Deterrence Among Three to Twelve Nuclear Powers: Fundamental Instability and Mitigation Strategy

May 2024 No Comments

Author: Dr. Claudio Cioffi-Revilla (George Mason University)

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The fundamental instability of bilateral nuclear deterrence (Albert Wohlstetter’s “delicate balance
of terror”) is mitigated, in part, by each adversary deploying and maintaining weapons systems that
are capable of guaranteeing a second-strike after an adversary has launched a first-strike. Additionally,
bilateral arms control measures (norms, treaties, protocols, institutions) provide additional stability.
The problem with multicountry nuclear deterrence is that there are no levels of armaments that can
support stable deterrence relations among three or more adversaries; except in cases when adversaries
coalesce into two alliances, in which case the system reduces to bilateral nuclear deterrence. This paper
approaches this problem through formal methods and conceptualizes a solution involving an ensemble of military and politico-diplomatic strategies which, when operating as an enhanced international security
regime, can mitigate the fundamental instability of the current multicountry nuclear deterrence system.

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Biography: Dr. Claudio Cioffi-Revilla, Phd, D.Pol.Sc., is Distinguished University Professor Emeritus at George Mason University and Courtesy Faculty Affiliate at Florida International University in Miami. He
specializes in applied mathematical and computational methods in areas of complex systems, strategy,
risk analysis, and international security. At GMU he founded and directed the first interdisciplinary PhD
program in Computational Social Science, the first Department of Computational Social Science, and
the Center for Social Complexity. He is past president of the Computational Social Science Society, a
Jefferson Science Fellow of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, Elected Fellow of the American
Association for the Advancement of Science, and Senior Science Adviser to the Director of the State
Department’s Office of Geographic and Global Issues at the Bureau of Intelligence and Research. He
has served in senior science advisory capacities for the ODNI, DOD/OSD, DOE/LANL, and other USG
agencies. Dr. Cioffi is author of more than one hundred peer-reviewed publications and eight books,
published by Cambridge University Press, Oxford University Press, Springer Verlag, and Florence
University Press, among others. His research has been funded by U.S. National Science Foundation, the
Office of Naval Research, DARPA, NATO Science Committee, and international agencies.


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