How nuclear South Asia is Like Cold War Europe: the stability-instability paradox revisited

Michael D. Cohen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Conventional wisdom states that the stability-instability paradox does not explain the effect of nuclear proliferation on the conflict propensity of South Asia, and that nuclear weapons have had a different and more dangerous impact in South Asia than Cold War Europe. I argue that the paradox explains nuclear South Asia; that the similarities between nuclear South Asia and Cold War Europe are strong; and that conventional instability does not cause revisionist challenges in the long run. I develop and probe a psychological causal mechanism that explains the impact of nuclear weapons on Cold War Europe and South Asia. Following the ten-month mobilized crisis in 2002, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf may have adopted a more moderate foreign policy toward India after experiencing fear of imminent nuclear war, as Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev did forty years earlier. I argue that the stability-instability paradox explains Cold War Europe and nuclear South Asia and will, conditional on Iranian and North Korean revisionism, predict the impact of nuclear weapon development on these states' conflict propensities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)433-451
Number of pages19
JournalNonproliferation Review
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2013
Externally publishedYes


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