Home / Articles / Has the Forgotten “Stability-Instability Paradox” Belatedly Reared Its Ugly Head in Ukraine?
When Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine last February, he seemed surprisingly confident that threatening nuclear escalation would inhibit any North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) response. Despite Russia’s poor military performance, this coercive nuclear gambit seems to have paid off. Western countries preemptively ruled out direct intervention and have declined Ukraine combat aircraft and longer-range missiles as they openly agonize about how Putin could react if facing an outright military defeat. This seemingly successful use of nuclear brinkmanship raises the specter of the stability-instability paradox, a largely forgotten Cold War theory worrying that stable mutual nuclear deterrence could embolden military adventurism at lower levels of warfare.