Nuclear Superiority or Minimum Deterrence - Nuclear Force Posture ...

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Nuclear Superiority or Minimum Deterrence - Nuclear Force Posture ...

exchange. While the expected cost of any nuclear war is high, not all nuclear wars areequally devastating. Countries that possess nuclear superiority can inflict greater levelsof damage on their adversaries, raising the expected costs of war. For this reason, statesthat enjoy nuclear superiority are, on average, less likely to become the targets ofmilitarized challenges.Drawing on a new data set of nuclear force posture, we examine the impact ofnuclear superiority on the probability of becoming the target of a militarized interstatedispute. We find a powerful, negative relationship between nuclear superiority and thefrequency of militarized challenges. Countries that enjoy nuclear superiority over theiropponents are less likely to be targeted in militarized disputes. These findings hold aftercontrolling for conventional military capabilities, the possession of a secure-second strikecapability, and other confounding factors. They even hold in tests performed in asubsample of nuclear-armed states. In addition, the results are robust to the exclusion ofeach individual country, alleviating concerns that the results are being driven by anysingle state.We find qualified support for the idea that a minimum nuclear posture detersmilitary challenges. Countries that possess nuclear weapons or a secure second-strikecapability are less likely to be the targets of military challenges, but this effect disappearswhen one controls for the nuclear balance between states. This suggests that thepossession of a minimum nuclear deterrent reduces the probability of being challenged bynonnuclear weapons states or by nuclear weapon states with smaller nuclear arsenals, butthat it does not decrease one’s chances of being challenged by nuclear weapon states withlarger nuclear arsenals. If one wishes to explain the probability of militarized challenges,4

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