Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

Nuclear Superiority and the Balance of Resolve: Explaining Nuclear Crisis Outcomes

  • Matthew Kroenig (a1)

Scholars have long debated whether nuclear superiority or the balance of resolve shapes the probability of victory in nuclear crises, but they have not clearly articulated a mechanism linking superiority to victory, nor have they systematically analyzed the entire universe of empirical cases. Beginning from a nuclear brinkmanship theory framework, I develop a new theory of nuclear crisis outcomes, which links nuclear superiority to victory in nuclear crises precisely through its effect on the balance of resolve. Using a new data set on fifty-two nuclear crisis dyads, I show that states that enjoy nuclear superiority over their opponents are more likely to win nuclear crises. I also find some support for the idea that political stakes shape crisis outcomes. These findings hold even after controlling for conventional military capabilities and for selection into nuclear crises. This article presents a new theoretical explanation, and the first comprehensive empirical examination, of nuclear crisis outcomes.

Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

Victor Asal , and Kyle Beardsley. 2007. Proliferation and International Crisis Behavior. Journal of Peace Research 44 (2):139–55.

Kyle Beardsley , and Victor Asal. 2009. Winning with the Bomb. Journal of Conflict Resolution 53 (2):278301.

D. Scott Bennett , and Allan C. Stam. 2000. EUGene: A Conceptual Manual. International Interactions 26 (2):179204.

Peter D. Feaver 1994. The Politics of Inadvertence. Security Studies 3 (3):501–8.

Lawrence Freedman . 2003. The Evolution of Nuclear Strategy. 3d ed. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Erik Gartzke , and Matthew Kroenig. 2009. A Strategic Approach to Nuclear Proliferation. Journal of Conflict Resolution 53 (2):151–60.

James J. Heckman 1979. Sample Selection Bias as a Specification Error. Econometrica 47 (1):153–61.

Joseph Hewitt . 2003. Dyadic Processes and International Crises. Journal of Conflict Resolution 47 (5):669–92.

Paul K. Huth 1990. The Extended Deterrent Value of Nuclear Weapons. Journal of Conflict Resolution 34 (2):270–90.

International Security. 1985. Documentation: White House Tapes and Minutes of the Cuban Missile Crisis. 10 (1):164203.

Keith Jaggers , and Ted Robert Gurr. 1995. Tracking Democracy's Third Wave with the Polity III Data. Journal of Peace Research 32 (4):469–82.

Robert Jervis . 1979–80. Why Nuclear Superiority Doesn't Matter. Political Science Quarterly 94 (4):617–33.

Gary King , Michael Tomz, and Jason Wittenberg. 2000. Making the Most of Statistical Analyses: Improving Interpretation and Presentation. American Journal of Political Science 44 (2):347–61.

Andrew Kydd . 2000. Arms Races and Arms Control: Modeling the Hawk Perspective. American Journal of Political Science 44 (2):222–44.

Keir A. Lieber , and Daryl G. Press. 2006. The End of MAD? The Nuclear Dimension of U.S. Primacy. International Security 30 (4):744.

Paul H. Nitze 1956. Atoms, Strategy, and Policy. Foreign Affairs 34 (2):187–98.

T.V. Paul 1994. Asymmetric Conflicts: War Initiation by Weaker Powers. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Robert Powell . 1990. Nuclear Deterrence Theory: The Search for Credibility. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Robert Powell . 2003. Nuclear Deterrence Theory, Nuclear Proliferation, and National Missile Defense. International Security 27 (4):86118.

Patrick A. Puhani 2000. The Heckman Correction for Sample Selection and Its Critique. Journal of Economic Surveys 14 (1):5368.

Beth A. Simmons , and Daniel J. Hopkins. 2005. The Constraining Power of International Treaties: Theory and Methods. American Political Science Review 99 (4):623–31.

Branislav L. Slantchev 2005. Military Coercion in Interstate Crises. American Political Science Review 99 (4):533–47.

Glenn H. Snyder 1971. “Prisoner's Dilemma” and “Chicken” Models in International Politics. International Studies Quarterly 15 (1):66103.

Nina Tannenwald . 2007. The Nuclear Taboo: The United States and the Non-Use of Nuclear Weapons Since 1945. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Michael Tomz , Jason Wittenberg, and Gary King. 2003. Clarify: Software for Interpreting and Presenting Statistical Results. Journal of Statistical Software 8 (1):129.

Marc Trachtenberg . 1985. The Influence of Nuclear Weapons in the Cuban Missile Crisis. International Security 10 (1):137–63.

R. Harrison Wagner . 1982. Deterrence and Bargaining. Journal of Conflict Resolution 26 (2):329–58.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

International Organization
  • ISSN: 0020-8183
  • EISSN: 1531-5088
  • URL: /core/journals/international-organization
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
Type Description Title
Supplementary Materials

Kroenig supplementary material
Kroenig supplementary material

 Unknown (123 KB)
123 KB