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5 Things NATO Must Do to Deter a Dangerous Russia

M1 Abrams Tank. Image Credit: US Marine Corp.

5 Steps NATO Should Take To Deter A Frightened And Dangerous Russia – The post-Cold War era is over. The invasion of Ukraine is as transformative for global security as was the start of the Korean War or the collapse of the Soviet Union. While the U.S. is not directly engaged in the battle for Ukraine, it is already deeply involved in a new Cold War.

The argument that the invasion was a result of Putin’s fear of NATO expansion misconstrues the Russian leader’s fears and motives. NATO posed no threat; the invasion of Ukraine has exposed just how weak the Alliance is military. After all, NATO only changed its strategic concept and deployed forces to the Baltic States and Poland after Russia invaded the Donbas in 2014. And these changes—small air units and a few battalion-sized battlegroups rolling into the Baltics—were relatively minor. Since then, the Alliance has done nothing to pose a threat to Russia.

Putin chose to invade a harmless neighbor as a way to protect his political position at home. In order to secure the Kremlin’s kleptocracy, Putin needs to ensure Russia’s permanent isolation from the West, and one way to do that is to prevent Ukraine from adopting Western political and economic principles from NATO or the European Union. The invasion of the Donbas in 2014 came after the Maidan revolution overthrew the Russian-backed former President because he opposed Ukraine joining the EU. Then, as now, the Russian military was used to serve Putin’s domestic political ends.

Putin could not stand the idea of Ukraine becoming a more wealthy and prosperous nation governed by the rule of law. He had the appropriate satrapy in Belarus and needed to create, at minimum, a similar regime in Ukraine.

NATO offered to negotiate with Russia to ease its concerns, however specious, regarding the Alliance’s intentions, the military balance in Europe, and the number and kinds of weapons that would be deployed on the Continent. Putin responded with a pair of draft treaties, one with NATO and the other with the U.S., that would have left all of Eastern Europe undefended.

For Putin, NATO and the U.S. pose existential threats because they deny Moscow the ability to use its military posture to force concessions in other domains. Control over Ukraine will not be enough to provide the Kremlin with the security it craves. If anything, incorporating Ukraine into a new Russian Empire will result in the creation of a thousand-mile-long hostile border with NATO. This will also exacerbate Russia’s internal economic and political strife, making the Kremlin even more likely to focus on external enemies, particularly NATO, to hold the country together.

NATO now faces a strategic threat that is, if anything, more serious than that which existed during the Cold War. Back then, the center of the threat to Europe was the Fulda gap along the border between East and West Germany. It would have offered the Soviet Group of Forces in Germany direct access to the West German heartland and was therefore guarded by more than a dozen NATO divisions. The twenty-first-century equivalent is a 64-mile-wide land bridge between the Poland-Belarus border and the Russian territory of Kaliningrad, the Suwalki Gap. Defending this corridor from a Russian attack will be no easy task.

The U.S. and Europe must now come to terms with the reality that no set of common interests, economic, cultural, or environmental, will be sufficient to keep Moscow from pursuing its strategic interests at the expense of those of other states. This includes military means. The idea of deterring Russia must now give way to that of defending Europe from the possibility of further Russian aggression.

What is to be done?

First, NATO and the U.S. must move forces eastward. This is not a temporary deployment but the permanent placement of heavy forces in Poland, Romania, and the Baltics. The U.S. should relocate the newly reestablished V Corps headquarters to Poland and, with Warsaw’s agreement, begin planning for the permanent deployment of at least a full heavy division in that country. Stryker brigades should be deployed to the Baltic and Romania. The UK, France, and Germany should also deploy forces eastward.

The U.S. also should plan now to deploy the fruits of Army modernization efforts, particularly Long Range Precision Fires (LRPFs), to Europe rather than hold them in CONUS as some have suggested. These include the Extended Range Cannon Artillery, the Precision Strike Missile, and Medium Range Missiles.

Second, NATO must begin the long and difficult process of rebuilding its conventional land warfare capabilities. Many NATO nations disinvested in heavy armor in the decades following the collapse of the Soviet Union. They need to reverse course. The Alliance needs to build forces able to take on Russian armor and artillery.

One nation that is doing so is Poland. Recently, the U.S. government approved the sale of 250 M1A2 SEPv3 main battle tanks, currently available in U.S. inventories, to Warsaw. The Biden administration should accelerate the sale to get the tanks to Poland this year.

Third, the Biden administration must undertake steps to speed delivery of F-35s to European nations that have agreed to acquire the aircraft. The Polish purchase of 32 F-35As should be fast-tracked. The UK also needs to make good on its commitment to acquire 90 additional F-35s.

Fourth, the war in Ukraine demonstrates the value of ground-based air and missile defense. NATO needs more capabilities to defeat Russian strike aircraft, helicopters, and missiles. The U.S. is sending additional Patriot batteries to Europe. The U.S. needs to accelerate production of the IM-SHORAD and deploy additional units to NATO. NATO nations should consider acquiring new air and missile defense capabilities, such as the Israeli Iron Dome system.

Putin took almost no time in this latest crisis to rattle his nuclear saber. We must expect more of this. Hence, fifth, the U.S. must move forward expeditiously on its program to modernize all three legs of the Strategic Triad, something Russia has already done. The Biden administration also should proceed with the development of a new sea-based nuclear-armed cruise missile.

Dr. Daniel Goure, a 1945 Contributing Editor, is Senior Vice President with the Lexington Institute, a nonprofit public-policy research organization headquartered in Arlington, Virginia. He is involved in a wide range of issues as part of the institute’s national security program. Dr. Goure has held senior positions in both the private sector and the U.S. Government. Most recently, he was a member of the 2001 Department of Defense Transition Team. Dr. Goure spent two years in the U.S. Government as the director of the Office of Strategic Competitiveness in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. He also served as a senior analyst on national security and defense issues with the Center for Naval Analyses, Science Applications International Corporation, SRS Technologies, R&D Associates, and System Planning Corporation.

Written By

Dr. Goure is Senior Vice President with the Lexington Institute, a nonprofit public-policy research organization headquartered in Arlington, Virginia. He is involved in a wide range of issues as part of the institute’s national security program.



  1. Commentat

    March 10, 2022 at 10:05 pm

    Russia is dangerous, so are the warmongers on the other side of the fence, perhaps dangerous at a galactic level.

    Over 100 years have passed since the versailles treaty (some nations didn’t even sign it, preferring to sign other
    type of mutual peace acknowledgements), whatcha humans got. Got only same old same thing, two opposing camps.

    Austria was involved in both wars but today, at the very least, it’s norminally neutral, thanks in part to the ‘reluctance’ of the Red Army to leave until 1955. But the rest? Back to the past.

    Thus the future today is just more of the past. That’s why ya got this war in kyiv. Europeans are a quarrelsome and warlike lot, as trump pointed out in an 2018 interview with Foxnews(google it).

    Europeans right now are even fighting poutine energetically like the way azov members are fighting donbass militias.

    Quarrelsome lot. Always eager for scraps. Back to the past.

  2. Commentar

    March 10, 2022 at 10:28 pm

    In july 2018, tucker carlson was in a televised conversation with then president trump, and the talk wandered into talk on nato article 5 and trump’s reply went like this “They’re very strong(willed) people, they’re very aggressive people, they may get aggressive and, congratulations, you’re in world war three.”

    Many people could scarcely believed their ears, but it showed trump has a clear well organised mind compared to the current old man who’s conflicted about everything.

  3. FJB and kameltoe harris

    March 11, 2022 at 12:10 am

    Who wrote this, a neocon? An insane warmonger, pro-nuclear response, “we must rule the world” POS?
    IN the early 60’s, the USSR parked a few missiles off the coast of America on a little island called CUBA. That nearly started WWIII.
    Fast forward to present day, and the US has bases all around the southeastern tip of Russian territory.
    All that needed to happen to avoid this mayhem was for NATO to ensure no new bases in Ukraine. Ukraine is FLAT, and provides a perfect approach for land based forces to enter Russia EM MASSE. Additionally, their warm water port at Sevastopol is critical to their ability to defend themselves.
    Try to accept weapons that can strike Washington, DC, in minutes, in Cuba. Try to accept Russian military bases in Mexico. Unacceptable?
    Now you know how Putin feels. And he cannot back down now.
    The morons in Washington would do us all a favor to de-escalate by ensuring NO NEW MILITARY BASES IN UKRAINE. The blood of those killed in Ukraine are on THEIR HANDS.

  4. Dimmer

    March 11, 2022 at 6:19 am

    Dear author, you are an outright liar. The United States staged this civil war between Russia and Ukraine for money. And, as I understand it, you propose to inflate this conflict even more. I hope you understand that the United States will no longer be able to sit safely.

  5. Alex

    March 11, 2022 at 8:05 am

    To “contain” Russia, it was necessary:
    1. Don’t deceive Russia and don’t expand NATO eastward while right on Russia’s doorstep right now.
    2. Do not organize orange revolutions in the countries of the former USSR,
    3. Do not make plans to deploy weapons in Ukraine and NATO ports in Crimea,
    4. Do not develop biological weapons in the US legal laboratories in Ukraine,
    5. Do not turn a blind eye to the West on Bandera Nazism in Ukraine, the killing of people in the Donbass by neo-Nazis.
    And now you want to “contain” Russia? Liars.

  6. Aaron

    March 11, 2022 at 8:36 am

    It is curious that Russian troll farm workers are the only ones commenting on 19fortyfive. Perhaps you need to re-look at your posting and moderating policies. The conversation here is trolls replying to other trolls — they may even be the same person.

    Their disinformation efforts are pathetic but still dangerous.

  7. Eric-ji

    March 11, 2022 at 9:54 am

    I disagree with the premise of this editorial.

    Far from NATO needing to beef up militarily, it is now apparent that Russia is not the military threat it was thought to be. Nor is it the potent military threat this author perceives it to be.

    IMO the degree of advanced military hardware and training that Europe currently has is sufficient to deter Russia from attacking further. It is also clearly sufficient to rebuff Russia if it does attack.

    The purpose of this editorial seems to be to ‘spin’ the Ukraine events, ignore the poor Russian performance, and sabre-rattle in favor of increased arms sales.

  8. Lance Benson

    March 11, 2022 at 9:57 am

    “the invasion of Ukraine has exposed just how weak the Alliance is military”

    The invasion has exposed just how weak the Russian conventional military is–weak enough that the outmanned Ukrainian army has been able to stymie it to such a degree that NATO air attacks would have absolutely wrecked it. It’s possible that Ukrainian forces with NATO UCAV arms may still wreck it.

    But I agree that NATO land forces should be strengthened and forward-deployed to Poland and the Baltic states, and that every effort should be made to enable the Ukrainian forces to actually defeat the Russian invaders. If Germany’s resolve continues, NATO will be much the stronger.

    (And yes, the trolls are active on this site.)

  9. Jerry Syder

    March 11, 2022 at 9:59 am

    Why did NATO expand into Poland and the Baltics twenty years ago when Russia was on its knees economically and politically? What’s the point in giving military guarantees to tiny and mid-size nations when there was no Russian threat at the time? The West squandered an opportunity to bridge the divide with Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union, and now we’re in a new ‘Cold War’ that this writer seems giddy about.

  10. Linda Molino

    March 11, 2022 at 10:26 am


  11. Alex

    March 12, 2022 at 2:13 am

    1. The Russian army turned out to be not weaker, but more merciful to its Slavic brothers, with whom the Nazi Bandera people hide behind like a human shield. Do you think that such mercy will be in the event of an attack by the West on Russia? It will all be over very, very quickly.
    2. NATO made its choice when, on orders from Washington, it lied to Russia about not expanding and now stands at Russia’s very doorstep. When Russia has nothing to lose, any aggression from the West will lead to the disappearance of the West.
    3. Aaron, don’t forget about taking Xanox three times a day and visiting a psychiatrist.

  12. DavidC

    March 12, 2022 at 5:35 pm

    The Ukraine army ended up being smack in the middle of a multi-front war. They have to fight the Russian army, Donbas and Lugansk paramilitary forces and thousands of other paramilitary forces flooding into the region to fight aloneside them. The Ukrainians are out numbered and out gunned. NATO is clueless and simply adding gasoline onto an already ragging inferno. There needs to be a negotiated settlement to end this war.

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