April 11, 2016

CNAS Releases Report on Nordic Baltic Table Top Exercise


As Russia continues to intimidate its neighbors and challenge European norms, Center for a New American Security (CNAS) Strategy and Statecraft Program Director Julianne Smith and CNAS Defense Strategies and Assessments Program Director Jerry Hendrix have written a new report, “Assured Resolve: Testing Possible Challenges to Baltic Security.” The report stems from CNAS’ Assured Resolve table top exercise, which divided 50 high-level experts and former government officials from both sides of the Atlantic into teams and asked them to respond in real time to various scenarios in the Nordic/Baltic region. The results of this two-day exercise were surprising and highlighted the need for Europe and the United States to revisit core assumptions about European security.

Assured Resolve identified a number of areas for improvement in terms of NATO’s strategy and cohesiveness in the face of surprise aggression.  Among the key insights, the report touches on future force posture in Central and Eastern Europe, the lack of allied capabilities to counter Russian Anti Access/Area Denial tactics, and the value of relationships with Alliance partners, more specifically, Sweden and Finland. The authors present a series of recommendation, including the need for a new transatlantic strategy resting on the three pillars of unity, deterrence and resilience; an increase in NATO’s exercises; a strengthening of conventional deterrence capabilities; and greater investment in intelligence, space and cyber capabilities. The report also stresses the need for both the EU and NATO to break the longstanding impasse on cooperation in order to focus on resilience.   

Please find the report below:

During the Assured Resolve exercise, participants were divided into five teams: The U.S. government, NATO, and the Nordics, as well as the fictitious countries of Baltia and Grosland (the aggressor). These two latter teams were intended to reflect the current dynamics between the Baltic states and Russia, respectively. All five teams were presented with three sequential moves designed to climb the escalation ladder during the two days of the exercise.

Move One began with lower-level conflict inside Baltia that featured a Groslandian incitement and strategic communications campaign to test Western responses to the provocative actions. To determine the viability of bilateral Nordic partnerships with the Baltic states and broader regional dynamics, Move Two presented participants with three near-simultaneous incidents: Groslandian threats to cut of energy supplies to Baltia paired with a Groslandian cyber provocation in the face of oil price disputes between the two countries and the unintentional downing of a European commercial airliner (caused by a Groslandian jet that had turned of its transponder on a probing mission). Finally, Move Three introduced a conventional but accidental military conflict after Groslandian troops entered Baltian territory during a training exercise and Baltian troops tried to arrest them. Teams met in two-hour blocks for each move, developing their responses and interacting with one another through face-to-face meetings. At the end of each two-hour block, participants convened as a group to share insights, responses, and challenges with each individual move.

This report captures the key insights and recommendations from Assured Resolve for policymakers on both sides of the Atlantic. While it is impossible to predict the future, we believe that tabletop exercises like this are a useful, underutilized, and unique way to test assumptions, expose policy shortcomings, assess risk, and generate new ideas and solutions. 

Smith and Hendrix are available for interviews, please contact Neal Urwitz at nurwitz@cnas.org or 202-457-9409.