The Escalatory Attraction of Limited Nuclear Employment For Great Power Competitors of the United States

December 2021 No Comments

Author(s): Yeaw, C. (National Strategic Research Institute, University of Nebraska)

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The United States has entered into a dangerously new era in which, for the first time in our nation’s history, we now face two nuclear-armed great power competitors. Over the past three decades, while the United States has been focused on a variety of other national security challenges, Russia and China have observed the “US way of war” and made immense strides to position themselves to successfully counter that. While having achieved some level of success in closing the gap across a wide spectrum of military capabilities and operational realities, those two nuclear-armed peers have concluded not only that limited nuclear employment might be required in any conflict with the United States, but that this is a domain of conflict and level of escalation affording unique advantage for them since it is an area in which the US has neither the perceived will nor the perceived capabilities to compete. This paper discusses that “escalatory attraction” of limited nuclear employment for our great power competitors.

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