Explaining Russian reactions to increased NATO military presence

Published: 2 Jan 2020

Ever since NATO’s enlargement process began, Russia has voiced concerns for the impact of a greater NATO military presence near the Russian border for its national security. While the signing of the 1997 NATO–Russia Founding Act eased some tensions, Russia–NATO relations have had their ups and downs. Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine and annexation of Crimea in 2014 led NATO to adopt countermeasures aimed at improving the security of its members – such as the deployment of NATO troops to areas deemed for geographical reasons most exposed to potential Russian interventions. This Policy Brief examines Russian reactions to these new NATO deployments, placing them in the broader context of the Russian debate on NATO as a source of strategic concern. It starts with a discussion of the general strategic context, follows with examining the main lines in the Russian debate on NATO as a general security challenge, and continues with an examination of official views on a greater NATO military presence in areas close to Russian borders. It ends with some policy-relevant conclusions on striking a balance between NATO concerns for the security of its members and Russian views on what Moscow defines as national security concerns.