History may one day record that the greatest strategic blunder in history was the failure of U.S. leaders to take the possibility of nuclear war between America and Russia seriously once the Cold War ended. A case in point is the security commitments that Washington has extended to three small Baltic states since they joined NATO in 2004. Under Article V of the North Atlantic Treaty, the U.S. is pledged to come to their assistance if invaded; under the doctrine of extended deterrence, that assistance might include use of nuclear weapons. However, Russia has nuclear weapons too — both strategic and tactical — so Washington has in effect tied the security of the United States to three countries of marginal importance whose fate matters much more to Moscow than it does to America. There are multiple reasons to suspect that a military confrontation over the Baltic states is the scenario in which a future East-West nuclear exchange is most likely. I have written a commentary for National Defense here.
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