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date: 20 October 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Drawing from theories that examine security-dilemma spiraling and the dynamics of relative decline, the chapter shows that established theories of major war can be made relevant to the nuclear age—once they have incorporated the importance of Cold War spiraling and inadvertent war.The chapter argues that any theory of international relations that seeks to explain changes in the likelihood of nuclear war must incorporate into its causal logic the willingness of states to take actions that risk an inadvertent slide into war. While it may not be rational to initiate a nuclear war against another great power, it may indeed be rational, under certain circumstances, for leaders to switch to hard-line actions that raise the probability of a war neither side would have actively desired prior to the onset of a crisis.

Keywords: realism, deterrence, security dilemma, bargaining theory of war, inadvertent war

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