Issue Brief #11: A Little of the Old, a Little of the New: A Fresh Approach to Conventional Arms Control in Europe


The ongoing NATO–Russia confrontation has increased the risk of military conflict, particularly in Europe. The military relationship between Russia and NATO is far less stable than political leaders may assume and poses increasing risks in particular sub-regions. This paper offers a new approach to Conventional Arms Control (CAC), taking into account how a variety of European actors perceive their threat environment and what they worry about most. This includes regional force concentrations and options for their reinforcement, LRS capabilities, and naval forces. It focuses on the Baltic and Black Sea subregions as a matter of priority. To show why a new approach to CAC is necessary, this paper first addresses the issues of threat perceptions and how military capabilities can drive conflict and escalation. It then offers solutions by outlining the necessary elements of future CAC agreements and possible negotiation formats. .

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About the Authors

Wolfgang Zellner is Senior Research Fellow at the IFSH. From 1994 to 2019, he worked in different capacities within the IFSH, since 2005 as Deputy Director of the IFSH and Head of the IFSH’s Centre for OSCE Research (CORE).

Olga Oliker is Program Director for Europe and Central Asia at International Crisis Group. Prior to joining the Crisis Group, she directed the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and held various research and management roles at the RAND Corporation, including as Director of the Center for Russia and Eurasia.

Steven Pifer is a nonresidential senior fellow with the Brookings Institution. He is a retired foreign service officer with more than 25 years of experience with the State Department, where he worked on U.S. relations with the former Soviet Union and Europe as well as arms control and security issues.