Roles and Phases in Superpower Deterrence and Escalation Control

by William Schwabe


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This Note presents an analysis of possible actions, such as force movements and communications, the United States might take to deter the Soviet Union or other powers during a variety of crisis situations. The analysis examines contingencies and options by using a framework that identifies possible superpower roles and distinguishes among different stylized phases of crisis and conflict. This framework posits and develops three alternative superpower roles: (1) the "True Believer"--an actor in a historic, ideological struggle between Soviet Marxism-Leninism and Western capitalistic liberal democracy; (2) the "Competitor" — a pursuer of national interests in the framework of competing blocs and alliances organized around the great powers and subject to nuclear-era constraints; and (3) the "Stabilizer" — seeking to maintain relative order and to contain risks. The analysis posits four phases in conflict scenarios: opening, posturing, engagement, and concluding. The analysis includes a consideration of the impact of Soviet deterrence actions on the United States and the impact of both U.S. and Soviet deterrence actions on other parties.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Note series. The note was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1979 to 1993 that reported other outputs of sponsored research for general distribution.

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