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Brinkmanship is the ostensible escalation of threats to achieve one's aims. The word was probably coined by the American politician Adlai Stevenson in his criticism of the philosophy described as \"going to the brink\" during an interview with US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles during the Eisenhower administration. In the article written in Life magazine by the correspondent James R. Shepley, Dulles defined his policy of brinkmanship in these terms: \"The ability to get to the verge without getting into the war is the necessary art.\" During the Cold War, it was used as a policy by the United States to coerce the Soviet Union into backing down militarily. Eventually, the threats involved might become so huge as to be unmanageable, at which point, both sides are likely to back down. That was the case during the Cold War, since the escalation of threats of nuclear war, if carried out, were likely to lead to mutual assured destruction (MAD).
Thomas Schelling defined brinkmanship as \"manipulating the shared risk of war.\" The essence of such a crisis is that it leads neither side to be in full control of events, which creates a serious risk of miscalculation and escalation.
For brinkmanship to be effective, both sides continuously escalate their threats and actions. However, a threat is ineffective unless it is credible, and, at some point, an aggressive party may have to prove its commitment to action.
The chance of things sliding out of control is often used in itself as a tool of brinkmanship, because it can provide credibility to an otherwise incredible threat. During the Cold War, the Cuban Missile Crisis was an example of opposing leaders, US President John F. Kennedy and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, continually issuing warnings with increasing force about impending nuclear exchanges without necessarily validating their statements. The pioneering game theorist Thomas Schelling called that \"the threat that leaves something to chance.\"
Brinkmanship was an effective tactic during the Cold War because neither side of the conflict could contemplate mutual assured destruction in a nuclear war. The nuclear deterrence of both sides threatened massive destruction on each other. Ultimately, brinkmanship worsened the relationship between the Soviets and the Americans.
In the spectrum of the Cold War, the concept of brinkmanship involved the West and the Soviet Union using tactics of fear and intimidation as strategies to make the opposing side back down. Each faction pushed dangerous situations to the brink, with the intention of making the other back down in matters of international politics and foreign policy and obtaining concessions. Nevertheless, in the Cold War both parties were confronted with devastating consequences since the threats of nuclear war were unmanageable in any situation.
That made brinkmanship utterly risky since if neither country budged, the only way to avoid mutually assured destruction was to compromise. The British philosopher, mathematician, and intellectual Bertrand Russell compared it to the game of chicken:
In a conflict between two nations that were so ideologically opposed, drastic policies such as brinkmanship seemed to be the only way to come to any sense of agreement. Both the Americans and the Soviets maintained strict policies not to respond immediately to military threats. However, by making the possibility of a war more and more likely, both nations were able to make significant progress in discussions and peace.
The Soviets boycotted the UN Security Council because the Americans had refused the entry of the People's Republic of China into the United Nations. The UN, supported by the United States, freely passed a resolution requesting military action against North Korea. Led by General Douglas MacArthur, the UN Forces arrived along with the US Forces on July 1, 1950. Truman believed that the North Korean atomic threat was \"a threat based on contingency planning to use the bomb, rather than the faux pas so many assume it to be\" and so did not use brinkmanship but also continuously opted for limited war. His beliefs in ceasefire and peacekeeping between the North and the South were cause for great conflict with MacArthur, who sought total war. MacArthur believed that the United States should take the opportunity to wipe out communism permanently before it grew stronger by using all of its weapons such as turning the war into nuclear war. MacArthur was dismissed as a result of his continuous defiance to Truman and other superiors on April 11, 1951, after he sent an ultimatum to the Chinese Army without consent of Truman.
A prime example of brinkmanship during the Cold War was the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962), a 13-day conflict between the United States, the Soviet Union, and Cuba. Both superpowers were armed with nuclear weapons and practiced brinkmanship during the conflict. The Cuban Missile Crisis was not only the closest that the Americans and the Soviets came to an armed conflict but also the \"closest the world has come to [a full-scale] nuclear war.\"
The crisis was caused by the placement of Soviet nuclear weapons in Cuba, an island that was within the US sphere of influence and launching distance. That was arguably an act of brinkmanship by the Soviets to intimidate the US with weapons within the region. The US responded to the presence of the weapons by blockading Cuba. The Cuban blockade was also an act of brinkmanship since the Americans, instead of succumbing to the pressure from the Soviets, decided to see how the Soviets would react to the Americans stopping their vessels from entering Cuba.
The mid-2020 military confrontation thankfully did not slide into conflict, but that is not the same thing as de-escalation. High tensions between Greece and Turkey are still the new normal, with little trust or apparent desire for substantive negotiations to resolve their maritime dispute. Nevertheless, exploratory talks offer the best chance to move from brinkmanship to dialogue and for the two to test possible ways forward. So far, the sides have kept silent on the contents of talks and should continue to do so, as this policy can help keep the temperature down, especially as conversations enter a trickier phase in the coming months.[fn]No minutes are taken at the closed-door talks, in order to give experts from both sides the freedom to, in effect, think out loud in exploring solutions on diverging legal interpretations of treaties signed nearly a century ago or sensitive sovereignty claims (for the list of issues, see Appendix B). Crisis Group interview, Greek diplomat, March 2021.Hide Footnote Constructive dynamics in the following areas are essential to helping ensure that the return to talks is not derailed.
In view of the foregoing, one might conclude that the art of negotiation has certain inherent characteristics. In the first place, real success requires an accurate and objective assessment of exactly what each party has to gain or lose. This assessment determines the absolute limits of a mutually profitable settlement. It also determines how much is at stake when emotional behavior or brinkmanship is involved.
These rules make up the art of business brinkmanship. They will guide a businessman to winning a strategic victory in the minds of competitors. Once he has won it there, he can convert it into a competitive victory in terms of sales volume, costs, and profits.
Even political brinkmanship around raising the debt limit can have consequences, as it did in 2011, when a standoff between congressional Republicans and the Obama administration roiled the stock market and led to the first ever credit rating downgrade for the U.S. government.
An open question in nuclear deterrence theory is whether and how the balance of military power affects the dynamics of escalation. The balance of military strength plays virtually no role in standard accounts of brinkmanship. But this is largely by assumption and seems incompatible with an apparent trade-off between power and risk that decision makers have faced in some actual crises. This paper incorporates this trade-off in a modified model of nuclear brinkmanship. A main result is that the more likely the balance of resolve is to favor a defender, the less military power a challenger brings to bear. The model also formalizes the stability-instability paradox, showing that a less stable strategic balance, that is, a sharper trade-off between power and risk, makes conflict at high levels of violence less likely but conflict at lower levels more likely. The analysis also helps explain the incentives different states have to adopt different nuclear doctrines and force postures.
This historic treaty brings us a step closer to a world free from the horrors of nuclear weapons, the most destructive and indiscriminate weapons ever created. All states should give their full backing to this antidote to the cynical brinkmanship embodied in the development, stockpiling or use of nuclear weapons.
You might face such a scenario in business when another party employs what's known as brinkmanship. In this lesson, we define this term and cover its nuances. Then, we go over some ways by which you can prevent or deflect this hardball tactic.
The concept of brinkmanship, as it pertains to the business world, refers to a negotiation strategy where a party risks turning a deal into a disaster as it uses aggressive tactics to get its way.
First, be patient. When entering a negotiation, give the other party the impression you're in no rush. This can help prevent time-centered brinkmanship, where the other party tries to use sensitive deadlines as leverage against you.
Third, don't overcommit. For instance, let's say you're negotiating with a software company. You know that you'll need tech support to deal with new software issues. Don't sign a deal with tech support until you've signed a deal with t