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.

Frank O’Donnell is a Stanton Nuclear Security Junior Faculty Fellow at the Belfer Center. His research explores the intersection of strategic cultures, bureaucratic influences, and nuclear force development in South Asia. He was previously Lecturer (Assistant Professor) in Strategic Studies at Plymouth University. He received his Ph.D. in Defense Studies from King's College London, where he held a UK Economic and Social Research Council Scholarship. He holds Master's and undergraduate degrees from the University of Aberdeen and University of St. Andrews. As a Stanton Fellow, he investigates escalation dynamics within the Sino-Indian strategic rivalry.