The Russia – NATO A2AD Environment

PrintEmailFacebookTwitterLinkedInCopy Link

Among the concerns of the NATO alliance in the post-Crimea era is the increase in Russia’s anti-access area denial (A2AD) capabilities. A2AD forces are classified as those that contribute to denying an adversary’s forces access to a particular region or otherwise hinder freedom of maneuver. A2AD forces typically include air defenses, counter-maritime forces, and theater offensive strike weapons, such as short- or medium-range ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and other precision guided munitions.

Russia has invested considerable energy into developing A2AD capabilities and carefully positioning them to maximize their strategic effect. Russia’s A2AD deployments span as far north as the Arctic down to Syria, with particular concentrations in Kaliningrad and around Crimea—a sort of “thicket of overlapping and redundant A2/AD systems.”1 In the event of a crisis, such deployments would complicate NATO’s ability to access key areas such as the Baltics or Poland. These relative weaknesses within NATO could increase the attractiveness to Russia of a fait-accompli.

An Interactive Tool 

(Interactive map best viewed on desktop)

NATO, for its part, also deploys A2AD-type systems, but in less quantity and depth, particularly in land-based air defenses. The PATRIOT family of defenses, while able to provide air defense, are optimized towards point defense against ballistic missiles, and thus have limited coverage. In a crisis, these systems might need to be redeployed to areas of concern (such as the Baltic states), potentially over considerable distances.

Important to NATO’s ability to come to the aid of an alliance member is an assortment of aerial and sea ports of debarkation and embarkations (APODs/SPODs), essential to the rapid deployment of troops and equipment. Disabling these nodes would complicate NATO’s ability to efficiently respond to crisis, and as such, would be priorities for air and missile defense coverage.2

This interactive map is designed to provide a broad but necessarily not exhaustive view of the A2AD situation in Europe. Both Russia and NATO deploy shorter-range, highly mobile systems whose locations are not accurately reflected on a static map. Because the exo-atmospheric SM-3 interceptors would have little or no utility against air and missile threats from Russia, the covered areas for NATO’s Aegis Ashore ballistic missile defense sites and other Aegis ships are not depicted.

Information on the map is divided into six categories:

Russia – Air Defense: Includes deployments of long-range Russian anti-air missile systems. Specific systems represented are the S-300 and S-400. Not included in map are Russia’s shorter ranged, highly mobile air defense assets, such as the Buk family of surface to air missile systems. These “shoot and scoot” launchers are embedded with Russian ground forces, and thus do not have fixed locations.

Russia – Land-based Strike: Includes deployments of short-range offensive ballistic missile systems, such as the SS-26 or Iskander short-range ballistic missiles, as well as deployments of Russian Oniks anti-ship missiles to Kaliningrad.

Russia – Naval strike: This category reflects the range (from notional locations) of Russia’s sea-based SS-N-30A Kalibr-type cruise missiles, and its SS-N-27 Sizzler anti-ship missiles.

NATO – Air Defense: Shows the estimated coverage areas and home-base disposition of NATO PATRIOT missile units, separately showing ballistic missile and air defense coverage areas. Although not reflected in this map, NATO is heavily reliant on fighter aircraft for air defense.

NATO – Naval Strike: Reflects the estimated range of U.S. Tomahawk Block IV (TLAM-E) sea-based cruise missiles.

NATO – Ports of Debarkation/Embarkations (PODs): These points show key logistical infrastructure, such as airports and seaports (APODs / SPODs), that could be used by NATO forces.

Ian Williams, Kathleen Weinberger, and Colonel John O’Grady provided the research and analysis that informs this graphic.


    1. Kathleen Hicks et al., Evaluating Future U.S. Army Force Posture in Europe: Phase II Report (Washington DC: CSIS, June 2016), 34.
    2. Thomas Karako, “Looking East: European Air and Missile Defense after Warsaw” (Washington DC: CSIS, July 14, 2016, /wp-content/uploads/2016/08/160714_Karako_LookingEast_Web.pdf
PrintEmailFacebookTwitterLinkedInCopy Link

Cite this Page

Ian Williams, "The Russia – NATO A2AD Environment," Missile Threat, Center for Strategic and International Studies, January 3, 2017, last modified November 29, 2018,