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The Logic of American Nuclear StrategyWhy Strategic Superiority Matters$
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Matthew Kroenig

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780190849184

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190849184.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 03 August 2021

Arms Races

Arms Races

(p.143) 7 Arms Races
The Logic of American Nuclear Strategy

Matthew Kroenig

Oxford University Press

This chapter considers the effects of a robust nuclear posture on nuclear arms races. Critics have argued that attaining nuclear advantages is difficult because the effort will provoke dangerous arms races. Drawing on existing international relations scholarship and an empirical examination of US arms competitions, it argues that arms races are not generally a significant cost to the maintenance of a robust nuclear force. It advances new theoretical propositions on “nuclear underkill” to delineate the reasons why US adversaries are often unwilling or unable to respond to US nuclear advantages. Further, it shows that enemy buildups often occur irrespective of US nuclear posture decisions. Third, it explains that winning arms races is sometimes a necessary, if undesirable, part of international politics. Finally, the chapter shows that arms races are rare and that the United States has consistently been able to achieve meaningful and enduring strategic advantages over its nuclear-armed rivals.

Keywords:   arms race, arms control, nuclear overkill, nuclear underkill, spiral model, deterrence model, greedy state, Russia, China, North Korea

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