The Absoluteness of Great Power Wars

Nuclear Weapons and the Decline of Inter-State Wars

Nuclear arms are volatile devices that stem their damaging force from nuclear energy generated from a combination of fusion and fission reactions (UNODA). Nuclear devices can devastate large areas by fire, blast, and radiation. Because of the destructive nature of nuclear weapons, their proliferation is a primary focus of national security, domestic political economy, world order, and international relational policy. Since 1945, there has been a dramatic decline in inter-state war (Miller 598). This article argues that nuclear weapons have contributed immensely to the growing absoluteness of the great power wars due to fear of full-blown nuclear war, possible high cost of the war, need for economic growth and political survival and creation of the new world order.

The Role of Nuclear Weapons in Deterrence

The availability of nuclear weapons in many world players has led to a decline in inter-state wars due to fear of possible ramifications in the event of a full-blown nuclear war (Pieraccini). The proliferation of nuclear weapons has not altered the values at stake in the desire to avert political loss and inter-state disputes. However, it has significantly raised the cost of war. In cases of severe conflict between nuclear powers, the dilemma is to adopt a strategy that effectively secures political interests through coercion, to raise the probability of war but at the same time not pushing the risk to critical and intolerable levels. Nuclear powers have cautiously used provocation and limited force to display their ability to attack. Hostile interactions between such states range from warnings, verbal threats, military displays, and military deployments. Scholars have argued that in the advent of conflict between nuclear powers, military force is viewed as a potentially catastrophic power that should be carefully controlled and managed within sustainable limits (Solingen 351; Miller 601). Since war is considered a non-plausible option between powerful nations, the states have turned to use empty threats and soft force as a means of getting what they want. The winner of such an encounter is the one who seems to have the highest likelihood of taking the risk hence making the great power wars absolute (Bell " Nicholas 14).

The Maintenance of Peace and National Security

The principal national security objective of any country is to deter aggression against internal and external friends and allies (UNODA). In the 21st century, the presence of nuclear weapons has significantly informed how states maintain deterrence and how they relate to the international players (Bell " Nicholas 10). Nuclear powers such as the United States have relied heavily on removing the need of many vital allies to create atomic forces, as a significant deterrence approach. The presence of nuclear weapons makes the cost of war extremely high both for national and international security thus discouraging states from initiating any wars that may lead to the utilization of such weapons. Therefore, it can be well argued that the advent of nuclear weapons has led to the maintenance of peace between great powers. Owning atomic weapons is also a threat to national security. Technological errors might arise resulting in the inadvertent danger to national security and countries' economy (UNODA). With many players having the ability to develop and deploy nuclear weapons, the cost of war rises about possible gains hence reducing the possibility of conflicts and increasing the absoluteness of power wars.

Economic Growth and Political Survival

The domestic imperatives of economic growth and political survival significantly inform the decisions to acquire, use or forsake nuclear weapons (Solingen 351). According to neorealist, states should strive to increase their influence relative to other competing countries for purposes of securing their survival (Solingen 352). Nuclear weapons can increase security for all by creating rough equality and caution. A regional power that fears for its survival might opt for some solutions including total renunciation or declaration of nuclear capabilities. Generally, countries that are still deciding on whether or not to develop nuclear weapons also have to determine its impact on economic liberalization, political stability, and nationalistic advances. Liberalizing coalitions seem to reject nuclear weapons programs for purposes of garnering favorable international trade, investment, aid, and technology. The economic cost of creating and launching nuclear weapons is also exorbitant and deterring (Solingen 130).

Shifting Alliances and the Fear of Nuclear War

Shifting and realignment of alliances towards major nuclear powers have also led to the fear of using atomic weapons hence making great power wars absolute, particularly in the 21st century. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s, the world order became unipolar as the US amassed power in Washington. The US took advantage of its monopoly on nuclear weapons and was ready to invade and bomb dozens of countries including Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan, Syria, and Serbia. Currently, the power balance is shifting especially after the establishment of the new multipolar world order, also taking into account the presence of weapons of mass destruction such as nuclear weapons (Bell " Nicholas 11). Countries such as Russia, China, France, North Korea, and Pakistan can deploy atomic weapons that they possess. This new era presents many risks with the rivalry between US and Russia escalating and with Washington and Beijing at loggerheads over Southeast Asia. However, Soligen argues that it is also the commencement of an era of absolute strategic parity. The world is at stake, and each contending power can annihilate each other in matters of minutes (Solingen 130). Given that the primary drive for any nation is survival, small countries have seen it necessary to align to countries like China and Russia for protection purposes (Pieraccini). Thus, the fear to start a nuclear war is real, due to its potential ramifications and repercussions.

The Role of Responsibility and Awareness

While there is a possibility that the presence of nuclear weapons has made great power wars absolute, one cannot rule out the chance that hostilities will rise and, should the powers decide to use nuclear weapons, the outcome will be unprecedented and catastrophic. Fortunately, the nuclear powers are fully aware of such ramification, and most of them seem as responsible as anyone else (Miller 600).


Scholars of world politics have varying opinions about the approaching outlook of war. While we are in an era of relative peace and declining chances of war, nuclear weapons have substantially contributed to power absoluteness and fear. By examining the interplay between inter-state conflict, national security, domestic economy, and world order, one can strongly argue that the proliferation of nuclear weapons has not significantly altered the values at stake in the desire to avert political loss and inter-state disputes. The fear to start a nuclear war is real especially due to its potential ramifications and repercussions. Thus nuclear weapons have contributed immensely to the growing absoluteness of the great power wars.

Works Cited

Bell, Mark " Nicholas Miller. "Questioning the Effect of Nuclear Weapons on Conflict." Journal of Conflict Resolution (2013): 1-19.

Miller, Benjamin. "Polarity, Nuclear Weapons, and Major War." Security studies, vol. 3, no. 4 (1994): pp. 598-649.

Pieraccini, Federico. Are Nuclear Weapons in a Multipolar World Order a Guarantee for Peace? 2018. 2018 .

Solingen, Etel. "The political economy of nuclear restraint." Global Issues in Transition, No. 12 (1994): pp. 126-159.

Solingen, Etel. "The political economy of proliferation." International studies review, 10 (2008): pp. 351-353.

UNODA. Nuclear Weapons. 2018. 2018 .

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