Nuclear pre-emption and crisis stability, 1985-1990

Author/s (editor/s):

Robert Glasser

Publication year:


Publication type:

Policy paper

Canberra Papers on Strategy and Defence No. 37

'Crisis instability' suggests the existence of incentives to strike first in a crisis. However, more than one 'type' of incentive can be identified. The author describes the carious and often conflicting views of incentives to pre-empt advanced by analysis of strategic studies. An attempt is made to measure the degree of crisis stability existing in the period 1985-90 though modelling the effects of nuclear exchanges between the United States and the Soviet Union. Some recommendations are presented concerning how best to improve crisis stability. The calculations indicate that crisis instability will increase between 1985 and 1990, but the author cautions that any conclusions concerning the existence or absence of stability must be tempered by an appreciation of the tremendous uncertainty involved in estimating war outcomes.

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