The overarching question imparting urgency to this exploration is: Can U.S.-Russian contention in cyberspace cause the two nuclear superpowers to stumble into war? In considering this question we were constantly reminded of recent comments by a prominent U.S. arms control expert: At least as dangerous as the risk of an actual cyberattack, he observed, is cyber operations’ “blurring of the line between peace and war.” Or, as Nye wrote, “in the cyber realm, the difference between a weapon and a non-weapon may come down to a single line of code, or simply the intent of a computer program’s user.”
Growing strategic tensions are accompanying nuclear and conventional force modernizations in Asia. Utilizing the dyads of India-China, India-Pakistan, and U.S.-China as case studies, this research develops a quantitative method for evaluating the presence and influence of three peacetime conditions that are conducive to inadvertent escalation dynamics. These conditions are the mutual ranking of nuclear rivals in state threat hierarchies; the existence of credible, authorized conventional war plans that are judged will not trigger adversary nuclear use; and perceived ambiguity regarding adversary strategic intentions and posturing. The presentation will analyze the three dyads to provide a clearer understanding of inadvertent escalation dynamics and dangers in the contemporary nuclear age.