Conditional Deterrence: Parity, Terrorism and Tenuous Deterrence

48 Pages Posted: 17 Nov 2007 Last revised: 31 Jan 2015

See all articles by Kyungkook Kang

Kyungkook Kang

University of Central Florida

Jacek Kugler

Claremont Graduate University

Date Written: January 7, 2015


This paper provides an integrated structure that defines conditions for the success and failure of nuclear deterrence. The conditional deterrence model presented is applied to global and regional interactions driven by nuclear proliferation, and is further extended to anticipate challenges that may be generated by the acquisition of nuclear capabilities by terrorists. The key elements of our assessment include relative capabilities, risk propensity associated with the relative assessment of the status quo, and physical exposure to attack or retaliation. After reviewing previous efforts, we generalize insights to all deterrence environments. Our deductive findings indicate that deterrence is stable when the capabilities of a dissatisfied challenger are inferior to that of a dominant and satisfied defender. Deterrence is tenuous when a dissatisfied challenger approaches parity in capability with the dominant and satisfied defender, or when a violent non-state actor obtains nuclear or radiological weapons.

Keywords: Deterrence, Relative Capabilities, Risk Propensity, Exposure

JEL Classification: D74

Suggested Citation

Kang, Kyungkook and Kugler, Jacek, Conditional Deterrence: Parity, Terrorism and Tenuous Deterrence (January 7, 2015). Available at SSRN: or

Kyungkook Kang (Contact Author)

University of Central Florida ( email )

4297 Andromeda Loop North
Howard Phillips Hall Rm 302
Orlando, FL 32816
United States

Jacek Kugler

Claremont Graduate University ( email )

Claremont, CA 91711
United States

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