Conventional Forces in Europe

A New Approach to the Balance, Stability, and Arms Control

by Laurinda L. Rohn

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The "balance (or imbalance) of conventional forces" is an expression of the degree to which the capabilities of the conventional military forces deployed by two sides are in some way equal. This balance is a central factor in determining the degree to which a given situation is stable. "Conventional stability" is a broader concept than balance; it also encompasses perceptions of the balance, differences in the nature of the operational tasks imposed on the forces of both sides, and other factors. Conventional stability rests on the degree to which both sides believe they could achieve their military objectives in wartime. The author suggests a new analytic framework relating measurements of military capabilities, balance assessment methodologies, and defense objectives to conventional stability. Application of the framework to the conventional balance in Europe suggests some tentative conclusions regarding the potential role of arms control in stabilizing the balance: the most productive use of arms control seems to be to decrease the offensive potential of the two sides' forces.

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