Cover: Responding to a Limited Russian Attack on NATO During the Ukraine War

Responding to a Limited Russian Attack on NATO During the Ukraine War

Published Dec 20, 2022

by Bryan Frederick, Samuel Charap, Karl P. Mueller

Download Free Electronic Document

FormatFile SizeNotes
PDF file 0.1 MB

Use Adobe Acrobat Reader version 10 or higher for the best experience.

Although U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) planners have long focused on preparing for the contingency of a large-scale conflict with Russia, the Ukraine war has created a unique set of circumstances that make a more limited Russian attack plausible. This Perspective outlines the characteristics of the potential Russian attack that are relevant to informing a U.S. or NATO response, including Moscow's possible motivations for launching the attack, what the United States could try to accomplish in its response, and how different types of U.S. or NATO responses might help to advance U.S. goals in the conflict.

Using four hypothetical limited Russian attack scenarios, the authors explore how variations across two dimensions of a U.S. or NATO response — the proportionality of a possible kinetic response and the nature of non-kinetic responses — could lead to trade-offs in the pursuit of different U.S. goals. From this analysis, the authors identify key considerations to assist U.S. policymakers weighing how to address various contingencies.

This Perspective was sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense and conducted within the International Security and Defense Policy Program of the RAND National Security Research Division (NSRD).

This commentary is part of the RAND expert insight series. RAND Expert Insights present perspectives on timely policy issues. All RAND Expert Insights undergo peer review to ensure high standards for quality and objectivity.

This document and trademark(s) contained herein are protected by law. This representation of RAND intellectual property is provided for noncommercial use only. Unauthorized posting of this publication online is prohibited; linking directly to this product page is encouraged. Permission is required from RAND to reproduce, or reuse in another form, any of its research documents for commercial purposes. For information on reprint and reuse permissions, please visit www.rand.org/pubs/permissions.

RAND is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.