The transatlantic alliance—the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)—has been the linchpin of America’s security since the end of the Second World War. In many cases, the United States and its European allies have helped to create the conditions for prosperity and peace across large areas of the world.

However, despite the centrality of the transatlantic relationship, challenges on both sides of the Atlantic threaten to undermine its strength. Sluggish economic growth, terrorism, and millions of migrants seeking entry to the West are all issues that will need to be confronted. Defense cuts in the U.S. have stung, and the fact remains that many European NATO members no longer possess the military capability or political will to contribute to the alliance in a meaningful way.

At the same time, threats to the region have not disappeared and in many cases have grown. The resurgence of an aggressive, belligerent Russia has thrown conventional post–Cold War thinking into the waste bin. While policies pursued by the U.S. and our allies vis-à-vis Russia have given Russia space to expand its regional influence, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine and annex Crimea has changed post–Cold War norms. From the Arctic to the Baltics, Ukraine, and the South Caucasus, Russia has proven to be the source of much instability in Europe.

Threats to the Homeland

Russia is the only state adversary in the region that possesses the capability, with both conventional and non-conventional means, to threaten the U.S. homeland. Although there is no indication that Russia plans to use its capabilities against the United States absent a broader conflict involving America’s NATO allies, the plausible potential for such a scenario serves to sustain their strategic importance. Russia’s explicitly belligerent behavior during the past year1 further adds to the need for the U.S. to give due consideration to Russia’s ability to place the security of the U.S. at risk.

Russia’s National Security Strategy released in December 2015 describes NATO as a threat to the national security of the Russian Federation:

The buildup of the military potential of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the endowment of it with global functions pursued in violation of the norms of international law, the galvanization of the bloc countries’ military activity, the further expansion of the alliance, and the location of its military infrastructure closer to Russian borders are creating a threat to national security.2

The document also clearly states that Russia will use every means at its disposal to achieve its strategic goals: “Interrelated political, military, military-technical, diplomatic, economic, informational, and other measures are being developed and implemented in order to ensure strategic deterrence and the prevention of armed conflicts.”

In December 2014, Putin signed a new version of Russia’s military doctrine, emphasizing the claimed threat of NATO and global strike systems to Russia.3 Russia spent 5.4 percent of GDP on defense in 2015, up 7.5 percent from 20144 but still less than intended. Russia’s defense budget is reported to have been cut by 5 percent in 2015, the largest cut since 2012 when Putin took power. The state armaments program, however, was shielded from these cuts; the 10-year, $680 billion program, announced in 2010, was intended “to increase the share of modern armaments held by the armed forces from 15 per cent in 2010 to 30 per cent in 2015 and 70 per cent in 2020.”5

Russian Strategic Nuclear Threat. Russia possesses the largest arsenal of nuclear weapons among the nuclear powers (when short-range nuclear weapons are included). It is one of the few nations with the capability to destroy many targets in the U.S. homeland and in U.S.-allied nations and to threaten and prevent free access to the commons by other nations. Russia has both intercontinental-range and short-range ballistic missiles and a varied nuclear weapons arsenal that can be delivered by sea, land, and air. It also is investing significant resources in modernizing its arsenal and maintaining the skills of its workforce.

Russia is currently relying on its nuclear arsenal to ensure its invincibility against any enemy, intimidate European powers, and deter counters to its predatory behavior in its “near abroad,” primarily in Ukraine but also concerning the Baltic States.6 The arsenal provides Russia with a protective umbrella under which it can modernize its conventional forces at a deliberate pace. While its nuclear deterrent protects Russia from a large-scale attack, Russia also needs a modern and flexible military to fight local wars such as those against Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine in 2014. Under Russian military doctrine, the use of nuclear weapons in conventional local and regional wars is seen as de-escalatory because it would cause an enemy to concede defeat.

Particularly worrisome are Moscow’s plans for rail-based nuclear-armed missiles that are very difficult to detect. Russia is planning to deploy 38 new strategic missiles, one strategic submarine, and seven modified strategic bombers in addition to seven air defense systems and three Yars missile regiments.7 The Defense Ministry states that the new structure of the armed forces is being created with the goal of increased flexibility, mobility, and readiness for combat in limited-scale conflicts. Strategic Rocket Forces are the first line of defense (and offense) against Russia’s great-power counterparts.8

Russia has two strategies for nuclear deterrence. The first is based on a threat of massive launch-on-warning and retaliatory strikes to deter a nuclear attack; the second is based on a threat of limited demonstration and “de-escalation” nuclear strikes to deter or terminate a large-scale conventional war.9 Russia’s reliance on nuclear weapons is based partly on their small cost relative to conventional weapons (especially in terms of their effect) and on Russia’s inability to attract sufficient numbers of high-quality servicemembers. Thus, Russia sees its nuclear weapons as a way to offset the lower quantity and quality of its conventional forces.

Moscow has repeatedly threatened U.S. allies in Europe with nuclear deployments and even pre-emptive nuclear strikes.10 The Russians justify their aggressive behavior by pointing to deployments of U.S. missile defense systems in Europe even though these systems are not scaled or postured to mitigate Russia’s advantage in ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons to any significant degree. In March 2015, Russia’s ambassador to Denmark threatened that Danish ships taking part in NATO’s missile defense have made themselves targets for a nuclear attack.11 Russia continues to violate the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which bans the testing, production, and possession of intermediate-range missiles.12 According to Keith Payne and Mark Schneider, “These Russian actions demonstrate the importance the Kremlin attaches to its new nuclear-strike capabilities. They also show how little importance the Putin regime attaches to complying with agreements that interfere with those capabilities.”13

WWTA: The 2016 WWTA states that “Russia has developed a ground-launched cruise missile that the United States has declared is in violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.”14

Summary: The sizable Russian nuclear arsenal remains the only threat to the existence of the U.S. homeland emanating from Europe and Eurasia. While the potential for use of this arsenal remains low, the fact that Russia continues to threaten Europe with nuclear attack demonstrates that it will continue to play a central strategic role in shaping both Russia’s military and political thinking and its level of aggressive behavior beyond its borders.

Threat of Regional War

To many U.S. allies, Russia does pose a threat. At times, this threat is of a military nature. At other times, Russia uses less conventional tactics such as cyber attacks, utilization of energy resources, and propaganda. Norway’s Intelligence Service describes Russia’s actions as an “increased willingness and ability to use a wide range of instruments to achieve its political goals” and warns that “the modernization of its military powers enhances the ability to influence, also in the high north.”15

Today as in Imperial times, Russia’s influence is exerted by both the pen and the sword. Organizations like the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) or Eurasia Economic Union attempt to bind regional capitals to Moscow through a series of agreements and treaties.

Espionage is another tool that Russia uses in ways that are damaging to U.S. interests. In 2015, non-NATO members Finland and Sweden noted increases in foreign intelligence activity. Also in 2015, Sweden’s Security Service Säpo described Russian espionage activities as “extensive,” claiming that “[a]bout every third Russian diplomat is an intelligence officer.”16 Russian spying is active on U.S. soil as well. In May 2016, a Russian spy was sentenced to prison for gathering intelligence for the Russian SVR intelligence agency while working as a banker in New York. The spy specifically transmitted intelligence on “potential U.S. sanctions against Russian banks and the United States’ efforts to develop alternative energy resources.”17 In May 2016, a senior intelligence official from Portugal working for the Portuguese Security Intelligence Service was arrested for passing secrets to the Russian Federation, especially classified NATO intelligence and material.

There are four areas of critical interest to the U.S. in the European region where Russia poses a direct threat: Central and Eastern Europe, the Arctic or High North, the Balkans, and the South Caucasus.

Russian Pressure on Central and Eastern Europe. Moscow poses a security challenge to members of NATO that border Russia. Although the likelihood of a conventional Russian attack against the Baltic States is low, primarily because it would trigger a NATO response, Russia has used non-conventional means to apply pressure to and sow discord among these states. The Baltic States continue to view Russia as a significant threat.


After World War I, the three Baltic nations of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania proclaimed their independence, and by 1923, the U.S. had granted full recognition to all three. In June 1940, as part of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact between Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia, Soviet troops entered and occupied the three Baltic countries. A month later, acting U.S. Secretary of State Sumner Welles issued what was later to be known as the Welles Declaration, condemning Russia’s occupation and stating America’s refusal to recognize the legitimacy of Soviet control of these three states. The three states regained their independence with the end of the Cold War.

Due to decades of Russian domination, the Baltic States factor Russia into their military planning and foreign policy formulation in a way that is simply unimaginable in many Western European countries and North America. Estonia and Latvia have sizable ethnic Russian populations, and there is concern that Russia might exploit the situation as a pretext for aggression. This view is not without merit, considering Moscow’s irredentist rhetoric and Russia’s use of this technique to annex Crimea.

Russia has also demonstrated a willingness to use military force to change the borders of modern Europe. When Kremlin-backed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych failed to sign an Association Agreement with the European Union (EU) in 2013, months of street demonstrations led to his ouster early in 2014. Russia responded by violating Ukraine’s territorial integrity, sending troops, aided by pro-Russian local militia, to occupy the Crimean Peninsula under the pretext of “protecting Russian people.” This led to Russia’s eventual annexation of Crimea, the first such forcible annexation of territory in Europe since the Second World War.18

Russia’s annexation of Crimea has de facto halved Ukraine’s coastline, and Russia has claimed rights to underwater resources off the Crimean Peninsula.19 Russia currently can supply Crimea only by air and sea and is planning a $3.2 billion bridge project to connect the Crimean Peninsula with Russia by road and rail, though there are significant doubts about the project’s economic viability and timeline to completion.20 Russia has deployed 28,000 troops to Crimea21 and has embarked on a major program to build housing and restore airfields.22 In addition, control of Crimea has allowed Russia to use the Black Sea as a platform to launch and support naval operations in the Gulf of Aden and the Eastern Mediterranean.23 Russia has allocated $1 billion to modernize the Black Sea fleet by 202024 and has stationed additional warships there including two equipped with Caliber-NK long-range cruise missiles.25 Caliber cruise missiles have a range of at least 2,500km,26 placing cities from Rome to Vilnius within range of Black Sea–based cruise missiles.27

In eastern Ukraine, Russia has helped to foment and sustain a separatist movement. Backed, armed, and trained by Russia, separatist leaders in eastern Ukraine have declared the so-called Lugansk People’s Republic and Donetsk People’s Republic. Russia has backed separatist factions in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine with advanced weapons, technical and financial assistance, and Russian conventional and special operations forces. September 2014 and February 2015 cease-fire agreements, known respectively as Minsk I and Minsk II, have routinely been violated by Russian-supplied separatists, leading U.S. General Philip Breedlove to describe Minsk II as “a cease-fire in name only.”28 Lamberto Zannier, Secretary-General of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which is charged with overseeing the cease-fire, has cited systematic cease-fire violations and poor access for OSCE monitors to areas held by Russian-backed separatists, with no access to the border between Ukraine and Russia where weapons and matériel enter the country, as serious problems.29

These cease-fire agreements have resulted in the de facto partition of Ukraine and have created the region’s newest frozen conflict—a conflict that remains both deadly and advantageous for Russia. “Describing the prolonged conflicts in states around the Russian periphery as ‘frozen,’” according to General Breedlove in EUCOM’s 2016 posture statement, “belies the fact that these are on-going and deadly affairs often manufactured by Russia to provide pretext for military intervention and ensures the Kremlin maintains levels of influence in the sovereign matters of other states.”30

Russia is also employing espionage and misinformation to derail Ukraine. In February 2015, for example, Germany’s BfV domestic intelligence agency noted “clear activities” by Russia with regard to influencing Western responses to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.31 Moscow’s poor track record in implementing cease-fires should raise doubts among those who expected that Russia would not use its influence to control the separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Russia is still in violation of the 2008 peace agreement signed to end the war against Georgia. Russian troops are still based in areas where they are not supposed to be, and Moscow continues to prevent international observers from crossing into South Ossetia and Abkhazia even though they patrol freely in the rest of Georgia.

In Moldova, Russia supports the breakaway enclave of Transnistria, where yet another frozen conflict festers to Moscow’s liking. According to EUCOM’s 2016 posture statement:

Russian forces have conducted “stability operations” since 1992 to contain what is described as a separatist conflict in Transnistria. Moldova remains disappointed with Russia’s continued political, economic, and informational support to the separatist regime. Most upsetting to Moldova is Russia’s military presence (1,500 troops) on Moldovan territory, which is aimed at maintaining the status quo in the region.32

Whether in Georgia, eastern Ukraine, or Moldova, it is in Russia’s interests to keep these conflicts frozen. Russia derives much of its regional influence from these conflicts. Bringing them to a peaceful conclusion would decrease Russia’s influence in the region.

The other countries in Central and Eastern Europe also see Russia as a threat, although to varying degrees. Most tend to rely almost completely on Russia for their energy resources, some have felt the sharp end of Russian aggression in the past, and all were once in the Warsaw Pact and fear being forced back into a similar situation. Such historical experiences inevitably have shaped Russia’s image throughout Central and Eastern Europe.

More recently, Russia has deployed advanced mobile air defense systems and mobile short-range ballistic missile systems that include Iskander missiles in the Kaliningrad Oblast exclave,33 and there have been reports that it has deployed tactical nuclear weapons in Kaliningrad.34 Russia also has outfitted a Missile Brigade in Luga, Russia, a mere 74 miles from the Estonian city of Narva, with Iskander missiles.35 In January, Commander in Chief of Russian Ground Forces General Oleg Salyukov announced that four new ground divisions would be formed in 2016, three of which would be based in the Western Military District, allegedly in response to “intensified exercises of NATO countries.”36

In addition, Russia has dedicated resources to major training exercises involving tens of thousands of troops that many in Eastern Europe fear are directed at them. In March 2015, without warning,37 Russia staged a five-day exercise involving 45,000 troops, 3,000 vehicles, 110 aircraft, 15 submarines, and 40 surface vessels.38 As part of the exercise, the Russian Northern Fleet was brought to full combat readiness.39 The scale of the snap exercise and the fact that it was held simultaneously with NATO’s long-planned, 5,000-troop Joint Viking exercise40 in northern Norway were meant as a signal of Russian strength. “Conducting this single exercise in the area stretching from Norway to the Baltics through Poland and into Crimea,” Stratfor has reported, “is clearly angled toward NATO and its Eastern European members.”41

In February 2016, Russia held a snap exercise involving 8,500 troops, dozens of ships, and aircraft in the Southern Military District in a region (Rostov) that borders the Lugansk and Donetsk regions of Ukraine.42 In March 2016, 30,000 troops and over 100 aircraft took part in “snap inspections” by Russian Airborne Forces.43 In April 2016, Russian and Belarusian troops exercised in Belarus near the border with Poland44 and, immediately before a meeting of the NATO–Russia Council, used the Black Sea Fleet and regional air power in an exercise on blocking the Black Sea straits.45 More worrisome still, Russian exercises at times have included a nuclear element, such as in 2009, when a Russian exercise scenario included a nuclear attack on Warsaw.46

WWTA: The WWTA states that Russia will use its position in Syria to promote its “Great Power status and end its international isolation.”47 Russia will continue its efforts to stymie Ukraine’s integration into Western institutions and will continue to pressure neighboring states to join the Eurasian Economic Union as a way to achieve greater regional influence. By utilizing a growing relationship with China and multilateral forums, Russia also continues to work to dilute U.S. influence in Europe. Military modernization will continue to be prioritized despite Russia’s poor economic condition.

Summary: NATO members in Eastern and Central Europe view Russia as a threat, a fear that is not unfounded considering Russian aggression against Ukraine and Georgia. The threat of conventional attack against a NATO member by Russia remains low but cannot be entirely ruled out. Russia’s grasp and use of unconventional warfare against neighboring countries should remain a top issue for U.S. and NATO planners.

Militarization of the High North. The Arctic region is home to some of the roughest terrain and harshest weather found anywhere in the world. Increasingly, Arctic ice is melting during the summer months, causing new challenges for the U.S. in terms of Arctic security. Many of the shipping lanes currently used in the Arctic are a considerable distance from search and rescue (SAR) facilities, and natural resource exploration that would be considered routine in other locations is complex, costly, and dangerous in the Arctic.

The U.S. is one of five littoral Arctic powers and one of only eight countries with territory located above the Arctic Circle, the area just north of 66o north latitude that includes portions of Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Canada, Greenland, Iceland, and the United States.

Arctic actors take different approaches to military activity in the region. Although the security challenges currently faced in the Arctic are not yet military in nature, there is still a requirement for military capability in the region that can support civilian authorities. For example, civilian SAR and response to natural disasters in such an unforgiving environment can be augmented by the military.

Russia has taken steps to militarize its presence in the region. The Northern Fleet, which is based in the Arctic, accounts for two-thirds of the Russian Navy. A new Arctic command was established in 2015 to coordinate all Russian military activities in the Arctic region.48 Over the next few years, two new Arctic brigades will be permanently based in the Arctic, and Russian Special Forces have been training in the region. Old Soviet-era facilities have been reopened; for example, the airfield on Kotelny Island has been put into use for the first time in almost 30 years.49 In fact, air power in the Arctic is increasingly important to Russia. By 2018, Russia is expected to have nine airfields operational in the region.50 The 45th Air Force and Air Defense Army of the Northern Fleet was formed in December 2015,51 and Russia reportedly has placed radar and S-300 missiles on the Arctic bases at Franz Joseph Land, New Siberian Islands, Novaya Zemlya, and Severnaya Zemlya.52

Russia’s ultimate goal is to have a combined Russian armed force deployed in the Arctic by 2020, and it appears that Moscow is on track to accomplish this.53 Russia is also developing equipment optimized for Arctic conditions like the Mi-38 helicopter,54 and in June, it unveiled the naval icebreaker the Ilya Muromets, which is slated to join the Northern Fleet in 2017.55

Russia’s Maritime Doctrine of Russian Federation 2020, adopted in July 2015, lists the Arctic as one of two focal points along with the Atlantic, a point emphasized by Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin.56 In April 2016, a Russian Severodvinsk submarine participated in Arctic exercises that involved 20 vessels and fired a Kalibr cruise missile that reportedly hit a target on land.57

In April 2016, Russian and Chechen paratroopers took part in separate military exercises in the Arctic. It was not the first time that these exercises have taken place. In 2014, 90 paratroopers landed on Barneo ice camp in the Arctic; in 2015, 100 paratroopers from Russia, Belarus, and Tajikistan took part in exercises on Barneo.58 In advance of the exercises in April, personnel and equipment were transferred through Longyearbyen airport on Svalbard, over which Norway has sovereignty. The use of the airport likely violated the Svalbard Treaty, which demilitarized the islands.59 According to EUCOM Commander General Philip Breedlove:

Russia’s behavior in the Arctic is increasingly troubling. Their increase in stationing military forces, building and reopening bases, and creating an Arctic military district—all to counter an imagined threat to their internationally undisputed territories—stands in stark contrast to the conduct of the seven other Arctic nations.

Russia’s improvements to Arctic settlements are ostensibly to support increased shipping traffic through the Northern Sea Route. However, many of these activities are purely military in nature and follow a recent pattern of increasingly aggressive global posturing….60


Debate has continued with respect to what role, if any, NATO should play in the Arctic,61 although the organization itself has not yet raised the debate to any formal level. NATO once again missed an opportunity to address the Arctic at the 2016 Warsaw Summit. Both the declaration and the summit communiqué coming out of Warsaw fail to mention the word “Arctic” even once, as was the case for the 2014 Wales NATO Summit declaration.

WWTA: The WWTA states that “Russia will almost certainly continue to bolster its military presence along its northern coastline to improve its perimeter defense and control over its exclusive economic zone (EEZ)” and “might become more willing to disavow established international processes or organizations concerning Arctic governance and act unilaterally to protect these interests if Russian–Western relations deteriorate further.”62

Summary: While NATO has been slow to turn its attention to the Arctic, Russia continues to develop and increase its military capabilities in the region. The likelihood of armed conflict remains low, but physical changes in the region mean that the posture of players in the Arctic will continue to evolve. It is clear that Russia intends to exert a dominant influence.

Threat from Russian Propaganda. Russia has consistently used propaganda to garner support for its foreign policies. The 2013 Concept of the Foreign Policy of the Russian Federation makes clear the Russian government’s aims in using mass media to further its foreign policy objectives:

In its public diplomacy, Russia will seek to ensure its objective perception in the world, develop its own effective means of information influence on public opinion abroad, strengthen the role of Russian mass media in the international information environment providing them with essential state support, as well as actively participate in international information cooperation, and take necessary measures to counteract information threats to its sovereignty and security. Possibilities offered by new information and communications technologies will be widely used in these activities. Russia will seek to develop a set of legal and ethical norms for the safe use of such technologies.63

Russian media are hardly independent. In 2016, Russia ranked 148th out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index, the same as its ranking in 2012, 2013, and 2014 and down from 152nd in 2015.64 Specifically:

What with draconian laws and website blocking, the pressure on independent media has grown steadily since Vladimir Putin’s return to the Kremlin in 2012. Leading independent news outlets have either been brought under control or throttled out of existence. While TV channels continue to inundate viewers with propaganda, the climate has become very oppressive for those who question the new patriotic and neo-conservative discourse or just try to maintain quality journalism. The leading human rights NGOs have been declared “foreign agents.”65

While much of its propaganda is meant for a domestic Russian audience, Russia is working actively to influence audiences abroad as well. In 2015, RT, a Russian television news station that broadcasts in Arabic, English, French, German, Russian, and Spanish, received $400 million in state funding.66 Rossiya Segodnya, a radio and wire service crafted from RIA Novosti and the Voice of Russia, received $170 million in state funds for 2015.67 Russian propaganda efforts also include newspaper supplements68 and the hiring of Western public relations firms. In 2013, for instance, Ketchum, a U.S.-based public relations firm, helped to place an op-ed in The New York Times written by Vladimir Putin criticizing American exceptionalism.69

Russia’s plans have met with some success abroad. In December 2014, RT claimed that its combined YouTube channels made it the first news channel to hit 2 billion views.70 In September 2014, “the Russian Duma passed a law restricting foreign ownership of media companies to 20 percent” that “effectively forces foreign owners to relinquish control over independent outlets, further consolidating the government’s control over the media.”71 Companies have until February 1, 2017, to come into compliance with the new law.72

In EUCOM’s 2016 posture statement, General Breedlove describes how Russian propaganda works: “Russia overwhelms the information space with a barrage of lies that must be addressed by the United States more aggressively in both public and private sectors to effectively expose the false narratives pushed daily by Russian-owned media outlets and their proxies.”73 This approach was abundantly evident during the country’s invasion of Ukraine and subsequent annexation of Crimea and its continued stealth invasion of eastern Ukraine. General Breedlove has described the importance of propaganda in Russian military operations:

Russia has employed “hybrid warfare” (which includes regular, irregular, and cyber forms of war as well as political and economic intimidations) to illegally seize Crimea, foment separatist fever in several sovereign nations, and maintain frozen conflicts within its so-called “sphere of influence” or “near abroad.” Undergirding all of these direct approaches is the pervasive presence of the Russia propaganda machine, which inserts itself into media outlets globally and attempts to exploit potential sympathetic or aggrieved populations.74

Russian media, for example, have promoted the false claims that Russia is simply defending ethnic Russians in Ukraine from far-right thugs, that the government in Kyiv is to blame for the violence that has enveloped parts of the country, and that the U.S. has instigated unrest in Ukraine.75 After a civilian airliner was shot down by Russian-backed separatists, Russian propaganda spun stories alleging that the plane was shot down by the Ukrainian government.76

Nor are Russian propaganda efforts limited to TV channels. There are widespread reports that the Russian government has paid people to post comments to Internet articles that parrot the government’s propaganda.77 People working in so-called troll factories with English-language skills are reported to be paid more.78 Twitter has been used in Ukraine to disseminate false or exaggerated Russian government claims. Russia is also widely suspected of funding political parties in Europe, and in January 2016, Congress asked U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper to conduct a major review of such Russian clandestine funding over the past decade.79

Russian propaganda poses the greatest threat to NATO allies that have a significant ethnic Russian population: the Baltic States, especially Estonia and Latvia. Many ethnic Russians in these countries get their news through Russian-language media (especially TV channels) that parrot the official Russian state line, often interspersed with entertainment shows, making it more appealing to viewers. In 2014, Lithuania and Latvia temporarily banned certain Russian TV stations such as RTR Rossiya in light of Russian aggression in Ukraine,80 and in March 2016, Latvia banned the Russian “news agency” and propaganda website Sputnik from operating in the country.81

The inability to reach ethnic Russians in their vernacular remains a glaring vulnerability for planners when thinking about Baltic security. In an effort to provide an independent alternative Russian-language media outlet, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are in various stages of planning and creating their own programming for Russian-language TV channels to counter Russian propaganda efforts.82 A similar effort was undertaken by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty with the daily news program “Current Time,” which began airing in 2014 in Russian to countries on Russia’s periphery.83

WWTA: The WWTA states that “Russia continues to take information warfare to a new level, working to fan anti-US and anti-Western sentiment both within Russia and globally,” and that “Moscow will continue to publish false and misleading information in an effort to discredit the West, confuse or distort events that threaten Russia’s image, undercut consensus on Russia, and defend Russia’s role as a responsible and indispensable global power.”84

Summary: Russia has used propaganda consistently and aggressively to advance its foreign policy aims. This is likely to remain an essential element of Russian aggression and planning. The potential for its use to stir up agitation in the Baltic States and to expose fissures between Western states makes Russian propaganda a continued threat to regional stability and a possible threat to the NATO alliance.

Russian Destabilization in the South Caucasus. The South Caucasus sits at a crucial geographical and cultural crossroads and has proven to be strategically important, both militarily and economically, for centuries. Although the countries in the region (Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan) are not part of NATO and therefore do not receive a security guarantee from the U.S., they have participated to varying degrees in NATO and U.S.-led operations. This is especially true of Georgia, which has aspirations to join NATO.

Russia views the South Caucasus as part of its natural sphere of influence and stands ready to exert its influence in the region by force if necessary. In August 2008, Russia invaded Georgia, coming as close as 15 miles to the capital city of Tbilisi. Seven years later, several thousand Russian troops occupied the two Georgian provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

In 2015, Russia signed so-called integration treaties with South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Among other things, these treaties call for a coordinated foreign policy, creation of a common security and defense space, and implementation of a streamlined process for Abkhazians and South Ossetians to receive Russian citizenship.85The Georgian Foreign Ministry criticized the treaties as a step toward “annexation of Georgia’s occupied territories,”86 both of which are still internationally recognized as part of Georgia. In April 2016, the separatist leader of South Ossetia announced that the region would hold a constitutional referendum on joining the Russian Federation by the end of the year.87 This deadline was subsequently pushed back to 2017.88 Russia has based 4,500 soldiers in South Ossetia89 and is regularly expanding its “creeping occupation” in Georgia. In July 2015, Russian troops expanded the border of the occupied territories to include a piece of the Baku–Supsa pipeline, which carries oil from Azerbaijan to Supsa, Georgia, with a capacity of 100,000 barrels a day and is owned by British Petroleum.90

Today, Moscow continues to take advantage of ethnic divisions and tensions in the South Caucasus to advance pro-Russian policies that are often at odds with America’s or NATO’s goals in the region. However, Russia’s influence is not restricted to soft power. In the South Caucasus, the coin of the realm is military might. It is a rough neighborhood surrounded by instability and insecurity reflected in terrorism, religious fanaticism, centuries-old sectarian divides, and competition for natural resources.

Russia maintains a sizable military presence in Armenia based on an agreement giving Moscow access to bases in that country for 49 years.91 The bulk of Russia’s forces, consisting of approximately 5,000 soldiers and dozens of fighter planes and attack helicopters, are based around the 102nd Military Base.92 In December 2015, Russia sent an additional two deployments of attack helicopters to its bases in Armenia.93 Also late last year, Russia and Armenia signed a Combined Regional Air Defense System agreement. In February 2016, Russia deployed an additional four MiG-29 jets, a MiG bomber, and transport helicopter to Erebuni airport, which is only 25 miles from the Armenian–Turkish border.94

Russia has long had difficulty supplying these forces, especially since a transit right through Georgian airspace has been closed and Turkey refuses transit. This has left reliance on Iran, which for obvious reasons is not ideal for Russia. These policies breed animosity and form a perfect storm that could easily be exploited by Russia.

Another source of regional instability is the Nagorno–Karabakh conflict, which began in 1988 when Armenia made territorial claims to Azerbaijan’s Nagorno–Karabakh Autonomous Oblast.95 By 1992, Armenian forces and Armenian-backed militias occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijan, including the Nagorno–Karabakh region and seven surrounding districts. A cease-fire agreement was signed in 1994, and the conflict has been described as “frozen” since then. Since August 2014, violence has increased noticeably along the Line of Contact between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces. In early April 2016, four days of fighting claimed the lives of a combined 112 soldiers and civilians.96 In addition, Azerbaijani forces recaptured some of the territory lost to Armenia in the early 1990s, the first changes in the Line of Contact since 1994.97

This conflict offers another opportunity for Russia to exert malign influence and consolidate power in the region. While its sympathies lie with Armenia, Russia is the largest supplier of weapons to both Armenia and Azerbaijan.98 As noted by the late Dr. Alexandros Petersen, a highly respected expert on Eurasian security, it is no secret “that the Nagorno–Karabakh dispute is a Russian proxy conflict, maintained in simmering stasis by Russian arms sales to both sides so that Moscow can sustain leverage over Armenia, Azerbaijan and by its geographic proximity Georgia.”99

Following the outbreak of fighting, Russia expanded its influence in the region by brokering a shaky cease-fire that has largely held. By the time the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Minsk Group, created in 1995 to find a peaceful solution to the Nagorno–Karabakh conflict, met, the Russian-brokered cease-fire was already in place.100

The South Caucasus might seem distant to many American policymakers, but the spillover effect of ongoing conflict in the region can have a direct impact on both U.S. interests and the security of America’s partners, as well as on Turkey and other countries that are dependent on oil and gas transiting the region.

WWTA: The WWTA projects that tensions between Russia and Georgia will remain high, with continued pressure for Georgia to abandon further moves to integrate into NATO or the EU. Economic challenges combined with “increasingly effective Russian propaganda” complicate Georgia’s moves to integrate. The simmering conflict and occasional violence between Armenia and Azerbaijan continues, and a peaceful resolution is unlikely in the foreseeable future.101

Summary: Russia views the South Caucasus as a vital theater and uses a multitude of tools that include military aggression, economic pressure, and the stoking of ethnic tensions to exert influence and control, usually to promote outcomes that are at odds with U.S. interests.

Russia’s Actions in Syria. While Russia has had a military presence in Syria for decades, in September 2015, it became the decisive actor in Syria’s ongoing civil war, having saved Bashar al-Assad from being overthrown and having strengthened his hand militarily, thus enabling government forces to retake territory lost during the war. Russia maintains a naval facility at Tartus, its only naval base on the Mediterranean, and the Hmeymim air base at Latakia; it deployed the S-400 anti-aircraft missile system to Hmeymim in late 2015.102 Despite Vladimir Putin’s announcement of a withdrawal of forces in March, Russia retains substantial forces in Syria. The drawdown was largely rhetorical; although some fixed-wing aircraft left Syria, they were replaced by new deployments of attack helicopters.103

Russia’s actions in Syria provide a useful propaganda tool. In May 2016, for example, one hundred journalists toured Palmyra, a city that Russia had helped Assad’s forces retake with air strikes and Special Forces troops.104 In addition, Russia is using Syria as a testing ground for new weapons systems while obtaining valuable combat experience for its troops.

Russia’s actions in Syria have allowed Assad to stay in power and have made achievement of a peaceful political settlement with rebel groups nearly impossible. They also have undermined American policy in the Middle East, including by frequently targeting forces backed by the U.S. On June 16, 2016, for example, two Russian air strikes targeting the al-Tanf base near the Syrian border with Jordan and Iraq killed members of the U.S.-backed New Syria Army. Al-Tanf is also used by U.S. and U.K. Special Forces, and 20 British Special Forces reportedly had left the base only 24 hours before the June 16 air strikes.105 The Putin regime will likely seek to link cooperation in Syria with a softening of U.S. policy in Europe, especially with regard to economic sanctions. General Breedlove warned of such a scenario in February: “We must not allow Russian actions in Syria to serve as a strategic distraction that leads the international community to give tacit acceptance to the situation in Ukraine as the ‘new normal.’”106

WWTA: The WWTA assesses that “Putin will continue to try to use the Syrian conflict and calls for cooperation against ISIL to promote Russia’s Great Power status and end its international isolation.”107

Summary: While not an existential threat to the U.S., Russia’s intervention in Syria ensures that any future settlement will be run through Moscow and will include terms amenable to Russian strategic interests. Russia’s intervention in Syria has helped to keep Assad in power, has further entrenched Russia’s military position in the region, and has greatly degraded the impact of U.S. policy in Syria, often seeking to counteract U.S. actions and targeting U.S.-backed forces on the ground.

The Balkans. Although security has improved dramatically in the Balkans since the 1990s, violence based on religious and ethnic differences remains an ongoing possibility. These tensions are exacerbated by sluggish economies, high unemployment, and political corruption. In 2014, Bosnia and Herzegovina experienced some of the most violent anti-government riots in 20 years.

On a positive note, Montenegro joined NATO at the 2015 Warsaw Summit, joining Albania and Croatia as NATO member states in the Balkans. Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina are official aspirant countries. Macedonia has made great progress toward joining the alliance but has been blocked by Greece because of a name dispute. The situation in the region with Kosovo remains fragile, but an EU-led rapprochement between Kosovo and Serbia has shown signs of modest success.

There has been an increase in Russian activity in the region. Serbia in particular has long served as Russia’s foothold in the Balkans. Both Russia and Serbia are Orthodox countries, and Russia wields huge political influence in Serbia. Moscow backed Serbian opposition to Kosovo’s independence in 2008 and continues to use Kosovo’s independence to justify its own actions in Crimea, South Ossetia, and Abkhazia. Russian media are active in the country, broadcasting in Serbian.108

Serbia and Russia have signed a strategic partnership agreement focused on economic issues. Russia’s inward investment is focused on the transport and energy sectors. Except for those in the Commonwealth of Independent States, Serbia is the only country in Europe that has a free trade deal with Russia. It therefore seemed odd when Russia decided to scrap the South Stream gas pipeline, which came as a huge blow to Serbia, likely costing Serbia billions of euros of inward investment and thousands of local jobs. Even with the negative impact of the South Stream cancellation, however, Serbia will likely continue to consider Russia its closest ally. As evidence of this, in July 2015, Russia vetoed a U.N. resolution opposed by Serbia that would have labeled the 1995 Srebrenica massacre a genocide. Serbian President Tomislav Nikolić said in a statement “that Russia had ‘prevented an attempt of smearing the entire Serbian nation as genocidal’ and proven itself as a true and honest friend.”109

The Russian–Serbian military relationship is similarly close. Russia signed an agreement with Serbia to allow Russian soldiers to be based at Niš airport, which Serbia has used to meddle in northern Kosovo.110 Serbia has observer status in the Collective Security Treaty Organization, Russia’s answer to NATO, and has signed a 15-year military cooperation agreement with Russia that includes the sharing of intelligence, military officer exchanges, and joint military exercises. The situation in Ukraine has not changed Serbian attitudes regarding military cooperation with Russia. During a state visit in October 2014, Putin was honored with the largest Serbian military parade since the days of Yugoslavia.111 The two countries have also carried out military training exercises, and Serbia has inquired about obtaining Russia’s S-300 surface-to-air missile system.112

However, pro-Russian political parties in Serbia suffered a poor showing in parliamentary elections in April.113 Like Russia, Serbia is a member of NATO’s Partnership for Peace program. Additionally, Serbia has been part of the U.S. National Guard’s State Partnership Program, partnering with the State of Ohio since 2006.

Russia is also active in Bosnia and Herzegovina—specifically, the ethnically Serb region, Republika Srpska, one of two sub-state entities inside Bosnia and Herzegovina that emerged from that country’s civil war in the 1990s.

Bosnia and Herzegovina is on the path to joining the transatlantic community but has a long way to go. It negotiated a Stabilization and Association Agreement with the EU, but the agreement is not in force because key economic and political reforms have not been implemented. In 2010, NATO offered Bosnia and Herzegovina a Membership Action Plan, but progress on full membership has been stalled because immovable defense properties are still not under the control of the Ministry of Defense. Moscow knows that exploiting internal ethnic and religious divisions among the Serb, Bosniak, and Croat populations is the easiest way to prevent Bosnia and Herzegovina from entering the transatlantic community.

Republika Srpska’s leader, Milorad Dodik, has long been an advocate of independence for the region and has enjoyed a very close relationship with the Kremlin. Recent events in Ukraine, especially the annexation of Crimea, have inspired more separatist rhetoric in Republika Srpska. In many ways, Russia’s relationship with Republika Srpska looks like a relationship with another sovereign state and not with a semi-autonomous region inside Bosnia and Herzegovina—akin to Russia’s direct relationship with Georgia’s South Ossetia and Abkhazia autonomous regions. When Putin visited Serbia in October 2014, Dodik was treated like a head of state and was invited to Belgrade to meet with him.

Russia has also thrown the future of the European-led peacekeeping operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina into doubt. Russia, which holds veto power in the U.N. Security Council, abstained in November 2015 during the annual vote extending the peacekeeping mission.114 This was the first time in 14 years that Russia failed to vote for this resolution. Russia also requested that a sentence mentioning “the Euro–Atlantic perspective of Bosnia–Herzegovina” be omitted from the annual Security Council resolution.115

Montenegro is another focus of Moscow’s diplomacy. Russia and Montenegro have had close relations for three centuries; in 2014, for example, Russians accounted for 30 percent of overnight stays in Montenegro.116 However, Montenegro’s fine line between keeping its close ties with Russia and strengthening its ties to the West has become more complex, and its accession to NATO infuriated Russia. The head of the committee of defense and security in the upper house of the Russian Duma claimed that “Montenegro is becoming a potential participant in a threat to the security of our country.”117 Russia is also suspected helping to fuel anti-government protests in Montenegro, principally in October 2015 and January 2016.118

After Russia annexed Crimea, the Montenegrin government backed European sanctions against Moscow and even implemented its own sanctions. Nevertheless, Russia has significant economic influence in Montenegro and is the country’s largest inward investor. Up to one-third of all enterprises are owned by Russian companies,119 and 7,000 Russians are registered as permanent residents in Montenegro.120

Russia had made prior attempts to insert itself into the security sphere in Montenegro. In 2013, for example, Moscow requested access for the Russian navy to use Montenegrin ports for refueling and maintenance. This request was turned down because of concerns that such an agreement with Russia might negatively affect Montenegro’s prospects for NATO membership.

Another challenge for the region is the increasing presence of the Islamic State and the rise of extremism. Thankfully, the region has not yet suffered an attack from ISIS, but it has served as a fertile recruiting ground for the Islamic State. Several hundred fighters from the Balkans are in Iraq and Syria.121 Most of these foreign fighters, who have formed a so-called Balkans Battalion for Islamic State, have come from Kosovo, but others can be traced back to Albania, Bosnia, and the Republic of Macedonia.

The region is also important to ISIS for reasons beyond recruitment. The Balkans are becoming an important transit route for ISIS fighters traveling between Western Europe and the Middle East. This is especially true for Greece and Croatia with their long coastlines.122 Some of the terrorists who perpetrated attacks in Paris in November 2015 and Brussels in 2016 are known to have transited through the Balkan Peninsula. U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testified in February 2016 that ISIS is “taking advantage of the torrent of migrants to insert operatives into that flow…. [T]hey also have available to them and are pretty skilled at phony passports so they can travel ostensibly as legitimate travelers as well.123

The U.S. has invested heavily in the Balkans since the end of the Cold War. Tens of thousands of U.S. servicemembers have served in the Balkans, and billions of dollars in aid has been spent there, all in the hope of creating a secure and prosperous region that will someday be part of the transatlantic community.

WWTA: The WWTA notes the continued threats to stability in the region stemming from inefficient bureaucracy, unemployment and lack of economic growth, and lingering ethnic and religious tensions. It also notes the threat posed by radicalization of Muslims.124

Summary: The Balkans are being squeezed from three sides: by increased Russian involvement in internal affairs, ISIS using the region as a transit and recruiting ground, and the potential political and economic spillover from Greece. The U.S. and NATO would be wise not to dismiss the region as “mission accomplished.”

Threats to the Commons

Other than cyberspace and (to some extent) airspace, the commons are relatively secure in the European region. Despite periodic Russian aggressive maneuvers near U.S. and NATO vessels, this remains largely true with respect to the security of and free passage through shipping lanes in the region. The maritime domain is heavily patrolled by the navies and coast guards of NATO and NATO partner countries; except in remote areas in the Arctic Sea, search and rescue capabilities are readily available; maritime-launched terrorism is not a significant problem; and piracy is virtually nonexistent in the European region. Nevertheless, recent events indicate that this relative security may be in jeopardy.

Sea. On April 11, 2015, two Russian SU-24 jets made numerous low-altitude passes over the American destroyer USS Donald Cook, which was training with Polish helicopters in the Baltic Sea, leading to a temporary suspension of landing drills. The next day, a Russian KA-27 helicopter made seven low-altitude circles around the Cook. Additionally, two SU-24 jets made 11 close-range low-altitude passes in a simulated attack profile,125 flying within 30 feet of the ship.126 A Russian frigate and auxiliary ship also trailed the Cook during the exercises.127 Based out of Rota, Spain, the USS Donald Cook is equipped with the Aegis radar system and SM-3 missiles128 and is an important component of the U.S. ballistic missile defense capability in Europe. Also in April 2015, a Russian SU-24 plane made a dozen passes over the Cook, which was operating at that time in the Black Sea.129

On May 30, 2015, two Russian Su-24 jets buzzed the destroyer USS Ross, which was operating in international waters in the Black Sea, coming within 500 meters of the Ross at an altitude of 200 feet.130 The USS Ross is an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer. In October 2015, two Russian Tu-142 Bear bombers flew within one nautical mile of the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier, which was sailing in international waters off the coast of Korea during scheduled maneuvers with South Korean Navy vessels. The Ronald Reagan scrambled four F/A-18 Hornets to escort the Russian bombers, which had been flying as low as 500 feet, away from the aircraft carrier.131

In December 2015, a Russian destroyer, the Smetlivy, fired warning shots at a Turkish fishing boat near the Greek island of Lemnos in the Aegean Sea,132 claiming that the shots were needed to avoid a collision.133

Russian threats to the maritime theater are not limited to surface vessels. In October 2015, news reports of Russian vessels operating aggressively near undersea communications cables134 raised concerns that Russia might be laying the groundwork for severing the cables in the event of a future conflict.135 A senior European diplomat described the Russian activity as “comparable to what we saw in the Cold War.”136

In the fall of 2015, NATO retasked naval assets away from exercises to track five Russian attack submarines that had been deployed in the North Atlantic. The Russian submarines are thought to have been a response to NATO’s Trident Juncture exercise in October and November of 2015. Canada’s Commander of Maritime Forces Atlantic, Rear Admiral John Newton, described the deployment as “historically significant.”137

According to Vice Admiral Clive Johnstone, Commander of NATO’s Allied Maritime Command, Russian submarine activity, specifically in the North Atlantic, has reached levels not seen since the Cold War.138 Russian submarines today, however, are more capable than they were in Cold War times, thus making the increased activity all the more worrisome. Admiral Mark Ferguson, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe, has said that “[t]he submarines that we’re seeing are much more stealthy.” In addition, the Russians “have more advanced weapons systems, missile systems that can attack land at long ranges, and…their operating proficiency is getting better as they range farther from home waters.”139 Ferguson characterizes Russian submarines as an “existential threat to U.S. carrier groups.”140 Russia’s investments in its navy, including large frigates, denote a desire to reconstitute a true deep-ocean navy. Currently, only a quarter of Russia’s fleet is “blue water” capable.141

Airspace. Russia has continued its provocative military flights near the airspace of the U.S. and Europe over the past year. On July 4, 2015, two Russian bombers flew within tens of miles of the U.S. coast off of California.142 In January 2016, a U.S. RU-135U reconnaissance plane flying in international airspace over the Black Sea was intercepted by a Russian Su-27 fighter jet in an “unsafe and unprofessional manner.”143 The Russian Su-27 flew within 20 feet of the U.S. RU-135U, drew close, and then turned away quickly so as to hit the U.S. reconnaissance flight with a destabilizing jet engine blast.144

In the most serious incident in years, in November 2015, a Russian Su-24 bomber that violated Turkish airspace was shot down by two Turkish F-16s.145 The Russian jet was warned 10 times by Turkish pilots before being shot down.146 The airspace violation occurred over Turkey’s Hatay province, which has long been disputed by Syria. Russian flights near the border help to fuel tension between Turkey and Syria.147

Overall, incidents of Russian military aircraft flying near the airspace of American allies in Europe have increased in recent years. NATO jets had to be scrambled over 400 times in 2015,148 a slight uptick from the 400 times NATO planes were scrambled in 2014.149 In 2015, NATO planes patrolling Baltic airspace as part of the air policing mission it has conducted since 2004 were scrambled 160 times, a 14 percent increase over 2014 when planes were scrambled 140 times.150 The Russian planes were neither transmitting recognized identification codes nor communicating with ground air traffic control.151 Estonian Minister of Defense Hannes Hanso described Russia’s behavior in Estonian airspace as “incredibly reckless.”152

Starting in early 2014, NATO has doubled the number of aircraft patrolling the Baltic skies from four to eight as a reassurance measure for Baltic member states.153 but the number of air incursions by Russia has still been on the rise since Moscow’s annexation of Crimea. For example, in May 2016, Royal Air Force (RAF) Typhoons taking part in a Baltic Air Policing mission intercepted 17 Russian planes during one nine-day period.154

That the provocative and hazardous behavior of the Russian armed forces or groups sponsored by Russia poses a threat to civilian aircraft in Europe was demonstrated by the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, killing all 283 passengers and 15 crew, over the skies of southeastern Ukraine. In addition, there have been several incidents of Russian military aircraft flying in Europe without using their transponders: In February 2015, for example, civilian aircraft in Ireland had to be diverted or were prevented from taking off when Russian bombers flying with their transponders turned off flew across civilian air lanes.155 Similarly, in March 2014, an SAS plane almost collided with a Russian signals intelligence (SIGINT) plane, the two coming within 90 meters of each other.156 In a December 2014 incident, a Cimber Airlines flight from Copenhagen to Poznan nearly collided with a Russian intelligence plane that was flying with its transponder turned off.157

The RAF also responds regularly to Russian aircraft closer to home off the coast of Great Britain. In February 2016, British Typhoons and French Rafale and Mirage fighter jets were scrambled to escort two Russian TU-160 bombers flying near British and French airspace.158 In October and November of 2015, RAF aircraft were scrambled when Russian Tu-169 Blackjack bombers flew near U.K. airspace.159 From November 2014–November 2015, RAF planes were scrambled 20 times to intercept Russian planes. In July 2016, Bulgarian Defense Minister Nikolay Nenchev stated that Russian military planes had violated Bulgarian airspace four times in one month, all with their transponders switched off, while Russian passenger planes violated Bulgarian airspace six times during that period.160

Non-NATO members have been the target of aggressive Russian aerial activity as well. In March 2013, two Russian bombers and four fighter jets took off from St. Petersburg and carried out a mock strike on targets in the Stockholm region. Swedish experts have assessed that this mock attack in fact simulated a nuclear strike against two targets in Sweden.161 The Swedish air force did not react, as it was on low alert during the Easter break. Instead, NATO scrambled two Danish jets from a base in Lithuania to intercept the Russian planes.162

WWTA: The WWTA foresees continued geopolitical and security competition around the periphery of Russia, to include major sea lanes.163

Summary: Russia’s aerial activity has increased the threat to civilian aircraft flying in European airspace. Russia’s violation of the sovereign airspace of NATO member states is a probing and antagonistic policy that is designed both to test the defense of the alliance and to practice for potential future conflicts.

Space. Admiral Cecil Haney, head of U.S. Strategic Command, said in March 2015 that “[t]he threat in space, I fundamentally believe, is a real one.”164 Russia’s space capabilities are robust, but Moscow “has not recently demonstrated intent to direct malicious and destabilizing actions toward U.S. space assets.”165 However, Admiral Haney also testified in March 2015 that “Russian leaders openly maintain that they possess anti-satellite weapons and conduct anti-satellite research.”166

Air Force Lieutenant General John “Jay” Raymond, commander of the Joint Functional Component Command for Space, has testified that Russia’s anti-satellite capabilities have progressed such that “we are quickly approaching the point where every satellite in every orbit can be threatened.”167

WWTA: According to the WWTA, Russia is improving its military and intelligence satellite capabilities and has used them in Syria. Russia’s “senior leadership probably views countering the US space advantage as a critical component of warfighting,” and “[i]ts 2014 Military Doctrine highlights at least three space-enabled capabilities—‘global strike,’ the ‘intention to station weapons in space,’ and ‘strategic non-nuclear precision weapons’—as main external military threats to the Russian Federation.”168 Additionally, “Russian defense officials acknowledge that they have deployed radar-imagery jammers and are developing laser weapons designed to blind US intelligence and ballistic missile defense satellites.”169 Russian efforts to develop weapons to destroy satellites in orbit will be a growing threat.

Summary: Despite some interruption of cooperation in space as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, cooperation on the International Space Station and commercial transactions involving space-related technology have continued unabated. Russia also continues to build out its counterspace capabilities and has sought to deepen its space cooperation with China as a result.170

Cyber. Perhaps the most contested domain in Europe is the cyber domain. Russian cyber capabilities are incredibly advanced. In his 2010 book Cyberwar, former White House cyber coordinator David Smith quoted a U.S. official as saying that “[t]he Russians are definitely better, almost as good as we are.”171 Such an assessment is not an outlier, as multiple other organizations and reports have noted, from cybersecurity firms such as FireEye to the Worldwide Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community, which stated in 2016 that “Russia is assuming a more assertive cyber posture based on its willingness to target critical infrastructure systems and conduct espionage operations even when detected and under increased public scrutiny.”172 Russia engaged in high-profile cyber aggression in 2007 against Estonia and in 2008 against Georgia in coordination with its invasion of that country. Its more recent actions against Ukrainian and Swedish critical infrastructure further illustrate Moscow’s aggressive use of cyber attacks.

By December 2015, Russia’s skills were highly advanced. A sophisticated Russian cyber attack against Ukrainian power companies resulted in widespread power outages that affected 225,000 Ukrainians for several hours. Subsequent investigations by Ukrainian and U.S. cyber officials found that the attack was “synchronized and coordinated, probably following extensive reconnaissance,” and that efforts were taken to “attempt to interfere with expected restoration efforts.”173 While the U.S. government has not named the perpetrator, many experts see Russian government involvement due to the sophisticated, well-financed, and coordinated nature of the attack during a period of ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists.174

It also appears that the attack continues Russia’s use of allied criminal organizations, so-called patriotic hackers, to help it engage in cyber aggression. Both the Georgian and Estonian attacks were conducted by these “patriotic hackers” and likely coordinated or sponsored by Russian security forces. Using these hackers gives the Russians greater resources and can help to shield their true capabilities. At the same time, Russia’s Federal Security Service is reportedly spending $250 million a year on offensive cyber capabilities.175

The Ukrainian attack represents an escalation in cyber attacks, moving beyond crippling communications or mere infiltration of critical systems to taking down critical infrastructure with widespread physical effects. In early 2016, the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency warned that Russian hackers using software from Russian-origin companies could gain access to industrial systems in the U.S., including electrical and water systems.176 Russia is also thought to be behind five days of cyber attacks against Sweden’s Air Traffic Control system in November 2015, which led to flight delays and groundings.177 Swedish authorities are reported to believe that the attack was the work of Russian military intelligence.178

In February and March of 2016, Finland’s Ministry of Defense withstood cyber attacks that are suspected of emanating from inside Russia. The attack in March began just hours before Finland’s President was set to meet with Russian President Putin.179 In April 2016, Lithuania’s Parliament suffered a suspected Russian cyber attack while hosting a gathering of Crimean Tatars.180 Russia hackers are also suspected of being behind a cyber attack against Germany’s Bundestag in 2015, an attack that sought access to computers of Bundestag members and their staffs. Hans-Georg Maassen, President of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency BfV, described Russia’s evolving cyber targets: “The campaigns that the BfV has observed in the past have generally been focused on obtaining information, in other words spying…but lately intelligence agencies have also shown a willingness to conduct sabotage.”181

WWTA: The U.S. intelligence community notes Russia’s increasing assertiveness and boldness in cyberspace. Russia will likely target various U.S. interests in order to “support several strategic objectives: intelligence gathering to support Russian decision-making in the Ukraine and Syrian crises, influence operations to support military and political objectives, and continuing preparation of the cyber environment for future contingencies.”182

Summary: Russia’s cyber capabilities are advanced. Russia shows a continued willingness to utilize cyber warfare, most recently and brazenly against the Ukrainian electric grid and Sweden’s Air Control Systems. Russia’s increasingly bold use of cyber capabilities, coupled with their sophistication, presents a challenge for the U.S. and its interests abroad.

Russian Military Capabilities. According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies’ The Military Balance 2016, among the key weapons in Russia’s inventory are 332 intercontinental ballistic missiles, 2,700 main battle tanks, more than 5,400 armored infantry fighting vehicles, over 6,000 armored personnel carriers, and over 4,180 pieces of artillery. The navy has one aircraft carrier; 63 submarines (including 13 ballistic missile submarines); six cruisers; 18 destroyers; 10 frigates; and 89 patrol and coastal combatants. The air force has 1,090 combat-capable aircraft. The IISS counts 230,000 members of the army. Russia also has a reserve force of 2,000,000 combined for all armed forces.183 Despite public embarrassments—such as when it was forced to ground its aging Tu-95 Bear bomber fleet in July 2015, “for a second time in barely a month,”184 after a Bear bomber skidded off the runway and caught fire185—Russia maintains a formidable military.

Russia has been investing heavily in modernization of its armed forces, especially its nuclear arsenal. Russia announced research and development plans for a new ICBM, although The Military Balance states that “such ICBMs are a distant prospect, with analysts assessing little progress likely before 2020.”186 The first of the Borey-class SSBNs, the Yuri Dolgoruky, formally joined the fleet at the beginning of 2013 and is intended as part of a broader recapitalization of the country’s nuclear capability. The armed forces also continue to undergo process modernization begun by Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov in 2008.187 The success of some reform measures was put on display during the seizure of the Crimean Peninsula. The invasion showcased Russia’s use of a host of tools in effective combinations. However, most of the forces used were highly trained special forces, so Russian successes in Crimea may not reflect the impact of modernization on the larger army.188

Russian forces continue to face problems from corruption and a long-term shortage of recruits due to declining birthrates, poor access to health care, and the reduction of conscription service to one year.189 These problems were on full display in 2008 in the Russian invasion of Georgia, particularly in the areas of communications and logistics. In comparison, “Russian forces in Crimea benefited from improvements in personal equipment, logistics, personnel discipline, electronic-warfare capability and junior-commander training.”190

A report from the Swedish Defense Research Agency (FOI) on the 2011–2020 State Armament Program assigns the program at least partial credit for Russia’s ability to intervene in Syria: “It is difficult to conceive that Russia could have mounted the military action in Syria in autumn 2015 without the positive outcomes achieved in implementing GPV-2020.”191 The Russian Defense Ministry claims to have received 1,200 new or modernized aircraft over the past three years as part of the 2011–2020 State Armament Program.192

However, the FOI report also states that declining budget revenues and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have hurt the country’s ability to meet the program’s benchmarks. Western sanctions and Ukraine’s decision to end delivery of military products and components to Russia in 2014 have hurt the ability of Russia’s defense industries to access certain technology and components.193 Overall, Russia’s industrial capacity and capability remain problematic.


Overall, the threat to the U.S. homeland originating from Europe remains low, but the threat to American interests and allies in the region remains significant. Behind this threat lies Russia. Although Russia has the military capability to harm and (in the case of its nuclear arsenal) to pose an existential threat to the U.S., it has not demonstrated the intent to do so.

The situation is different when it comes to America’s allies in the region. Through NATO, the U.S. is obliged by treaty to come to the aid of the alliance’s European members. Russia continues to seek to undermine the NATO alliance and presents an existential threat to U.S. allies in Eastern Europe. NATO has been the cornerstone of European security and stability since its creation 67 years ago, and it is in America’s interest to ensure that it maintains the military capability and the political will to fulfil its treaty obligations.

While Russia is not the threat to U.S. global interests that the Soviet Union was during the Cold War, it does pose challenges to a range of American interests and those of its allies and friends closest to Russia’s borders. Russia possesses a full range of capabilities from ground forces to air, naval, space, and cyber. It still maintains the world’s largest nuclear arsenal, and although a strike on the U.S. is highly unlikely, the latent potential for such a strike still gives these weapons enough strategic value vis-à-vis America’s NATO allies and interests in Europe to keep them relevant.

Russian provocations far below any scenario involving a nuclear exchange pose the most serious challenge to American interests, particularly in Central and Eastern Europe, the Arctic, the Balkans, and the South Caucasus. It is in these contingencies that Russia’s military capabilities are most relevant.

Threat Scores by Country

Russia. Russia seeks to maximize its strategic position in the world at the expense of the United States. It also seeks to undermine U.S. influence and moral standing, harasses U.S. and NATO forces, and is working to sabotage U.S. and Western policy in Syria. Moscow’s continued aggression and willingness to utilize every tool at its disposal in pursuit of its aims leads this Index to assess the overall threat from Russia as “aggressive” and “formidable.”



  1. Damien Sharkov, “Russia Has Threatened Nuclear Attack, Says Ukraine Defence Minister,” Newsweek, September 1, 2014, 
(accessed September 6, 2016). 

  2. Vladimir Putin, “On the Russian Federation’s National Security Strategy,” Presidential Edict 683, December 31, 2015, (accessed September 8, 2016). 

  3. Pavel Podvig, “New Version of the Military Doctrine,” Russian Strategic Nuclear Forces blog, December 26, 2014, (accessed September 8, 2016). 

  4. Sam Perlo-Freeman, Aude Fleurant, Pieter Wezeman, and Siemon Wezeman, “Trends in World Military Expenditure, 2015,” Stockholm International Peace Research Institute Fact Sheet, April 2016, (accessed September 8, 2016). 

  5. Julian Cooper, Russia’s State Armament Programme to 2020: A Quantitative Assessment of Implementation 2011–2015, Swedish Defense Research Agency, March 2016, Summary,–4239–SE (accessed September 8, 2016). 

  6. Ibid. 

  7. TASS, “Russia’s State Defense Order in 2015,” (accessed March 20, 2015). 

  8. Mikhail Barabanov, Konstantin Makienko, and Ruslan Pukhov, “Military Reform: Toward the New Look of the Russian Army,” Valdai Discussion Club Analytical Report, July 2012, p. 14, 
(accessed September 17, 2014). 

  9. Barry D. Watts, Nuclear-Conventional Firebreaks and the Nuclear Taboo, Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, 2013, (accessed September 8, 2016). 

  10. Shaun Waterman, “Russia Threatens to Strike NATO Missile Defense Sites,” The Washington Times, May 3, 2012, 
(accessed September 17, 2014). 

  11. The Local, “Russia Delivers Nuclear Threat to Denmark,” March 21, 2015, (accessed May 2, 2015). 

  12. Michael R. Gordon, “U.S. Says Russia Tested Missile, Despite Treaty,” The New York Times, January 29, 2014, (accessed September 8, 2016). 

  13. Keith B. Payne and Mark B. Schneider, “The Nuclear Treaty Russia Won’t Stop Violating,” The Wall Street Journal, 
February 11, 2014, 
(accessed September 17, 2014). 

  14. James R. Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, “Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community,” statement before the Committee one Armed Services, US. Senate, February 9, 2016, p. 7, (accessed September 8, 2016). Cited hereafter as 2016 WWTA

  15. Trude Pettersen, “Norwegian Intelligence Service: Russia Is More Confident and Unpredictable,” Independent Barents Observer, February 24, 2016, (accessed June 27, 2016). 

  16. The Local, “Russia ‘Biggest Threat’ to Sweden over Past Year,” March 18, 2015, (accessed September 13, 2016). 

  17. News release, “Russian Banker Sentenced in Connection with Conspiracy to Work for Russian Intelligence,” U.S. Department of Justice, May 25, 2016, (accessed September 13, 2016). 

  18. Kathrin Hille, Neil Buckley, Courtney Weaver, and Guy Chazan, “Vladimir Putin Signs Treaty to Annex Crimea,” Financial Times, March 18, 2014, (accessed September 8, 2016). 

  19. Janusz Bugajski and Peter B. Doran, “BLACK SEA RISING: Russia’s Strategy in Southeast Europe,” Center for European Policy Analysis Black Sea Strategic Report No. 1, February 2016, p. 8, (accessed September 8, 2016). 

  20. Andrew Osborn, “Russia Pushes Back ‘Putin’s Bridge’ to Annexed Crimea by a Year,” Reuters, April 13, 2016, (accessed June 27, 2016). 

  21. International Institute for Strategic Studies, The Military Balance 2016: The Annual Assessment of Global Military Capabilities and Defence Economics (London: Routledge, 2016), p. 202. 

  22. Ibid., p. 166. 

  23. Bugajski and Doran, “BLACK SEA RISING: Russia’s Strategy in Southeast Europe,” p. 3. 

  24. Sam Jones and Kathrin Hille, “Russia’s Military Ambitions Make Waves in the Black Sea,” Financial Times, May 13, 2016, (accessed June 29, 2016). 

  25. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, “Russia Adds Cruise-Missile Ships to Black Sea Force,” December 12, 2015, (accessed June 27, 2016). 

  26. Naval Today, “Russia: SSGN Severodvinsk to Get Caliber Cruise Missiles,” August 16, 2012, (accessed June 27, 2016). 

  27. Jones and Hille, “Russia’s Military Ambitions Make Waves in the Black Sea.” 

  28. Reuters, “Ukraine Ceasefire Is ‘In Name Only’: NATO,” September 20, 2014, (accessed April 5, 2016). 

  29. Laurence Norman, “Situation in Eastern Ukraine at Worst Point in Months, Says OSCE Official,” The Wall Street Journal, 
February 14, 2016, 
(accessed September 8, 2016). 

  30. General Philip Breedlove, Commander, U.S. European Command, “U.S. European Command Posture Statement 2016,” EUCOM, February 25, 2016, (accessed September 8, 2016). 

  31. Daniel Tost, “German Domestic Security Agency Finds Russia Reverting to KGB Measures,” EurActiv, February 26, 2015, (accessed September 8, 2016). 

  32. Breedlove, “U.S. European Command Posture Statement 2016.” 

  33. Kalev Stoicescu and Henrik Praks, Strengthening the Strategic Balance in the Baltic Sea Area, International Centre for Defence and Security Report, March 2016, p. 21, (accessed September 8, 2016). 

  34. Michael Krepon and Joe Kendall, “Beef Up Conventional Forces; Don’t Worry About a Tactical Nuke Gap,” Breaking Defense, March 28, 2016, (accessed March 27, 2015). 

  35. Stoicescu and Praks. Strengthening the Strategic Balance in the Baltic Sea Area, p. 14. 

  36. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, “Russia to Create New Military Divisions in Response to NATO,” January 22, 2016, (accessed June 27, 2016). 

  37. News in English, “‘No Warning’ of Russian Exercises,” March 17, 2015, (accessed March 27, 2015). 

  38. Stratfor, “Russia Targets NATO with Military Exercises,” March 19, 2015, (accessed September 8, 2016). 

  39. Thomas Grove, “Russia Starts Nationwide Show of Force,” Reuters, March 16, 2015, (accessed March 27, 2015). 

  40. Ibid. 

  41. Stratfor, “Russia Targets NATO with Military Exercises.” 

  42. BBC, “Russian Military Deployed Near Ukraine for Huge Exercises” February, 9, 2016, (accessed June 27, 2016). 

  43. Sputnik, “Russian Paratroopers to Perform Live Fire Drills in Challenging Conditions,” March 24, 2016, (accessed June 28, 2016). 

  44. Russian Times, “Russian and Belarusian Airborne Forces Conduct Drills Near Polish Border,” April 8, 2016, ( accessed June 27, 2016). 

  45. Ukraine Today, “Russia Starts Recon, Strike Drills in Black Sea Ahead of NATO-Russia Meeting – Ukraine Intel,” April 15, 2016, (accessed June 27, 2016). 

  46. Matthew Day, “Russia ‘Simulates’ Nuclear Attack on Poland,” The Telegraph, November 1, 2009, (accessed March 27, 2015). 

  47. 2016 WWTA, p. 18. 

  48. Dave Majumdar, “Russia to Standup New Arctic Command,” USNI News, February 18, 2014, (accessed March 27, 2015). 

  49. Trude Pettersen, “Russia Re-opens Arctic Cold War Era Air Base,” Barents Observer, October 30, 2013, (accessed March 27, 2015). 

  50. Trude Pettersen, “Northern Fleet Gets Own Air Force, Air Defense Forces,” Independent Barents Observer, February 1, 2016, (accessed June 27, 2016). 

  51. Ibid. 

  52. Ibid. 

  53. RIA Novosti, “Russian Commandos Train for Arctic Combat,” Sputnik, October 14, 2013, 
(accessed September 8, 2016). 

  54. Stephen Blank, “Russia’s New Arctic Base Continue[s] the Militarization of the High North,” Jamestown Foundation Eurasia Daily Monitor, Vol. 12, Issue 202 (November 6, 2015), (accessed June 27, 2016). 

  55. Agence France-Presse, “Russia Unveils New Navy Icebreaker in Arctic Military Focus,” Defense News, June 11, 2016, (accessed September 8, 2016). 

  56. Agence France-Presse, “Russia Revises Navy Doctrine,” Defense News, July 26, 2015, 
(accessed September 8, 2016). 

  57. Russian Times, “Submerged Russian Nuclear Sub Fires Kalibr Cruise Missile in Arctic Drills,” April 30, 2016, (accessed June 27, 2016). 

  58. Trude Pettersen, “Russian Military Instructors Plan to Land on Svalbard,” Independent Barents Observer, April 7, 2016, (accessed June 30, 2016). 

  59. Samia Madwar, “Ice Cracks and Tensions Rise at a North Pole Camp,” News Deeply, July 14, 2016, 
(accessed September 8, 2016). 

  60. Breedlove, “U.S. European Command Posture Statement 2016.” 

  61. Luke Coffey and Daniel Kochis, “NATO Summit 2016: Time for an Arctic Strategy,” Heritage Foundation Issue Brief No. 4578, 
June 16, 2016, 

  62. 2016 WWTA, p. 13. 

  63. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, “Concept of the Foreign Policy of the Russian Federation,” approved by President of the Russian Federation V. Putin, February 12, 2013, (accessed September 8, 2016). 

  64. Reporters Without Borders, World Press Freedom Index 2016: Russia, (accessed September 12, 2016). 

  65. Ibid. 

  66. Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber, “Looking West, Russia Beefs Up Spending on Global Media Giants,” The Moscow Times, September 23, 2014,
(accessed March 27, 2015). 

  67. Ibid. 

  68. Daniel Kochis, “Countering Russian Propaganda Abroad,” Heritage Foundation Issue Brief No. 4286, October 21, 2014, 

  69. Brett LoGiurato, “Meet the PR Firm That Helped Vladimir Putin Troll the Entire Country,” Business Insider, September 12, 2013, (accessed September 8, 2016). 

  70. Russia Today, “It’s Official: RT Is Most Watched News Network on YouTube with over 2bn Views,” December 16, 2014, (accessed March 27, 2015). 

  71. Kochis, “Countering Russian Propaganda Abroad,” p. 1. 

  72. Anastasia Bazenkova, “Foreign Publishers Quit Russia over Media Ownership Law,” The Moscow Times, September 9, 2015, (accessed September 8, 2016). 

  73. Breedlove, “U.S. European Command Posture Statement 2016.” 

  74. General Philip Breedlove, Commander, U.S. Forces Europe, statement before the Committee on Armed Services, U.S. House of Representatives, February 25, 2015, p. 4, (accessed September 13, 2016). 

  75. Richard Stengel, “Russia Today’s Disinformation Campaign,” DIPNOTE: U.S. Department of State Official Blog, April 29, 2014, (accessed March 27, 2015). 

  76. Business Insider, “Russia Today Tells the ‘Untold Story’ of MH-17—But Other Kremlin Propaganda Already Debunked the Theory,” October 26, 2014, (accessed September 8, 2016). 

  77. Olga Khazan, “Russia’s Online-Comment Propaganda Army,” The Atlantic, October 9, 2013, 
(accessed March 27, 2015). 

  78. Shaun Walker, “Salutin’ Putin: Inside a Russian Troll House,” The Guardian, April 2, 2015, (accessed June 28, 2016). 

  79. Peter Foster, “Russia Accused of Clandestine Funding of European Parties as US Conducts Major Review of Vladimir Putin’s Strategy,” The Daily Telegraph, January 16, 2016. (accessed June 28, 2016). 

  80. Associated Press, “Latvia Joins Lithuania in Temporary Ban Against Russian TV Broadcasts for ‘Biased’ Reporting,” Fox News, April 7, 2014, (accessed March 27, 2015). 

  81. Sputnik, “Russia to Press for Latvia’s Explanations over Sputnik’s Website Ban,” April 1, 2016, (accessed June 28, 2016). 

  82. Estonian Public Broadcasting, “Latvian Public Broadcasting to Launch Russian-Language Channel,” March 20, 2015, (accessed March 27, 2015). 

  83. Guy Taylor, “Russian, Chinese Propaganda Muffling U.S. Government’s Message to the World,” interview with Jeff Shell, Chairman, Broadcasting Board of Governors, The Washington Times, January 3, 2016. (accessed September 8, 2016). 

  84. 2016 WWTA, p. 18. 

  85. Civil Georgia, “Moscow, Sokhumi Endorse Final Text of New Treaty,” November 22, 2014, (accessed September 8, 2016). 

  86. Civil Georgia, “Tbilisi Condemns Russia’s Move to Sign New Treaty with Sokhumi,” November 22, 2014, (accessed September 8, 2016). 

  87. Nicholas Waller, “South Ossetian Separatists Plan Referendum on Joining Russia,” Georgia Today, April 15, 2016, (accessed June 28, 2016). 

  88. Liz Fuller, “South Ossetia Postpones Referendum on Accession to Russian Federation,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 
May 30, 2016, 
(accessed September 8, 2016). 

  89. Mikhail Barabanov, Anton Lavrov, and Vyacheslav Tseluiko, The Tanks of August, ed. Ruslan Pukhov (Moscow: Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, 2010), (accessed September 8, 2016). 

  90. RFE/RL Georgian Service, “Russian Troops Demarcate Part of Georgian Oil Pipeline,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 
July 14, 2015, 
(accessed September 8, 2016). 

  91. Andrew Osborn, “Russia to Beef Up Military Presence in Former Soviet Space,” The Telegraph, August 18, 2010, (accessed March 27, 2015). 

  92. Alexandros Petersen, “Russia Shows Its Hand on Karabakh,” EUobserver, November 8, 2013, (accessed September 8, 2016). 

  93. Reuters, “Russia Beefs Up Its Armenia Base with Attack, Transport Helicopters – RIA,” December 8, 2015, accessed September 8, 2016). 

  94. Deutsche Welle, “Russia Sends Fighter Jets to Armenian Base,” February 2, 2016, (accessed June 28th 2016). 

  95. In 1991, the Azerbaijan SSR Parliament dissolved the Nagorno–Karabakh Autonomous Oblast and divided the area among five rayons (administrative regions) in Azerbaijan. 

  96. Reuters, “Armenia-Backed Forces Report 97 Dead in Nagorno-Karabakh Fighting,” April 14, 2016, (accessed September 9, 2016). 

  97. Deutsche Welle, “Ceasefire Holds in Contested Armenia-Azerbaijan Border Region,” April 6, 2016, (accessed June 28,2016). 

  98. Jack Farchy, “Russia Senses Opportunity in Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict,” Financial Times, April 19, 2016, (accessed September 9, 2016). 

  99. Petersen, “Russia Shows Its Hand on Karabakh.” 

  100. Farchy, “Russia Senses Opportunity in Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict.” 

  101. 2016 WWTA, p. 19. 

  102. Jonathan Marcus, “Russia S-400 Syria Missile Deployment Sends Robust Signal,” BBC, December 1, 2015, (accessed September 9, 2016). 

  103. Dmitry Gorenburg and Michael Kofman, “There Is No Russian Withdrawal from Syria,” War on the Rocks, March 18, 2016, (accessed September 9, 2016). 

  104. Thomas Gibbons-Neff, “How Russian Special Forces Are Shaping the Fight in Syria,” The Washington Post, March 29, 2016, (accessed September 9, 2016); Frederik Pleitgen, “Russia’s Military in Syria: Bigger Than You Think and Not Going Anywhere,” CNN, May 9, 2016, (accessed September 9, 2016). 

  105. Adam Entous and Gordon Lubold, “Russia Bombed Base in Syria Used by U.S.,” The Wall Street Journal, updated July 21, 2016, (accessed September 9, 2016). 

  106. Breedlove, “U.S. European Command Posture Statement 2016.” 

  107. 2016 WWTA, p. 18. 

  108. “In the Balkans, NATO Has Outmuscled Russia,” The Economist, December 11, 2015, (accessed June 27, 2016). 

  109. Michelle Nichols, “Russia Blocks U.N. Condemnation of Srebrenica as a Genocide,” Reuters, July 8, 2015, (accessed June 27, 2016). 

  110. Julian Borger, “Vladimir Putin Warns over Rise of Neo-Nazism Before Serbia Visit,” The Guardian, October 15, 2014, (accessed March 27, 2015). 

  111. Gordana Filipovic, Ilya Arkhipov, and Misha Savic, “Serbia Honors Russia’s Putin with Military Parade,” Bloomberg, 
October 16, 2014, 
(accessed September 9, 2016). 

  112. Jaroslaw Adamowski, “Serbia Names New Defense Minister, Eyes Missile Defense Deal With Russia,” Defense News, 
March 4, 2016, (accessed June 27, 2016). 

  113. Associated Press, “Pro-Russia Parties See Setback in Serbian Elections,” Daily Sabah, April 25, 2016, 
(accessed September 9, 2016). 

  114. Deutsche Welle, “Russia Snubs UN Support for EU Troops in Bosnia Amid Ukraine Crisis,” November 12, 2014, 
(accessed June 28, 2016). 

  115. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, “Croatian FM Concerned About Russian Stance on Bosnia,” November 18, 2014, (accessed March 27, 2015). 

  116. “In the Balkans, NATO Has Outmuscled Russia.” 

  117. Neil Buckley, Alex Barker, and Andrew Byrne, “Russia Fumes over Nato Invitation to Montenegro,” Financial Times, 
December 2, 2015, (accessed July 1, 2016). 

  118. Charles Recknagel, “Pro-Russian Parties Seek to Derail Montenegro’s NATO Bid,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, June 22, 2016, (accessed September 8, 2016); Dusica Tomovic, “Anti-Govt Protesters Rally in Montenegro,” Balkan Insight, January 24, 2016, (accessed June 27, 2016). 

  119. David Clark and Andrew Foxall, “Russia’s Role in the Balkans—Cause for Concern?” The Henry Jackson Society, June 2014, p. 10, (accessed March 27, 2015). 

  120. London School of Economics, “Russia in the Balkans Conference Report: The Balkans in Russia’s Foreign Policy Strategy, Russia and Conflict Resolution in the Balkans, The Economic Dimension, Russian Soft Power,” March 13, 2015, p. 8, (accessed September 9, 2016). 

  121. Ali Weinberg, “ISIS in Iraq, Syria Recruiting Foreign Fighters from Balkans,” ABC News, October 22, 2014, (accessed March 27, 2015). 

  122. Erin Banco, “Why the Balkans Are Becoming the Transit Point for Foreign ISIS Militants,” International Business Times, 
December 17, 2014, 
(accessed March 27, 2015). 

  123. Edwin Mora, “Intel Chief Confirms Islamic State Using Legitimate-Looking Passports to Travel,” Breitbart, February 11, 2016, (accessed June 28, 2016). 

  124. 2016 WWTA, p. 21. 

  125. News release, “US Navy Ship Encounters Aggressive Russian Aircraft in Baltic Sea,” United States European Command, 
April 13, 2016, (accessed September 9, 2016). 

  126. Andrew Tilghman, “Russian Attack Aircraft Just Flew Within 30 Feet of a U.S. Navy Ship,” Military Times, April 13, 2016, (accessed June 27, 2016)  

  127. Julian E. Barnes and Gordon Lubold, “Russian Warplanes Buzz U.S. Navy Destroyer, Polish Helicopter,” The Wall Street Journal, April 13, 2016, (accessed June 27, 2016). 

  128. Steven Beardsley, “USS Donald Cook Prepares for First Ballistic Missile Defense Patrol,” Stars and Stripes, February 17, 2014, 
(accessed June 27, 2016). 

  129. Barnes and Lubold, “Russian Warplanes Buzz U.S. Navy Destroyer, Polish Helicopter.” 

  130. Paul D. Shinkman, “More ‘Top Gun’: Russian Jets Buzz U.S. Navy Destroyer in Black Sea,” U.S. News & World Report, June 1, 2015, 
(accessed September 9, 2016). 

  131. Erik Slavin, “Russian Aircraft Approach USS Ronald Reagan, Prompting US Fighter Jet Scramble,” Stars and Stripes, 
October 29, 2015, (accessed June 27, 2016). 

  132. BBC, “Russian Warship Fires Warning Shots at Turkish Fishing Boat,” December 13, 2015, (accessed June 27, 2016). 

  133. Anna Andrianova, “Russia Warship Fires Warning to Stop Turkish Boat Collision,” Bloomberg, December 13, 2015, 
(accessed June 27, 2016), 

  134. David E. Sanger and Eric Schmitt, “Russian Ships Near Data Cables Are Too Close for U.S. Comfort,” The New York Times, 
October 25, 2015, 
(accessed June 27, 2016). 

  135. Daniel Kochis, “Undersea Cables: How Concerned Should You Be?” The Daily Signal, October 27, 2015, 

  136. Sanger and Schmitt, “Russian Ships Near Data Cables Are Too Close for U.S. Comfort.” 

  137. Bruce Campion-Smith, “Canadian Sub in Underwater Hunt for Russian Vessel,” The Star, May 28, 2016, 
(accessed June 27, 2016). 

  138. Nicholas de Larrinaga, “Russian Submarine Activity Topping Cold War Levels,” IHS Jane’s 360, February 2, 2016, (accessed September 9, 2016). 

  139. Jim Sciutto, “Top Navy Official: Russian Sub Activity Expands to Cold War Level,” CNN, April 19, 2016, 
(accessed June 27, 2016). 

  140. Ibid. 

  141. Sean MacCormac, “The New Russian Naval Doctrine,” Center for International Maritime Security, November 24, 2015, (accessed June 27, 2016). 

  142. Brian Todd and Jethro Mullen, “July Fourth Message Not the First from Russian Bombers,” CNN, July 23, 2015, (accessed June 28, 2016), 

  143. Sam LaGrone, “Pentagon: Russian Fighter Conducted ‘Unsafe’ Intercept of U.S. Recon Plane over Black Sea,” USNI News, 
January 28, 2016, (accessed June 27, 2016).((Sam LaGrone, “Pentagon: Russian Fighter Conducted ‘Unsafe’ Intercept of U.S. Recon Plane over Black Sea,” USNI News, 
January 28, 2016, (accessed June 27, 2016). 

  144. Darren Boyle, “Russian Su-27 Jet Fighter Flies Within 20 Feet of US Surveillance Aircraft During ‘Unsafe and Unprofessional’ Interception over the Black Sea,” Daily Mail, January 29, 2016, 
(accessed June 27, 2016). 

  145. Dion Nissenbaum, Emre Peker, and James Marson, “Turkey Shoots Down Russian Military Jet,” The Wall Street Journal, 
November 24, 2015, (accessed June 27, 2016). 

  146. Agence France-Presse, “Turkey Pilots Warned Russian Jet 10 Times Before Shoot-Down: US,” Yahoo News, November 24, 2015, (accessed June 28, 2016). 

  147. Luke Coffey, “Why Turkey Shot Down a Russian Fighter Jet,” The Daily Signal, November 24, 2015, 

  148. John Vandiver, “US Requests NATO Surveillance Aircraft in Fight Against Islamic State,” Stars and Stripes, January 28, 2016, 
(accessed June 27, 2016). 

  149. Laura Perez Maestro and Jason Hanna, “UK Jets Intercept Russian Aircraft Near British Airspace,” CNN, February 19, 2015, (accessed March 27, 2015). 

  150. Richard Tomkins, “NATO Interception of Russian Planes in Baltics Rise [sic],” UPI, January 11, 2016, (accessed September 9, 2016). 

  151. Sky News, “RAF Jets Scrambled to Intercept Russian Planes,” May 17, 2016, (accessed June 27, 2016). 

  152. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, “Estonia Says Russian Jets ‘Incredibly Reckless’ in Baltics’ Airspace,” May 4, 2016, 
(accessed June 27, 2016). 

  153. Reuters, “NATO Needs to Beef Up Defense of Baltic Airspace: Top Commander,” March 29, 2016, (accessed September 9, 2016). 

  154. David Mackay, “RAF Lossiemouth Crews Scrambled Six Times in Nine Days to Intercept Russians ‘Causing Mischief,’” The Press and Journal, May 31, 2016, (accessed June 27, 2016). 

  155. Sean O’Riordan, “Passenger Planes Dodged Russian Bombers,” Irish Examiner, March 3, 2015, (accessed September 9, 2016). 

  156. The Local, “SAS Flight in Russian Spy Plane Near Miss,” May 8, 2014, (accessed March 27, 2015). 

  157. David Cenciotti, “Russian Spy Plane Nearly Collided with Airliner off Sweden. Again,” The Aviationist, December 14, 2014, (accessed June 27, 2016). 

  158. David Cenciotti, “Take a Look at These Photographs of the Russian Tu-160 Bombers Intercepted by the RAF Typhoons,” The Aviationist, February 18 2016, (accessed June 27, 2016). 

  159. BBC, “RAF Lossiemouth Fighter Jets Scrambled over Russian Planes,” November 20, 2015, (accessed June 27, 2016). 

  160. Reuters, “Bulgaria Calls Rise in Airspace Violations by Russian Aircraft ‘a Provocation,’” July 24, 2016, (accessed September 9, 2016); “RAF Jets Intercept Two Russian Bombers Nearing UK Airspace,” The Guardian, February 17, 2016, (accessed June 27, 2016). 

  161. Hans M. Kristensen, “Nuclear Exercises Amidst Ukrainian Crisis: Time for Cooler Heads,” Federation of American Scientists, 
May 16, 2014, (accessed March 27, 2015). 

  162. Andrew Rettman, “Sweden: Who Needs Nato, When You Have the Lisbon Treaty?” EUobserver, April 22, 2013, (accessed March 27, 2015). 

  163. 2016 WWTA, p. 16. 

  164. News Transcript, “Department of Defense Press Briefing by Adm. Haney in the Pentagon Briefing Room,” U.S. Department of Defense, March 24, 2015, 
(accessed September 9, 2016). 

  165. Micah Zenko, “Dangerous Space Incidents,” Council on Foreign Relations, Center for Preventive Action Contingency Planning Memorandum No. 21, April 2014, (accessed March 27, 2015). 

  166. Admiral C. D. Haney, Commander, United States Strategic Command, statement before the Committee on Armed Services, U.S. Senate, March 19, 2015, (accessed March 27, 2015). 

  167. Bill Gertz, “Military Gears Up for Space Warfare,” The Washington Free Beacon, March 26, 2015, (accessed June 27, 2016). 

  168. 2016 WWTA, p. 9. 

  169. Ibid., p. 10. 

  170. Andy Pasztor, “China and Europe in Talks on Space Exploration Program,” The Wall Street Journal, July 17, 2014, (accessed March 27, 2015). 

  171. David J. Smith, “How Russia Harnesses Cyberwarfare,” American Foreign Policy Council Defense Dossier, Issue 4 (August 2012), 
p. 4, (accessed March 27, 2015). 

  172. 2016 WWTA, p. 3. 

  173. U.S. Department of Homeland Security, International Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team (ICS-CERT), “Cyber-Attack Against Ukrainian Critical Infrastructure,” IR-Alert-H-16-056-01, February 25, 2016, (accessed September 9, 2016). 

  174. Kim Zetter, “Inside the Cunning, Unprecedented Hack of Ukraine’s Power Grid,” Wired, March 3, 2016, (accessed June 27, 2016); Evan Perez, “U.S. Official Blames Russia for Power Grid Attack in Ukraine,” CNN, February 11, 2016, ( accessed June 28 2016). 

  175. Patrik Maldre, “The Russian Cyber Threat: Views from Estonia,” Center for European Policy Analysis, Information Warfare Initiative, May 18, 2016, (accessed September 9, 2016). 

  176. Bill Gertz, “DIA: Russian Software Could Threaten U.S. Industrial Control Systems,” The Washington Free Beacon, March 1, 2016, 
(accessed September 9, 2016). 

  177. Mary-Ann Russon, “Russia Blamed for Crashing Swedish Air Traffic Control to Test Electronic Warfare Capabilities,” International Business Times, April 14, 2016, (accessed June 27, 2016). 

  178. Kjetil Stormark, “Sweden Issued Cyber Attack Alert,” Aldrimer, April 12, 2016, (accessed June 27, 2016). 

  179. Gerard O’Dwyer, “Finnish Defense Ministry Hit by DDoS Cyber Attack,” Defense News, April 4, 2016, (accessed June 27, 2016). 

  180. BNS/TBT Staff, “Cyber attack on Lithuanian Parliament Over,” The Baltic Times, April 12, 2016, (accessed September 9, 2016). 

  181. Dannielle Correa, “BfV Agency Says Russia Is Behind German Cyber-Attacks,” SC Magazine, May 16, 2016, (accessed June 27, 2016). 

  182. 2016 WWTA, p. 3. 

  183. International Institute for Strategic Studies, The Military Balance 2016, pp. 189–202. 

  184., “Russian ‘Bear’ Bombers Set to Be Grounded Again Following Far East Crash—IHS Jane’s 360,” July 14, 2015, 
(accessed September 13, 2016). 

  185. David Cenciotti, “Russia Has Grounded All Its Tu-95 Strategic Bombers After One Bear Skidded off Runway and Caught Fire,” The Aviationist, June 9, 2015, (accessed June 27, 2016). 

  186. International Institute for Strategic Studies, The Military Balance 2016, p. 164. 

  187. Ibid., p. 159. 

  188. Ibid 

  189. Ibid., p. 163. 

  190. Ibid., p. 159. 

  191. Cooper, Russia’s State Armament Programme to 2020, p. 51. 

  192. Franz-Stefan Gady, “Russia’s Military Built or Modernized More Than 1,200 Aircraft,” The Diplomat , April 19, 2016, (accessed June 27, 2016). 

  193. Cooper, Russia’s State Armament Programme to 2020, p. 35.