Confusion in the Kremlin is a terrible idea

Michael Hikari Cecire in The National Interest arguing that NATO should react asymmetrically to military provocations from Russia:

“What would this look like in practice? Exhaustively fortifying the Baltic States is likely a strategic nonstarter, as even a perfect defense would likely only invite Russian countermoves elsewhere. Instead, Western states might link Russian provocations with measured counter-escalations calibrated to wrest back the initiative and sow confusion in the Kremlin. These responses need not be military. One idea might be to create policy mechanisms that could shepherd embattled Western partners like Georgia and Ukraine into NATO; such a move would not guarantee accession, but would complicate Russia’s habits of cultivating separatist proxies to inoculate its neighbors against Euro-Atlantic integration. Or, Western attentions could be better organized in the Arctic to confound Russian plans to dominate that region’s increasingly viable sea lanes and mineral wealth.”

This is a terrible idea. The goal is not to sow confusion in the Kremlin but to deter from aggression. That requires a clear message and consistent communications.

The last thing NATO should do is to escalate the situation in Ukraine, Georgia or the Arctic. NATO has no credible deterrence in these places so it’s like an open invitation to a proxy war.

The message to Russia should be very simple: A violation of any NATO country will be met with massive military retaliation – everywhere else the goal is to restore a system of diplomacy and international law.

A solid fortification of the Baltic States and Poland is a good way to communicate this message. Will it anger some people in the Kremlin? Probably. But it is a consistent message that the Russian strategists will understand. Nobody in the Russian leadership seriously believes that NATO would attack Russia from the Baltic States, because they trust their own deterrence. They will make a lot of noise about it, but at the end of the day the result will be a more stable situation where the mutual deterrence is in place.

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