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Would the United States fight a nuclear war to save Estonia? The question would probably strike most Americans as absurd. Certainly, almost no one was thinking about such a prospect when NATO expanded to include the Baltic states in 2004.

Yet a series of reports by the nonpartisan Rand Corporation shows that the possibility of nuclear escalation in a conflict between the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and Russia over the Baltic region is higher than one might imagine. The best way of averting it? Invest more in the alliance’s conventional defense.

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