NATO's Strategic Choices

Defense Planning and Conventional Force Modernization

by James A. Thomson

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In order to deal with NATO's principal strategic problem--the declining credibility of nuclear escalation threats to deter Warsaw Pact conventional aggression--this paper reviews NATO's present strategy; examines broad strategic alternatives, all of which appear to be ruled out or severely limited by current constraints; and concludes that NATO's recourse is to seek modest improvements in conventional capabilities. The author argues for three changes to improve conventional defenses: (1) changing the NATO defense planning process; (2) correcting deficiencies in the weapons acquisition process; and (3) setting two priority programs--one to preserve the survivability of NATO air operations, and the other to increase NATO's operational reserves.

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