[Karina Nuratayeva] Security Dilemma between Russia and NATO


This concept note will examine the NATO-Russia security dilemma and the possible effect of this conflict on the security of the other countries. The relationships between NATO and Russia started after the end of the Cold War. Since that time, there has been a security dilemma between both sides.

According to analysts, this security dilemma could bring the initiation of a new weapon contest. Nowadays, there is already a three-kegged race involving NATO, Russia and the “Axis of Evil” all running toward the competition line. The U.S. is unlikely to stop the improvement of the missile defence system, which could accelerate Russia to develop new missiles which will abolish the New START Treaty (Streit Council, 2015). Also, Russia could restore previous trade agreements with Iran, which will lead to complications in future verbal confrontations between Iran and the West about Iranian weapon capacities. Thus, this security dilemma can cause significant instability into the global security environment (Streit Council, 2015).

The term security dilemma originates in the condition of an anarchic international system, where states are increasing their own security by enhancing their military capabilities – in order to make other states less secure (Jervis, 1978). This behaviour provides rational base for Jervis’ “spiral model”, which illustrate how security dilemma depends on two variables: the offence-defence balance and offence-defence differentiation. Thus, security dilemma can shift crosswise over space and time (Jervis, 1978). According to Jervis, a security dilemma is a situation “where state tries to increase its security decrease security of others” (Jervis, 1978, p.169). However, this definition does not explain why it is a problem. If a state cares about its own security and making less secure its adversary, why would it cause an aggressive reaction from the opposite site? Firstly, the main reason of it can be that the adversary of the state will react on reducing of its own security (Glasser, 1997). Thus, by following this behaviour, the reaction of the enemy will also reduce state’s security. Secondly, if state will stop investing in military weapons it will cause a decrease in the military’s capability and ability to perform military missions. In addition, it will increase the value of the competitor, which will make it harder to hold it under control (Glasser, 1997).

There is a security dilemma between NATO and Russia. Amid NATO’s latest summit, member states reported that NATO’s new rocket safeguard framework is in a period of “interim capability”. NATO’s motivation behind this barrier framework is to shield Western countries from potential atomic dangers beginning from Iran and different states (Streit Council, 2015). In spite of NATO’s affirmation that the framework’s motivation remains exclusively to counter dangers from such countries, Russia keeps on communicating concern with respect to the nearness of the framework to its fringes (Streit Council, 2015). According to the Dmitry Rogozin, who was a former envoy of Russia in NATO, United States is placing its nuclear deterrent in strategic locations such as Poland and Romania. Thus, this led to a threat from the Russians, attacking the missile defense system, if NATO will continue to improve the sites without legally ensuring that their weapons will not be used against Russia (Streit Council, 2015). Furthermore, Russia, which wants to show the West its serious intentions, tested a new fast prototype of ballistic missile (Streit Council, 2015). Hence, NATO and Russian is exercising military actions this year as “part of a rapid militarization on both sides of the Russian frontier” are the evidence of the security dilemma (Washington Post, 2015). In addition, “The Ukrainian crisis an impression of a noteworthy clash between Russia and the Euro-Atlantic structures. It may cause a calamity if the progressing weapons contest, military incitements and conformational talk is not ceased” (Oriental Review, 2015). Thus, the security dilemma can affect not only NATO and Russia, but also can cause a crisis in the other countries. Both NATO and Russia should recognize the threat of the other and understand that military actions which supposed to increase side’s own security can help to sustain the exceptionally strains hat provoked them.

It is unlikely that NATO and Russia do not know that their actions are considered by Europe as a conflict, but according to Posen, “Regularly it does not make a difference on the off chance that they know of this issue. The way of their circumstance urges them to make the strides they do” (Posen, 1993, p.28). Thus, the security dilemma between NATO and Russia can remind a balance of power starting in a particular time and place, rotating around the particular international political crises. Also, the security dilemma between the conflicting parties can be viewed in the context of the NATO-Russia situation and Ukrainian crisis from the perspective of an offensive or defensive realist (Lazar, 2014).

Inside the context of raising NATO-Russia strains, both sides underline the defensive stimulus under-crossing their improvement of progressively advanced military capabilities, from missile defence system to nuclear bombers (Lazar, 2014). Nowadays, the situation between NATO and Russia are bearing key indications of a security dilemma. Military training and increasing the military technology are explaining defensive measures of both sides, enacted out of the following aggression or provocation of the other. Posen argues that “what one does to enhance one’s own security causes reaction that, in the end, can make one less secure” can be related to the cycle of ‘defensive response’ to ‘defensive response’ to rises dilemma between NATO and Russia (Posen, 1993, p.28).

By Karina Nuratayena – a guest writer under our “Bamboo Shoots Scheme” which endeavours to help young IR students make their appearance in academia.



Birnbaum, M., 2015. Fearing Russian expansion, Baltic nations step up military exercises. Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/fearing-russian-expansion-baltic-nations-step-up-military-exercises/2015/05/15/b5ee51ee-f8c8-11e4-a47c-e56f4db884ed_story.html [Accessed 1 November 2015]

Golden, S., 2015. The NATO, U.S., and Russian Security Dilemma: A 21st Century Arms Race? Available at: http://blog.streitcouncil.org/2012/06/21/the-nato-u-s-and-russian-security-dilemma-a-21st-century-arms-race/ [Accessed 1 November 2015]

Glasser, Ch. (1997) ‘The Security Dilemma Revisited’, World Politics, 50, pp. 171-201

Jervis, R. (1978) ‘Cooperation Under the Security Dilemma’, World Politics, 30, pp. 167-214

Lazar, M. (2014) ‘The Ukrainian crisis seen from a regional perspective: isolated conflict or driving agent for regional security dynamics?’, Europolity, 8(2), pp. 37-61

Oriental Review, 2015. Wily Brandt followers call for a new European approach to the crisis in Ukraine. Available at: http://orientalreview.org/2015/08/05/willy-brandt-followers-call-for-a-new-european-approach-to-the-crisis-in-ukraine/ [Accessed 1 November 2015]

Posen, B. (1993) ‘The security dilemma and ethnic conflict’, Survival, 35(1), pp. 27-47

Featured Image: Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NATO%E2%80%93Russia_relations#/media/File:Location_NATO_Russia.svg



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