central to European security. Of particular importance is the Baltic region, where Russia appears to have acquired a position of “local escalation dominance” that could drive a strategic wedge within NATO. In this essay, we assess what a post-INF Treaty context may mean in light of recent NATO efforts to deter Russia. We argue that the introduction of ground-based, theater-range missiles could help NATO restore the local strategic balance in the Baltic region, thereby strengthening deterrence and helping to create the necessary leverage to get Russia back into meaningful arms control talks in the future.