Military signaling & geopolitical instability: a critical geopolitics view of the NATO-Russia exercise dynamic in the Baltic Sea



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Tartu Ülikool


The aim of this study is to analyze how military signaling can impact geopolitical instability. I explore this issue through a case study of the NATO-Russia military exercise dynamic in the Baltic Sea region using a critical geopolitics perspective. Currently, NATO-Russia relations find themselves in grave decline for NATO members and Russia possess inherently different viewpoints about the European security order. Following Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its actions in eastern Ukraine among other events, NATO members and Russia ramped up their military activity in the Baltic Sea under the guise of deterrence. This study finds that instead of contributing to regional stability, the NATO-Russia military exercise dynamic can be considered a factor of geopolitical instability in the region. Essentially, NATO finds itself in a conundrum where it must assure its most vulnerable members even though geography is not on its side, therefore it must reassure its allies, rehearse interoperability, and deter Russia. NATO’s balancing act affects how Russia perceives its exercises. In contrast, Russia does not see NATO’s military exercises as a deterrent but as provocations and at times responds with low level provocations of its own.