Avoiding War: How Should Northern Europe Respond to the US-Russian Rivalry?
Since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, Northern Europe has increasingly aligned its national defence arrangements with the United States and NATO. This contrasts with the Cold War period, when Sweden and Finland were neutral, and Norway and Denmark put self-imposed restraints on their NATO memberships. Providing Northern Europe with a stable “buffer” between East and West, this so-called Nordic balance kept the United States and Soviet Union at an arm’s length. Since 2014 however, Northern Europe has de facto slid from “buffer” to “springboard” for US forces. This slide may counter Russian assertiveness, but there is also reason to argue that it may increase regional tension and unpredictability. If so, this may leave the entire region with less rather than more security. Using the case of Norway, it is argued that too close an alignment with NATO may have accelerated Norway’s role as a “springboard” for US forces. This is because cost-intensive reforms needed to accommodate US expectations abroad have also exacerbated critical vulnerabilities at home. Increased dependency on US forces thereby makes difficult the balance between deterrence and restraint vis-à-vis Russia.
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