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NDC - News-New Research Division Publication - “Substantial Combat Forces” in the Context of NATO-Russia Relations

New Research Division Publication - “Substantial Combat Forces” in the Context of NATO-Russia Relations

  • 07 Jul. 2016
  • |
  • Last updated: 21 Jan. 2024 12:55

Research Paper 131

Dear Reader,

The latest paper by the Research Division reveals the historical context of the NATO pledge on "significant combat forces" (SCF) made in 1997 as part of the signing of the NATO-Russia Founding Act. It focuses on the political circumstances under which the pledge it was formulated and introduced. The SCF pledge had played a significant bridging role during the negotiations of the Adapted Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty (ACFE) and the fourth wave of NATO enlargement in 1999.

The paper seeks to answer the following question: what did the SCF pledge mean to NATO and to Russia at the time it was given? It clarifies, through a close examination of the historical record, the meaning of the SCF pledge as it was understood by those who made it.

The Wales Summit Declaration of September 2014 included the announcement of a full range of measures to assure Allies in the East, including the presence of persistent rotational Allied forces and changes to military infrastructure to support reinforcement, followed by the recent announcement of four NATO multinational battalions to be deployed to Eastern Europe. Russia’s official response to the changes announced by NATO included accusations that the Allies are in violation of the NATO-Russia Founding Act, specifically the pledge related to substantial combat forces. However, this paper shows that none of the changes announced at the Wales or Warsaw Summits has approached the thresholds described in the SCF pledge.

This is a significant point of disagreement between Russia and the West as NATO increases its assurance and deterrence measures in the exposed member states in Northeastern Europe.

We hope you find the discussion in this definitive piece on the subject valuable.



Jeffrey A. Larsen, PhD, Division Head Research

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