Wednesday, 31.10.18 to Wednesday, 31.10.18

Conventional and Nuclear Deterrence in Europe

Deterrence, that sounds like Cold War and the 20th century. However, currently the concept of deterrence is experiencing a renaissance. What are the reasons for this and what does deterrence mean in the 21st century?

The annexation of Crimea and the beginning of the military conflict in Ukraine mark a turning point in security policy. Russia´s European neighbors express an increased need for security measures and defense strategies. Especially the states with direct borders with Russia feel threatened by the big, partly openly aggressive, partly subtly acting neighbor. The approach used by Russia in Ukraine has rendered lessons learned from the Cold War deterrence only partially applicable, due to the changing security situation in Europe. The emergence of the cyber realm and a smaller emphasis on nuclear deterrence as well as the ideological conflict between Russia and the West, are among the key differences between the Cold War and the current security environment.

The book "Deterring Russia in Europe", which was presented framed by a discussion on conventional and nuclear deterrence policies in Europe, examines the deterrence and defense policies of Russia's neighboring countries since the annexation of Crimea. The book, edited by Nora Vanaga and Toms Rostoks, provides an in-depth analysis of the changing nature of deterrence policy and examines its practical application by Russia's European neighbors.

The question that arises in the light of hybrid destabilization strategies is how states can defend themselves without escalating tensions. This is where deterrence becomes a useful tool, says Toms Rostoks, who moderated the discussion. Deterrence can take various forms and serves primarily to show aggressors that the cost of an attack is higher than the potential gain. While the deterring actions of the Soviet Union and the West during the Cold War had almost escalated on several occasions, the current situation is different and the tensions not as high, explained Rostoks. Nonetheless, NATO and its allies need to show their ability to act in case of an emergency and their superiority to Russia in terms of international support and resources.

Andrew Corbett, a lecturer at King's College in London and an expert on nuclear deterrence strategies, agreed to this. He explained that aggressors simply lose interest in an attack, if deterrence was successful. "Nuclear deterrence is not about blowing things up, but about not blowing things up ", Corbett put the concept of deterrence in a nutshell.

Next to the editors of the book and Andrew Corbett, numerous guests, including the French and the Norwegian Ambassadors to Latvia, as well as listeners from Japan, Belarus, Finland and Russia, discussed the topic of the book. The event, which was organized by FES in close cooperation with the Center for Security and Strategic Research in Latvia, was also broadly represented in the Latvian media.

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