The Real Risk of Unintended U.S.-Russia Conflict

The Real Risk of Unintended U.S.-Russia Conflict
A Russian SU-24 jet making a close-range, low altitude pass near the USS Donald Cook in the Baltic Sea, April 12, 2016 (U.S. Navy photo via AP).

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of articles inviting authors to identify the biggest priority—whether a threat, risk, opportunity or challenge—facing the international order and U.S. foreign policy today.

A war between Russia and the United States is more likely today than at any time since the worst years of the Cold War. This may sound implausible or exaggerated to policymakers, journalists and the wider public. Yet the fact remains that increasing deployments by both sides, coupled with severely constrained direct dialogue, mean that dangerous incidents will become far more likely and will be far harder to defuse and de-escalate.

At NATO’s recent summit in Warsaw, the alliance’s heads of state trumpeted their commitment to reassure its easternmost members. They plan to deploy four battalions—some 4,000 combat soldiers—to eastern Poland and the Baltic states, in close proximity to Russia’s historical capital, St. Petersburg, and its heavily militarized exclave of Kaliningrad, which is surrounded entirely by NATO member states and just 300 miles from Berlin. The U.S. component of this effort, dubbed the European Reassurance Initiative, amounts to nearly $4 billion and will support troop rotations, training missions and more exercises with regional U.S. allies and partners, including Georgia and Ukraine. Romania and Bulgaria, both NATO allies with significant Black Sea coastlines on Russia’s southern flank, have asked for a NATO naval force, while a U.S.-led European missile defense system will include interceptor batteries in both Poland and Romania.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.