American Foreign Policy Think Tanks and their Views on Baltic Security

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Abstract

Recent events have created a sense of urgency within the U.S. foreign policy establishment to update its strategy towards Russia. The Baltic states are seen to be particularly vulnerable and because of its NATO commitments and its history of underwriting security in the region, the U.S. is under pressure to develop an appropriate response. Policy and research institutes-or think tanks-are an important part of the U.S. foreign policy establishment, and given the influence they often have on American foreign policy, it is sensible for any student of Baltic security to evaluate the think tanks’ current perspectives on the viability and desirability of U.S. security commitments in the region. To that end, this article evaluates the outputs of twelve prominent U.S. foreign policy think tanks according to the views they expressed across four general groupings of issues: positions on U.S. grand strategy, perceptions of Moscow’s intentions and capabilities, assessments of NATO’s heath and its value to U.S. security, and the level of commitment to, and assessment of, the security vulnerabilities of the Baltic states. The findings dispel a common misperception that U.S. foreign policy think tanks are generally shifting towards a realist perspective on the Baltic states; they generally do not support U.S. retrenchment, most consider Russia as having revanchist motives, and as a whole support bolstering the defences of NATO’s easternmost flank. However, it would also be an exaggeration to conclude that the U.S. think tank community overall were staunch defenders of the Baltic states, as for many there is a prevailing inattentiveness to Baltic security issues.

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