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Regular version of the site

Article

When ties do not bind: The failure of institutional binding in NATO Russia relations

Contemporary Security Policy. 2016. Vol. 37. No. 2. P. 175-199.

Russia and NATO have failed to establish binding institutional arrangements and they are now locked in increasingly dangerous security competition. A closer look at two issue areas where their efforts at binding have failed—NATO enlargement and missile defence—shows that Russia and NATO find themselves facing a ‘catch 22’. They need binding arrangements to overcome the relative gains problems that inhibit security cooperation, yet their concerns about relative gains prevent them from establishing these arrangements in the first place. To overcome this dilemma, NATO and Russia have to craft binding arrangements that seriously address each side’s concerns about relative gains. Less formal and institutionalized binding arrangements may better serve this goal. Such arrangements will not put an immediate end to security competition, but they will help them build a higher level of trust, allowing them to gradually develop deeper and more comprehensive binding arrangements.