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Russia and NATO in the Baltics

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Case Overview

Set in July 2016. Following Russia’s annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, a North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit approaches as the Baltic states face a greater threat from Russia.

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The Situation

Set in July 2016. Since Russia’s annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea in 2014, the United States has debated how to best support the Baltic States, three small countries wedged between Russia and the Baltic Sea. Those states—Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania—are fellow members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which the United States is bound by treaty to help defend. Given Russia’s willingness to openly flout the sovereignty of its neighbors and its increasingly aggressive military presence in the Baltic region, the United States worries that Russia could continue an expansionist policy. 

Before the biennial NATO summit, the U.S. National Security Council (NSC) will convene to determine a policy to address Baltic security that the United States will articulate at the gathering. As the NSC deliberates, it needs to consider the possibility that Russian actions in Ukraine could be replayed in the Baltics.





  • Collective defense obligations under the North Atlantic Treaty’s Article 5
  • Post–Cold War expansion of the European Union and NATO and Russia’s relations with those institutions
  • Russia’s political evolution and the legacy and effects of its action in Ukraine

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