By Amy J. Nelson, Alexander H. MontgomerySince Russia began amassing troops on Ukraine’s border last fall and through the full-scale invasion of its neighbor launched two weeks ago, carefully coordinated responses from NATO allies have succeeded in preventing violent conflict between NATO and Russia. However, these actions have also created the perception that NATO policy is driven by “escalation aversion,” a bias in which careful weighing of multiple risks has been abandoned in favor of avoidance of a single worst-case outcome: nuclear war. While this is a crucial goal, this exclusive focus gives the impression of paralysis and cedes the initiative to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The West may have lost an opportunity to attempt to minimize civilian suffering in Ukraine, potentially neglecting its responsibility to protect, lending the appearance that the West has no more moves. While solutions that consist of providing military aid to the Ukrainians are fraught with the potential for escalation, a better understanding of escalation aversion, what it leaves to chance, and how it, in turn, influences the adversary, is required.
In particular, public statements and demonstrable actions, including ruling out sending U.S. troops to fight Russian forces, open discussion of a no-fly zone (NFZ), and disputes …read more