The central nuclear observation of the report is thatNATO nuclear forces do not have much credibility in protecting the Baltic States against a Russian attack.
That conclusion is, to say the least, interesting given the extent to which some analysts and former/current officials have been arguing that NATO/US need to have more/better limited regional nuclear options to counter Russia in Europe.
Fortunately, Russia’s general military capabilities – although important – are so limited that the RAND study concludes that for NATO to be able to counter a Russian attack on the Baltic States “does not appear to require a Herculean effort.”
Instead, the report concludes that a NATO force of about seven brigades, including three heavy armored brigades – adequately supported by airpower, land-based fires, and other enablers on the ground and ready to fight at the onset of hostilities – might prevent such an outcome.
NATO has already created a conventional Spearhead Force brigade of about 5,000 troops. Seven brigades of that size would include about 35,000 troops.
Creating and maintaining such a force, RAND estimates, might cost on the order of $2.7 billion per year.
Put in perspective, the $30 billion the Pentagon plans to spend on a new nuclear air-launched cruise missile (LRSO) that is not needed could buy NATO more a decade worth of real protection of the Baltic States.
RAND Report Questions Nuclear Role In Defending Baltic States