Was the Cold War a Security Dilemma?

Jervis, Robert

Under the security dilemma, tensions and conflicts can arise between states even when they do not intend them. Some analysts have argued that the Cold War was a classic example of a security dilemma. This article disputes that notion. Although the Cold War contained elements of a deep security dilemma, it was not purely a case in which tensions and arms increased as each side defensively reacted to the other. The root of the conflict was a clash of social systems and of ideological preferences for ordering the world. Mutual security in those circumstances was largely unachievable. A true end to the Cold War was impossible until fundamental changes occurred in Soviet foreign policy.


Also Published In

Journal of Cold War Studies

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Academic Units
Political Science
Published Here
March 5, 2015