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Student Instructor

Russia and NATO in the Baltics

Students at a Model Diplomacy simulation.
Students at a Model Diplomacy simulation.
Students at a Model Diplomacy simulation.

3.1 Role

Welcome to your role as a participant in the National Security Council (NSC)! You should have received an email with your role assignment, but if you did not, you can view your assignment by clicking on the “My Simulations" tab on your account page. At this point, you should have reviewed essential background information about the NSC, read the case, watched the accompanying videos, and perused some of the additional reading. Whether you have been assigned a specific role as an individual or part of a group, or as a general advisor to the president, we suggest you read the case once again to identify material that is particularly relevant to your role or that requires further investigation. After that, you will conduct independent research as you write your position memo and prepare for the role-play.


There are four subsections that follow. Research and Preparation (3.2) will aid your research for the position memo and provide additional reading to guide your research; the Guide to the Memoranda (3.3) provides information about position memos and an example; and the Guide to the Role-Play (3.4) provides more information on the in-class role-play.


You can learn about your role by reading the information provided on your role sheet, which can be found in the Guide to the Role-Play section (3.4). Review this information thoroughly and often, as your objectives and strategy in the position memo and role-play will be shaped by the institutional perspective of the role you have been assigned (unless you are playing a general advisor). After you finish the role-play and subsequent debrief, you will have an opportunity to share your personal thoughts and recommendations on this case in a policy review memo (Section Four, Wrap-up).

GO TO SECTION 4.1

Case Roles

Description of Role:

The president is the head of state and commander in chief of the U.S. Armed Forces. He or she presides over National Security Council (NSC) meetings and listens to the advice and information presented by others. The president is not expected to be an expert on any single subject, but instead draws on the expertise of the NSC to analyze options and choose what he or she feels is the best policy to advance U.S. interests.

The president’s goals are to

  • select one or more policy options after considering the opinions and recommendations of NSC members; and
  • balance and promote U.S. interests, with an eye toward both immediate goals and long-term foreign policy strategy.

 

Issues for Consideration:

These can be used to frame the role-play and encourage debate among fellow NSC members.

  • How, if at all, does the situation in Latvia as presented in this case threaten U.S. national security?
  • What U.S. interests are at stake in this crisis? How should these various interests influence a U.S. response?
  • What are the major elements of the U.S.-Latvia and U.S.-Russia relationships? How have they evolved over time? What do the history and current state of these relationships suggest about obstacles and opportunities for U.S. action in this case?
  • What is the U.S. role in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)? What importance does NATO have for U.S. foreign policy and the U.S. position in the world? How should these factors affect consideration of policy options in this case?
  • How has U.S. policy been perceived in Russia since the end of the Cold War? What does this perception suggest about the potential implications of various policy options?
  • Does the current situation in Latvia mandate consideration of military action by the United States or NATO? If so, what kind? If not, what conditions would necessitate such consideration?
  • Does this crisis raise the prospect of a military confrontation between the United States and Russia? If so, how might various policy options affect the likelihood of such a confrontation? How might these options affect the outcome should a confrontation occur?
  • What is the role of sanctions in current and historical U.S. policy toward Russia? What are the potential implications of using such economic measures in response to the current crisis?
  • What are the costs, benefits, and risks that accompany each policy option open to the United States, including unilateral and multilateral responses to the crisis? What would happen if the United States simply ignored the situation in Latvia?

 

Research Leads:

  • Council on Foreign Relations, “The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)” Backgrounder
  • Embassy of the Republic of Latvia in the Russian Federation, “Relations Between Latvia and Russia”
  • Center for Strategic and International Studies, “Critical Questions: The European Reassurance Initiative”
  • Remarks by President Obama at Multilateral Meeting of Leaders of Baltic States on September 3, 2014
  • Remarks by President Obama to the People of Estonia on September 3, 2014
  • Rand Corporation, “NATO Needs a Comprehensive Strategy for Russia”
  • White House, “Fact Sheet: The United States and Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania—NATO Allies and Global Partners”
  • Reuters, “Baltics Eye Flashpoints with Russia, Guard Against ‘Green Men’”
  • New York Times, “NATO Refocuses on the Kremlin, Its Original Foe”
  • Reuters, “NATO Agrees to Reinforce Eastern Poland, Baltic States Against Russia”

Description of Role:

The vice president must be ready at a moment’s notice to assume the presidency if the commander in chief is unable to perform her or his duties. Vice presidents can play a relatively active role on the National Security Council (NSC), serving as a general advisor and freely advocating their own positions during meetings. In particular, the president may ask the vice president to serve as an independent voice, untethered to any of the agencies represented by other NSC participants. The president may also ask about the interaction between the issue at hand and the domestic political situation, including in Congress.

The vice president’s goals are to

  • provide advice to the president on any topic, including those overlooked by other NSC participants; and
  • understand the range of views in Congress and work to build congressional and public support for the president’s chosen approach.

 

Issues for Consideration:

  • How, if at all, does the situation in Latvia as presented in this case threaten U.S. national security?
  • Where does the situation in Latvia fit in the broader range of national security concerns facing the United States? How should this analysis shape the president’s consideration of policy options in this case?
  • What is the range of attitudes in Congress on Russian actions in Europe, U.S. relations with Russia, and the U.S. role in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)? How, if at all, should the administration work with Congress to identify and implement potential responses to the situation in Latvia?
  • What role do the media and public opinion play in U.S. policy toward its European allies and toward Russia? What if any constituencies in the United States have a particular interest in this issue, or especially strong views? What do these circumstances suggest about the domestic political consequences of various responses?
  • Does this crisis raise the prospect of a military confrontation between the United States and Russia? If so, how might various policy options affect the likelihood of such a confrontation?  How might these options affect the outcome should a confrontation occur?
  • How can the president best articulate a decision and communicate it to the American people and the world?
  • What U.S. interests are at stake in this crisis? How should these interests influence a U.S. response?
  • What are the trade-offs raised by various potential policy options in this case?

 

Research Leads:

  • White House, “Fact Sheet: U.S. Assurance and Deterrence Efforts in Support of NATO Allies”
  • Council on Foreign Relations, “The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)” Backgrounder
  • Rand Corporation, “NATO Needs a Comprehensive Strategy for Russia”
  • U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, “Putin’s Invasion of Ukraine and the Propaganda that Threatens Europe,” Testimony by Heather A. Conley
  • White House, “Fact Sheet: The United States and Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania—NATO Allies and Global Partners”
  • Reuters, “Baltics Eye Flashpoints with Russia, Guard Against ‘Green Men’”
  • North Atlantic Treaty Organization, “NATO’s Relations with Russia”
  • Reuters, “NATO Agrees to Reinforce Eastern Poland, Baltic States Against Russia”

Description of Role:

The chief of staff oversees the Executive Office of the President, which provides the president with support to govern effectively. This post has traditionally been home to many of the president’s closest advisors. In National Security Council (NSC) meetings, the chief of staff ensures that the president has the necessary analysis on the full range of factors relevant to the case, including the U.S. political situation. He or she also guides the process of implementing and communicating presidential decisions.

The chief of staff’s goals are to

  • highlight the domestic implications of U.S. foreign policy choices; and
  • develop strategies to carry out the president’s policy and communicate it to U.S. and international audiences.

 

Issues for Consideration:

  • How, if at all, does the situation in Latvia as presented in this case threaten U.S. national security?
  • What are the major elements of the U.S.-Latvia and U.S.-Russia relationships? How have they evolved over time? What do the history and current state of these relationships suggest about obstacles and opportunities for U.S. action in this case?
  • What is the U.S. role in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)? What importance does NATO have for U.S. foreign policy and the U.S. position in the world? How should these factors affect consideration of policy options in this case?
  • What U.S. interests are at stake in this crisis? How should these interests influence a U.S. response?
  • What is the range of attitudes in Congress on Russian actions in Europe, on U.S. relations with Russia, and on the U.S. role in NATO? How, if at all, should the administration work with Congress to identify and implement potential responses to the situation in Latvia?
  • What role do the media and public opinion play in U.S. policy toward Latvia and toward Russia? What if any constituencies in the United States have a particular interest in this issue, or especially strong views? What do these circumstances suggest about the domestic political consequences of various responses?
  • How can the president best articulate a decision and communicate it to the American people and the world?
  • What are the costs, benefits, and risks that accompany each policy option open to the United States, including unilateral and multilateral responses to the crisis? What would happen if the United States simply ignored the situation in Latvia?

 

Research Leads:

  • Council on Foreign Relations, “The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)” Backgrounder
  • Council on Foreign Relations, “What Are Economic Sanctions?” Backgrounder
  • Center for Strategic and International Studies, “Critical Questions: The European Reassurance Initiative”
  • Remarks by President Obama at Multilateral Meeting of Leaders of Baltic States on September 3, 2014
  • Remarks by President Obama to the People of Estonia on September 3, 2014
  • Rand Corporation, “NATO Needs a Comprehensive Strategy for Russia”
  • U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, “Putin’s Invasion of Ukraine and the Propaganda that Threatens Europe,” Testimony by Heather A. Conley
  • White House, “Fact Sheet: The United States and Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania—NATO Allies and Global Partners”
  • Reuters, “NATO Agrees to Reinforce Eastern Poland, Baltic States Against Russia”

Description of Role:

The national security advisor (NSA) has a special role in crisis management, serving as the “honest broker” for the national security policy process. Although the president makes final decisions, the NSA is responsible for ensuring that he or she has all the necessary information, that a full range of viable policy options has been articulated, that the prospects for success and failure have been identified, that any legal issues have been addressed, and that all members of the National Security Council (NSC) have had the opportunity to contribute.

The national security advisor’s goals are to

  • facilitate the president’s consideration of issues by keeping the NSC discussion on track and guiding it toward concrete policy options; and
  • build trust as an honest broker among the other NSC participants.

 

Issues for Consideration:

  • How, if at all, does the situation in Latvia as presented in this case threaten U.S. national security?
  • What specific interests does the United States have in Latvia and in the maintenance of peace and security in the Baltics? How are these interests likely to be affected by a short or more enduring crisis?
  • Does the current situation in Latvia mandate consideration of military action by the United States or the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)? If so, what kind? If not, what conditions would necessitate such consideration?
  • Does this crisis raise the prospect of a military confrontation between the United States and Russia? If so, how might various policy options affect the likelihood of such a confrontation? How might these options affect the outcome should a confrontation occur?
  • What are the costs, benefits, and risks that accompany each policy option open to the United States, including unilateral and multilateral responses to the crisis? What would happen if the United States simply ignored the situation in Latvia?
  • Where does the situation in Latvia fit in the broader range of national security concerns facing the United States? How should this analysis shape the president’s consideration of policy options in this case?
  • What are the most important factors for the president to balance when making a decision? What types of analysis would be most useful for other members of the National Security Council to present?
  • Research the performance of past national security advisors and the ways in which they managed the interagency process. Which advisors and policy processes have been considered especially successful or unsuccessful? Why?

 

Research Leads:

  • Council on Foreign Relations, “The Russian Military” Backgrounder
  • Council on Foreign Relations, “The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)” Backgrounder
  • Center for Strategic and International Studies, “Critical Questions: The European Reassurance Initiative
  • Telegraph, “Russia and NATO ‘actively preparing for war’ ”
  • Rand Corporation, “NATO Needs a Comprehensive Strategy for Russia”
  • White House, “Fact Sheet: The United States and Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania—NATO Allies and Global Partners”
  • Reuters, “Baltics Eye Flashpoints with Russia, Guard Against ‘Green Men’”
  • New York Times, “NATO Refocuses on the Kremlin, Its Original Foe”
  • Reuters, “NATO Agrees to Reinforce Eastern Poland, Baltic States Against Russia”

Description of Role:

The Department of State maintains the U.S. diplomatic presence around the world, conducting foreign relations and using an on-the-ground perspective to generate country-specific knowledge. As head of the department, the secretary draws on this knowledge to present an authoritative view of the United States’ bilateral relationships, the relationships between foreign countries, and the behavior and interests of foreign governments.

The secretary of state’s goals are to

  • serve as the president’s principal foreign policy advisor; and
  • analyze how policy options will affect the interests, reputation, and relationships of the United States.

 

Issues for Consideration:

  • How, if at all, does the situation in Latvia as presented in this case threaten U.S. national security?
  • What specific interests does the United States have in its relationships with Russia, with the Baltic countries, and with its North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies in general? How are these interests likely to be affected by a short or more enduring crisis?
  • How has U.S. policy been perceived in Russia since the end of the Cold War? What does this perception suggest about the potential implications of various policy options?
  • What is the range of views among Washington’s European allies on Russia and its behavior in Ukraine and elsewhere? What do these views suggest about the potential upsides and challenges of coordinating a multilateral response to the crisis in Latvia?
  • How, if at all, might the State Department’s diplomatic efforts be required to support various policy options in this case, such as a military deployment, additional sanctions, or internal mediation?
  • Which countries, aside from Latvia, are likely to be most interested in the situation in Latvia? What is the nature of U.S. relations with those countries? How might these relationships be affected by an extended crisis?
  • How does the North Atlantic Treaty, especially its Article 5 obligations, affect U.S. policy options? How could the U.S. response to this conflict affect its credibility as a responsible treaty ally and its bilateral relationships with allies around the world?
  • What are the potential advantages and disadvantages of launching an urgent diplomatic initiative, perhaps including visits by the secretary of state or other officials to the United Nations, NATO headquarters, or Moscow?

 

Research Leads:

  • U.S. Department of State, “Bilateral Relations Fact Sheet: U.S.-Latvia”
  • Council on Foreign Relations, “The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)” Backgrounder
  • Council on Foreign Relations, “What Are Economic Sanctions?” Backgrounder
  • Remarks by President Obama at Multilateral Meeting of Leaders of Baltic States on September 3, 2014
  • European Union, “EU restrictive measures in response to the crisis in Ukraine”
  • White House, “Fact Sheet: The United States and Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania—NATO Allies and Global Partners”
  • New York Times, “NATO Refocuses on the Kremlin, Its Original Foe”
  • North Atlantic Treaty Organization, “NATO’s Relations with Russia”
  • Rand Corporation, “Russian Foreign Policy in Historical and Current Context”
  • Reuters, “NATO Agrees to Reinforce Eastern Poland, Baltic States Against Russia”

Description of Role:

The secretary of defense is the principal defense policy advisor to the president, under whose direction he or she exercises authority over the Department of Defense. In National Security Council (NSC) meetings, the secretary analyzes the security situation in the relevant region and explains the likely implications of U.S. military involvement, both for the immediate crisis and for the United States’ overall strategic position.

The secretary of defense’s goals are to

  • understand the options for and feasibility of any military action, as well as its possible outcomes; and
  • identify ways to prevent the deterioration of a crisis to the point where it mandates U.S. military intervention.

 

Issues for Consideration:

  • How, if at all, does the situation in Latvia as presented in this case threaten U.S. national security?
  • Does the current situation in Latvia mandate consideration of military action by the United States or the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)? If so, what kind? If not, what conditions would necessitate such consideration?
  • What are Russia’s general military capabilities? How has Russia’s military posture evolved in recent years? What do these circumstances suggest about the U.S. and NATO policy response in this case, particularly about situations that might bring U.S. or NATO forces into contact with Russian or Russian-sponsored ones?
  • If the United States were to respond militarily to the situation in Latvia, what should its goals be? How should it determine when the military mission has been completed?
  • What is the history of U.S. military forces working as part of multilateral missions assembled by NATO? What lessons can be learned from this history? What do these lessons suggest for the current case?
  • What military capabilities and constraints accompany the United States’ membership in NATO? How might NATO allies be able to contribute to any military response to the crisis in Latvia?
  • What would be the implications of a military deployment in Latvia or the region, whether quick or extended, for U.S. military capacity in other parts of the world?
  • What are the costs, benefits, and risks that accompany each policy option open to the United States, including unilateral and multilateral responses to the crisis? What would happen if the United States simply ignored the situation in Latvia?

 

Research Leads:

  • White House, “Fact Sheet: U.S. Assurance and Deterrence Efforts in Support of NATO Allies”
  • Center for Strategic and International Studies, “Critical Questions: The European Reassurance Initiative”
  • Council on Foreign Relations, “The Russian Military” Backgrounder
  • Council on Foreign Relations, “The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)” Backgrounder
  • Rand Corporation, “NATO Needs a Comprehensive Strategy for Russia”
  • North Atlantic Treaty Organization, “A Short History of NATO”
  • Reuters, “Baltics Eye Flashpoints with Russia, Guard Against ‘Green Men’”
  • New York Times, “NATO Refocuses on the Kremlin, Its Original Foe”
  • Reuters, “NATO Agrees to Reinforce Eastern Poland, Baltic States Against Russia”

Description of Role:

The Department of the Treasury carries out policy on issues related to the U.S. and global economies and financial systems. The secretary of the treasury, as head of this department, serves as one of the president’s chief economic advisors. In National Security Council (NSC) meetings, he or she analyzes the economic dimensions of foreign policy issues and weighs the potential impact of policy options on U.S. economic concerns, including growth, trade and investment, and the position of the U.S. dollar.

The secretary of the treasury’s goals are to

  • serve as a senior presidential advisor on economic policy; and
  • determine how foreign policy options might affect the U.S. economy and financial system, the global economy, and economic relations between the United States and others.

 

Issues for Consideration:

  • How, if at all, does the situation in Latvia as presented in this case affect the U.S. economy? How might the economic effects evolve should the crisis endure, intensify, or abate?
  • What are the basic characteristics of Latvia’s economy and recent economic trends? What kind of economic relationship does Latvia have with Russia? What does this relationship suggest about the potential effects of the crisis on Latvia’s economy and society?
  • What is the nature and scope of the U.S. economic relationship (including trade and investment) with Latvia and Washington’s European allies more broadly? What are the possible effects of a continued crisis on the U.S. and European economies?
  • What is the nature and scope of the U.S. economic relationship (including trade and investment) with Russia? How might the crisis, and various U.S. responses to it, affect this relationship and the U.S. economy?
  • What are the roles of sanctions and of foreign assistance in current and historical U.S. policy toward Russia? What are the potential implications of using such economic measures in response to the current crisis, for example, by imposing more sanctions, threatening to withhold aid, or granting additional aid?
  • What are the economic costs, benefits, and risks that accompany each policy option open to the United States?

 

Research Leads:

  • Baltic Journal of Economics, “No Milk for the Bear: The Impact on the Baltic States of Russia’s Counter-Sanctions”
  • Council on Foreign Relations, “The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)” Backgrounder
  • Council on Foreign Relations, “What Are Economic Sanctions?” Backgrounder
  • Embassy of the Republic of Latvia in the Russian Federation, “Relations Between Latvia and Russia”
  • European Union, “EU restrictive measures in response to the crisis in Ukraine”
  • White House, “Fact Sheet: The United States and Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania—NATO Allies and Global Partners”
  • Reuters, “NATO Agrees to Reinforce Eastern Poland, Baltic States Against Russia”

Description of Role:

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS) is the highest-ranking member of the U.S. military and the principal military advisor to the president, the secretary of defense, the National Security Council (NSC), and the Homeland Security Council. The CJCS does not exercise command authority over U.S. troops. Instead, he or she works with the heads of the U.S. military services to provide advice to the president and other senior leaders.

The CJCS’s goals are to

  • serve as the president’s military advisor on the NSC; and
  • advise the president on specific military options and the corresponding risks, benefits, and implications.

 

Issues for Consideration:

  • How, if at all, does the situation in Latvia as presented in this case threaten U.S. national security?
  • Does the current situation in Latvia mandate consideration of military action by the United States or the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)? If so, what kind? If not, what conditions would necessitate such consideration?
  •  If the United States were to respond militarily to the situation in Latvia, what should its goals be? How should it determine when the military mission has been completed?
  • What is the history of U.S. military forces working as part of multilateral missions assembled by NATO? What lessons can be learned from this history? What do these lessons suggest for the current case?
  • What are the military capabilities and interests of any states and nonstate groups in Latvia or nearby that are hostile to the United States? How should these conditions affect consideration of various U.S. responses to the crisis?
  • What would be the implications of a military deployment in Latvia or the region, whether quick or extended, for U.S. military capacity in other parts of the world?
  • What are Russia’s general military capabilities? How has Russia’s military posture evolved in recent years? What do these circumstances suggest about the U.S. and NATO policy response in this case, particularly about situations that might bring U.S. or NATO forces into contact with Russian or Russian-sponsored ones?
  • What military capabilities and constraints accompany U.S. membership in NATO? How might NATO allies be able to contribute to any military response to the crisis in Latvia?


Research Leads:

  • White House, “Fact Sheet: The United States and Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania—NATO Allies and Global Partners”
  • Center for Strategic and International Studies, “Critical Questions: The European Reassurance Initiative”
  • Council on Foreign Relations, “The Russian Military” Backgrounder
  • Council on Foreign Relations, “The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)” Backgrounder
  • Rand Corporation, “NATO Needs a Comprehensive Strategy for Russia”
  • North Atlantic Treaty Organization, “A Short History of NATO”
  • Reuters, “Baltics Eye Flashpoints with Russia, Guard Against ‘Green Men’”
  • New York Times, “NATO Refocuses on the Kremlin, Its Original Foe”
  • Reuters, “NATO Agrees to Reinforce Eastern Poland, Baltic States Against Russia”

 

Description of Role:

The attorney general is the head of the Department of Justice and the chief lawyer of the U.S. government. The department represents the United States in legal matters, including by prosecuting violations of federal law. In National Security Council (NSC) meetings, the attorney general gives the president advice and opinions on the legal aspects of policies under consideration.

The attorney general’s goals are to

  • consider the legal elements and implications of U.S. foreign policy options; and
  • ensure that any policies decided by the NSC are in compliance with domestic and international law.

 

Issues for Consideration:

  • What issues of U.S. and international law does the crisis in Latvia raise?
  • What are the legal considerations surrounding potential deployment of U.S. military forces in or around Latvia, whether unilaterally or as part of a multilateral North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) mission? What are the roles of the president and Congress on this issue?
  • Do any legal considerations surround the prospect of the United States providing economic assistance to Latvia?
  • In what ways have Latvia’s language laws affected Latvian politics and society? How are these issues relevant to the current crisis?
  • What are U.S. obligations under the North Atlantic Treaty and any other treaties or legal agreements relevant to the crisis?

 

Research Leads:

  • Council on Foreign Relations, “The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)” Backgrounder
  • Council on Foreign Relations, “What Are Economic Sanctions?” Backgrounder
  • Council on Foreign Relations, “The UN Security Council” Backgrounder
  • Council on Foreign Relations, “Why the Crimean Referendum Is Illegitimate,” Interview with John B. Bellinger III
  • BBC, “Russia Examines 1991 Recognition of Baltic Independence”
  • European Union, “EU restrictive measures in response to the crisis in Ukraine”
  • White House, “Fact Sheet: The United States and Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania—NATO Allies and Global Partners”
  • North Atlantic Treaty Organization, “Collective Defense”
  • Reuters, “NATO Agrees to Reinforce Eastern Poland, Baltic States Against Russia”

Description of Role:

The role of the U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations (UN) is to advance U.S. foreign policy interests in the bodies and forums of the UN system. Reporting to the secretary of state, the permanent representative helps formulate and articulate the U.S. position on all political and security matters under discussion at the UN. At National Security Council (NSC) meetings, he or she outlines policy steps available to the United States at the UN and advises NSC participants on the positions and actions of other UN member states.

The U.S. permanent representative to the UN’s goals are to

  • advise the president and secretary of state on the diplomatic actions the United States can or should take at the UN; and
  • promote the United States’ interests and values at the UN.

 

Issues for Consideration:

  • How, if at all, does the situation in Latvia as presented in this case threaten U.S. national security?
  • What are the major elements of the U.S.-Latvia, U.S.-Russia, and U.S.-North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) relationships? How have they changed over time? What do these factors suggest about obstacles and opportunities for U.S. action toward Latvia?
  • What role can or should the United Nations (UN) and its component parts play in this crisis? Is the crisis solely a domestic issue limited to Latvia or a matter of international peace and security? What difference does the distinction make for potential UN involvement?
  • What actions aimed at reducing tensions and advancing possible resolutions of the crisis are available to the United States at the United Nations? In particular, should the United States call for an emergency session of the UN Security Council to address the situation in Latvia? Why or why not?
  • What are the implications of the fact that Russia holds a permanent seat on the UN Security Council along with three members of NATO (the United States, France, and the United Kingdom)? What do these implications suggest about the desirability and feasibility of various policy options the United States might pursue via the United Nations?
  • How important is it for the United States and NATO to receive the backing of the UN Security Council for any military intervention in or around Latvia?
  • What are the trade-offs raised by various potential policy options in this case?

 

Research Leads:

  • North Atlantic Treaty Organization, “Readiness Action Plan”
  • North Atlantic Treaty Organization, “Collective Defence”
  • Council on Foreign Relations, “The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)” Backgrounder
  • Council on Foreign Relations, “What Are Economic Sanctions?” Backgrounder
  • Council on Foreign Relations, “The UN Security Council” Backgrounder
  • White House, “Fact Sheet: The United States and Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania—NATO Allies and Global Partners”
  • Reuters, “NATO Agrees to Reinforce Eastern Poland, Baltic States Against Russia”

Description of Role:

The U.S. intelligence community consists of seventeen agencies and organizations that gather and analyze intelligence to help policymakers formulate and implement U.S. foreign policy. The director of national intelligence oversees this network of agencies. He or she focuses on providing the latest relevant information to National Security Council (NSC) members and articulating the capabilities and interests of the intelligence community.

The director of national intelligence’s goals are to

  • provide complete, accurate, and up-to-date information to the NSC on the situation under discussion; and
  • serve as the principal advisor to the president and the NSC on intelligence matters.

Issues for Consideration:

  • How, if at all, does the situation in Latvia as presented in this case threaten U.S. national security?
  • Where does the situation in Latvia fit in the broader range of national security concerns facing the United States? How should this analysis shape the president’s consideration of policy options in this case?
  • What are the costs, benefits, and risks that accompany each policy option open to the United States, including unilateral and multilateral responses to the crisis? What would happen if the United States simply ignored the situation in Latvia?
  • Does the current situation in Latvia mandate consideration of military action by the United States or the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)? If so, what kind? If not, what conditions would necessitate such consideration?
  • What are the military capabilities and interests of Russia, as well as any states and nonstate groups in Latvia or nearby that are or might become hostile to the United States? How should these conditions affect consideration of various U.S. responses to the crisis?
  • What are the primary interests, motivations, and goals of the major actors in this crisis? To what extent is it possible to know? How should this analysis shape the president’s consideration of U.S. policy options?
  • What concerns might arise for U.S. national security from the backgrounds or activities of Latvian or Russian leaders involved in the crisis? How, if at all, should these concerns affect U.S. policy?
  • What might be the strategic, economic, and diplomatic effects of a prolonged crisis and of various developments, such as a military confrontation between NATO forces and Russian or Russian-sponsored ones? 

 

Research Leads:

  • White House, “Fact Sheet: The United States and Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania—NATO Allies and Global Partners”
  • Center for Strategic and International Studies, “Critical Questions: The European Reassurance Initiative”
  • Council on Foreign Relations, “The Russian Military” Backgrounder
  • Embassy of the Republic of Latvia in the Russian Federation, “Relations Between Latvia and Russia”
  • U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, “Putin’s Invasion of Ukraine and the Propaganda that Threatens Europe,” Testimony by Heather A. Conley
  • White House, “Fact Sheet: The United States and Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania—NATO Allies and Global Partners”
  • Reuters, “Baltics Eye Flashpoints with Russia, Guard Against ‘Green Men’”
  • Country profiles of Russia and Latvia in the CIA’s World Factbook
  • Reuters, “NATO Agrees to Reinforce Eastern Poland, Baltic States Against Russia”

Description of Role:

The general advisor offers analysis and recommendations that are unconstrained by the interests of any department or agency. He or she is tasked with providing a comprehensive assessment of the situation at hand and ideas for policy options that serve U.S. interests.

The general advisor’s goals are to

  • understand the breadth of the issue and outline its stakes for the United States; and
  • advise the president on the range of policy options proposed by all NSC members.

 

Issues for Consideration:

  • How, if at all, does the situation in Latvia as presented in this case threaten U.S. national security?
  • What are the major elements of the U.S.-Latvia and U.S.-Russia relationships? How have they evolved over time? What do the history and current state of these relationships suggest about obstacles and opportunities for U.S. action in this case?
  • What is the U.S. role in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)? What importance does NATO have for U.S. foreign policy and the U.S. position in the world? How should these factors affect consideration of policy options in this case?
  • What is the range of attitudes in Congress on Russian actions in Europe, U.S. relations with Russia, and the U.S. role in NATO? How, if at all, should the administration work with Congress to identify and implement potential responses to the situation in Latvia?
  • Does this crisis raise the prospect of a military confrontation between the United States and Russia? If so, how might various policy options affect the likelihood of such a confrontation? How might these options affect the outcome should a confrontation occur?
  • How does the North Atlantic Treaty, especially its Article 5 obligations, affect U.S. policy options? How could the U.S. response to this conflict affect its credibility as a responsible treaty ally and its bilateral relationships with allies around the world
  • Does the current situation in Latvia mandate consideration of U.S. or NATO military action? If so, what kind? If not, what conditions would necessitate such consideration?
  • What are the costs, benefits, and risks that accompany each policy option open to the United States, including unilateral and multilateral responses to the crisis? What would happen if the United States simply ignored the situation in Latvia?

 

Research Leads:

  • Council on Foreign Relations, “The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)” Backgrounder
  • Embassy of the Republic of Latvia in the Russian Federation, “Relations Between Latvia and Russia”
  • Center for Strategic and International Studies, “Critical Questions: The European Reassurance Initiative”
  • Council on Foreign Relations, “What Are Economic Sanctions?” Backgrounder
  • Remarks by President Obama at Multilateral Meeting of Leaders of Baltic States on September 3, 2014
  • Remarks by President Obama to the People of Estonia on September 3, 2014
  • Rand Corporation, “NATO Needs a Comprehensive Strategy for Russia”
  • White House, “Fact Sheet: The United States and Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania—NATO Allies and Global Partners”
  • Reuters, “Baltics Eye Flashpoints with Russia, Guard Against ‘Green Men’”
  • New York Times, “NATO Refocuses on the Kremlin, Its Original Foe”
  • Reuters, “NATO Agrees to Reinforce Eastern Poland, Baltic States Against Russia”

This is a customized role created by the instructor. Please see your instructor for your role description.

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