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

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

affected U.S. nuclear war planning. These studies focus on the unilateral nuclear forceposture of the defending state only, however, and do not examine the nuclear balancebetween states.Theory: Nuclear Superiority and DeterrenceIn this section we develop a theoretical framework linking nuclear superiority todeterrence success. We argue that countries will be less likely, on average, to challengestates that possess nuclear superiority because the expected costs of a full-scale war witha nuclear superior state are greater than the expected costs of a major war against otherstates.We begin from the basic insight that a state’s expected utility to initiating amilitary challenge is in part a function of the expected cost of fighting a full-scale war ifthe dispute escalates. There are, of course, a number of possible outcomes of amilitarized dispute: the targeted state might back down, resulting in a victory for theinitiator; the initiating state might itself submit and suffer a political defeat; the targetedstate might reciprocate the dispute, leading to the imposition of costs on the initiatingstate in the form of economic sanctions or limited military conflict; or, finally, the disputemight escalate into a full-scale war. As a state considers the initiation of a militarychallenge, therefore, it calculates the payoffs from, and the probabilities of arriving at, allof these possible outcomes. As the expected utility to be derived from initiating amilitarized challenge decreases, countries will be less likely to choose dispute initiation.Of course, the greater the expected costs of a full-scale war, holding other factorsconstant, the lower a state’s expected payoff to initiating a militarized challenge. The8

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