Leveraging Nuclear Strength

Do nuclear weapons provide any benefits?

Takeaway Points

  1. The massive destructive power of nuclear weapons give them a credibility problem—how can a state threaten another state with a nuclear bomb when detonation would lead to all-out war?
  2. This statistical study by Kyle Beardsley and Victor Asal shows that nuclear armed states prevail in crises more frequently than non-nuclear counterparts. This analysis controls for other factors.
  3. Crises involving nuclear weapons states also terminate more quickly than non-nuclear crises.
  4. One possible explanation is that non-nuclear states have incentive to end crises as quickly as possible to avoid reaching a nuclear scenario. However, to do this, those non-nuclear states must give up more at the bargaining table to appease the nuclear state.