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World Politics

Strategic Risks Hindering Nuclear War Between China and the United States

Strigunov Konstantin Sergeevich

Lead Analyst, Association of Information Operations Specialists

108851, Russia, Moscow, Vysotnaya str., 4-a, sq. 48

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Abstract: The object of the study is a hypothetical nuclear war between China and the United States. The subject of the study is the strategic risks preventing a nuclear war between China and the United States. The aim of the study is to determine the strategic risks that prevent the initiation of a nuclear war between China and the United States at the stage of making a decision to launch a first nuclear strike. Methods and methodology. The study was carried out within the framework of neorealism. A systematic approach was used as well as the methodology of classical military-political studies. Among the methods used were such general scientific methods as analysis, synthesis, induction, deduction. The method of studying documents and the factorial approach were also used. The article analyzes the strategic risks that prevent the unleashing of a nuclear war between powers with the world's largest economies in the context of intensive globalization. The author concludes that the strategic risks of nuclear war outweigh the benefits of it especially in the context of intense globalization. The expectation of a nuclear strike and the mechanism for making a decision about it, in the author's opinion, are one of the most important factors in the low probability of actors to resort to nuclear war as a means of resolving contradictions. At the same time the misinterpretation of damage and the difference in understanding the scale of a nuclear strike also hinders a nuclear war. The novelty of this research. The issue of a hypothetical nuclear war between China and the United States is considered for the first time in scenarios of limited and massive nuclear weapons, simultaneously taking into account the factors of intensive globalization; the fog of war effect, which plays an extremely important role; the risk of a distorted interpretation by the attacked of the scale of nuclear strikes; different understanding by the attacker and the attacked of what is considered a limited strike and the risk of a disproportionate response; erasing the boundary between limited and massive nuclear strike in the context of intensive globalization and reducing the level of unacceptable damage; third party factors, incl. state or non-state actors capable of provoking a nuclear escalation.


China, USA, nuclear war, massive nuclear strike, limited nuclear strike, escalation, strategy, globalization, unacceptable damage, fog of war

This article is automatically translated. You can find original text of the article here.

IntroductionThe objectives of the study are to establish how nuclear war is prevented:

? intensive globalization;

? uncontrolled escalation in scenarios of massive and limited YAU;

? incompleteness, unreliability/inconsistency of data;

? the possibility of a disproportionate response to the attacked;

? blurring the boundary between limited and massive YAU;

? the presence of third parties.

Conceptual apparatus. The first nuclear strike (preventive strike[1]) is a nuclear strike (YAU) that the attacker strikes at the attacked in the absence of signs of preparation for YAU on the part of the attacked, but which poses a potential threat.

Strategic risks for the attacker are understood as direct and/or indirect unacceptable (from the attacker's point of view) military-political, economic, humanitarian, environmental, etc. damage, the assessment of which at the planning stage makes it impractical for the attacker to make a decision to inflict the first YAU. Factors of uncontrolled escalation, incompleteness and unreliability of information, disproportionality of the response, blurring of the boundary between limited and massive nuclear weapons, third parties are strategic risks, because without taking them into account, it is impossible to adequately assess potential damage.

In this paper, it is nuclear war that we study, which we distinguish from nuclear conflict, which is understood as "a crisis situation in which one or more nuclear weapons owners are involved and during which there is an escalation to the level when one or more parties begin to consider the practical possibility of using nuclear weapons," and by "nuclear war" the "highest phase of the nuclear conflict" is understood, meaning "the use of nuclear weapons on various scales ? from single nuclear strikes to the massive use of nuclear weapons" [2]. At the same time, a combined strike, i.e. with the use of nuclear and non-nuclear weapons, is also considered a nuclear war.

We do not consider the threat of the use of nuclear weapons by the United States and/or the PRC as an instrument of pressure on each other (i.e., a nuclear conflict), but assess the possibility of a nuclear war between these powers, i.e. their transition to the direct use of nuclear weapons (nuclear weapons) ? limited or massive.

The relevance of this study. The growing tension between China and the United States in almost all spheres of activity has increased the acuteness of discussions regarding a possible nuclear war between these powers. The China?USA case turned out to be in the focus of the study, since these are the largest economies in the world, and the interests of these countries with a nuclear arsenal are increasingly clashing. China is actively expanding economically and technologically on a global scale, and is also strengthening its geopolitical influence, which exacerbates the contradictions between it and the United States. As a result, according to a number of officials and researchers (see below), the likelihood of a military-political escalation between the two countries is sharply increasing, especially against the background of the tense situation around Taiwan, which is confirmed by the growing number and scale of demonstrations of military force of the PRC[2]. In fact, there is a situation when a gradually losing superpower in the face of the United States is being squeezed by China, claiming the status of a new superpower, which fundamentally distinguishes this case from all others. China is the only country that simultaneously challenges the United States on a global scale in economic, technological and partly in geopolitical aspects, striving to maintain its dominant position, leading to an increase in international tensions. At the same time, the situation also differs from the Cold War of the times of the confrontation between the USSR and the United States, which was largely ideological in nature, and besides, at that time the superpowers did not have close trade and economic ties. China, on the contrary, is embedded in the global economy and is strongly connected with the United States in trade, economic and technological relations, which fundamentally distinguishes the growing strategic confrontation between these countries from the Cold War.

The political meaning of a nuclear war between these powers is:

1) neutralizing the PRC as a strategic competitor in the context of the transition to a multipolar model of the world and preventing the strengthening of the PRC unacceptable to the United States;

2) the PRC's military operation to return Taiwan, to which the United States can provide direct military assistance, which leads to an increase in the likelihood of a direct collision between the PRC and the United States using nuclear weapons;

3) control over the South China Sea [3, 4] or the Strait of Malacca, which is of strategic importance;

4) obstacles to the implementation of the Chinese project "One Belt, One Road", if alternative methods [5, 6] do not give results;

5) the combined version (paragraphs 1-4).

Note that the analysis does not take into account the scenario in which one of the parties mistakenly interprets the intentions of the enemy, which may result in a preemptive strike on him. We will talk about scenarios in which one of the parties decides to launch a premeditated first YAU (preventive strike) on the enemy in the absence of a catastrophic accident factor requiring the fastest and toughest response, resulting from incorrect interpretations of enemy actions (launching an intercontinental ballistic missile, destroying a satellite, etc.). Such catastrophic accidents are extremely unlikely. taking into account the specifics of the YAU application, since the order to launch missiles and strike from aircraft (strategic bombers) requires a complex multi-level confirmation procedure via secure communication channels, which almost eliminates an accidental strike. At the same time, there is a risk of erroneous interpretation of the attacker's actions by the attacker, which also deters the attacker from YAU. However, an incorrect interpretation of a nuclear attack is much more likely by a third party, which will also be considered in this paper. In addition, in any scenario, the attacker is forced to take into account the likelihood of a technical failure in the missile attack warning system (SPRN) of the attacked and the imperfection of this system (in China), which create an additional risk in the conditions of escalation, deterring the attacker from nuclear weapons.

At the same time, the approach chosen in the study on this problem fits into the context of research by domestic authors who assessed the risks of nuclear war in modern conditions between nuclear powers, for example, in terms of increasing the time to make a decision on the use of nuclear weapons [7], military doctrines and conditions for the use of nuclear weapons [8]. In addition, this approach corresponds to foreign studies evaluating the decision?making process on the application of nuclear weapons by China or the United States taking into account non-military factors - economic costs, internal political effects and international reaction (for example, [9, 10]), as well as assessing the relationship between the military and political leadership of both states[3].

1. Prerequisites for strategic escalation between China and the United States A number of high-ranking officials have spoken out about the risks of a nuclear clash between the two powers and the world's largest economies.

So, anti-Chinese attacks took place during the administration of Republican D. Trump, however, the current US president, Democrat J. Biden continues the confrontational line. In particular, he called Chinese President Xi Jinping a "bandit" (English thug[4]) against the background of the growing confrontation between the two states, manifested in the struggle for control of the South China Sea, in Washington's contacts with Taiwan [5], as well as in sanctions measures against Chinese telecommunications companies ZTE and Huawei Technologies [11]. It follows from this that in recent decades, opposition to China has been conducted regardless of which administration is in the White House ? Republican or Democratic.

It should be noted that even during the cadences of Barack Obama, a turn in the Asia-Pacific region was initiated[6], which led to the fact that "8 out of 14 American strategic submarines are stationed in East Asia, as well as massive missile defense assets are deployed. Of the 26 US Navy ships equipped with Aegis systems with SM Block 1A - 16 interceptor missiles are located in this region" [12, p. 362]. It was the growth of Chinese power that was the main reason for this.

Since then, the anti-Chinese strategy has been strengthened and supplemented, including in the nuclear sphere. Thus, the US National Defense Strategy of 2018 prescribes the acceleration of the nuclear triad modernization program, which includes "nuclear command, control and communications, as well as auxiliary infrastructure [...] the development of options to counter competitors' power strategies based on the use of nuclear or strategic non-nuclear strikes"[7]. After Biden became President of the United States, the "Interim Strategic National Security Manual" published in 2021 explicitly states the growing rivalry with China, and the measures indicated in this document should be aimed at strengthening the American "enduring advantage", which, according to the authors of the report, will allow to win The United States is "in strategic competition with China or any other country"[8].

Another confirmation of the anti-Chinese course is the deployment of groups of the US Armed Forces. For example, since 2017, the US Navy has been simultaneously deploying three carrier strike groups in the Asia-Pacific region[9]. At the same time, strategic bombers B-52, B-1 and B-2 Spirit (nuclear weapons carriers) are occasionally transferred to the Andersen Air Base (Mariana Islands).

The escalation is also evidenced by the statements of General John Hyten, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States, who in one of his interviews expressed particular concern about the testing of hypersonic weapons by the PRC. J. Hyten believes that "in combination with hundreds of new missile silos that China is building, the Chinese will one day be able to launch a sudden nuclear strike on the United States"[10]. In his opinion, hypersonic weapons look "like a first-use weapon" ("they look like a first-use weapon"). At the same time, the exercises (war games) held in October 2020, in which the conflict with China was simulated, including around Taiwan, "failed miserably"[11], because the "enemy" knew what the side that designated the US Armed Forces was going to do. After that, the OKNSH moved on to a new concept, which was called "Expanded Maneuver" (Expanded Maneuver). The goal is that by 2030, the US Armed Forces should be ready for combat operations to deter "future aggression by China or Russia." This approach includes a review of logistics, actions to improve coordinated attacks, more effective joint All-Domain Command and Control (Joint All-Domain Command and Control, JADC2) and the establishment of an information advantage. Admiral Charles Richard, the head of the US Strategic Command, also spoke about a nuclear war with Russia or China, noting that for the first time since the collapse of the USSR, the Pentagon is considering the possibility of a direct conflict with a nuclear power, including China[12]. Confirmation of this is found in the statements of some officials[13].

Talks about the war became especially active after the creation of AUKUS (acronym for A ustralia, U nited K ingdom, U nited S tates) was announced[14] ? a new trilateral format of security cooperation between the United States, Great Britain and Australia. On September 15, 2021, it became known that Australia, without notice, canceled a contract with France in the amount of USD 66 billion, according to which France pledged to supply Australia with 12 diesel-electric submarines[15]. Instead, Australia will receive inconspicuous nuclear submarines developed by Great Britain with the support of the United States[16]. China's angry reaction to the creation of AUKUS followed immediately[17].

A marker of the confrontational course of the United States towards China under the Biden administration is also an increase in the number of publications in the Western media[18] about a possible confrontation between the two powers [19] (however, their Chinese colleagues are not inferior to them in their harsh rhetoric [20]). Against this background, among some foreign[21] and domestic observers, a stable opinion has formed that a nuclear war is extremely likely or even inevitable[22].

Within the framework of one article, it is impossible to list in detail the ways and areas of counteraction to China by the United States, starting with the technological blockade and ending with obstacles to China in promoting the "One Belt, One Road" project (see [6]), so the question remains open about how real a nuclear war between the powers or their the confrontation will continue well below the threshold of the use of nuclear weapons.

Indeed, the rapid economic [16], financial [17], scientific and technological [18] and military [19, 20] growth of the PRC in recent decades, as well as its policy in the sphere of application of (counter)sanctions [21] have led to the fact that there are more and more points of tension between this Asian country and the United States, which, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, maintained the status of the only superpower and hegemon for more than two decades. However, by the end of the tenth years of the XXI century, the gap between China and the United States has rapidly narrowed, and they are already comparable in a number of indicators. According to some experts, this leads to the so-called Thucydides trap [22], the essence of which "lies in the fact that two political giants fighting for power and influence must inevitably face an uncompromising confrontation, even if this confrontation promises them only mutual exhaustion, decline, decline in political status, or even going into oblivion from the world political arena"[23].

For the first time, the "Thucydides trap" was applied to the confrontation between China and the United States by G. Allison [23], drawing an analogy from 1914. Yes, it is known that even on the eve of the First World War, many considered the war unprofitable, especially such a large-scale one, but still it happened. However, we believe that it is incorrect to transfer the situation of 1914 to the present time. Firstly, there was no empirical experience of the World War at that time. Secondly, at that time they had just begun to apply (selectively) WMD(s) and there was nothing comparable to nuclear weapons at that time (by the way, G. Allison had three out of four cases when war did not start between established and rising great powers, fell during the nuclear era). Thirdly, significant empirical experience has been accumulated to date (the atomic bombing of Japan, numerous nuclear weapons tests), which allows us to judge the consequences of a nuclear war. Fourth, the existing developments in the field of nuclear strategy and modeling of the consequences of nuclear war (for example, see [24]) also make it possible to predict the catastrophic consequences of nuclear war. Fifthly, at present the degree of interdependence of the countries of the world is much higher (for more details, see below) than at the beginning of the XX century, especially in the economic, informational, financial and cultural spheres, which serves as a much more significant factor preventing a global and even limited war with the use of nuclear weapons [24]. In other words, the strengthening of China does not mean the inevitability of a collision with the United States in the form of a limited or massive nuclear war. According to Chinese experts, strategic stability between China and the United States is based on four key factors: nuclear taboo, nuclear blackmail, interdependence, as well as consensus and communication [28, pp. 127-148]. Based on such views, it can be concluded that nuclear weapons are a deterrent force for China and cannot be used by it first[25]. This does not mean that nuclear war is impossible at all, because there is always a residual risk, but it makes it unlikely.

2. The main causes of nuclear war and the factor of globalization

In this section, we will focus on the risks that China and the United States need to take into account in a hypothetical nuclear war before unleashing it, and which prevent such a course of events.

First of all, we note that nuclear war as a means of resolving the contradictions that have arisen is the most extreme measure. Therefore, it can be resorted to only when extremely unfavorable factors are imposed. We will single out four main ones among them:

I. The vital interests of an actor with nuclear weapons are affected, or his interests together with the interests of his key actors-allies.

II. Any means, with the exception of the use of nuclear weapons (or together with non-nuclear), have either been exhausted or not used due to their recognition as deliberately ineffective.

III. According to the country's leadership, who decided on nuclear weapons, the amount of risks from a nuclear war should not exceed an unacceptable level for him. In other words, the attacker believes that the consequences of his use of nuclear weapons will be preferable to the consequences of threats that push him to use nuclear weapons.

IV. To a lesser extent, the situation is affected when the actor-initiator of the YAU considers the probability of the appearance of third-party factors that could negate the critical threat from the attacker to be negligible. Among these factors: aggression of a third party against the attacked; an unpredictable natural or anthropogenic catastrophe on the territory of the attacked; a combination of the above. These factors are able to eliminate the threat in the person of the attacked, which pushes the attacker to attack him. In this case, YAU may become impractical.

Let's turn to the factor of direct and indirect negative effects of nuclear war in the conditions of intensive globalization, which means the strengthening of the interdependence of world socio-economic and political processes, the connection of the information space, etc., leading to the complication of the entire world system (this factor was studied, for example, in [8, 29]). In conditions of intense globalization, even pre-war activity itself creates risks that can stop such an adventure, since catastrophic events in one region of the world have a much greater impact on the situation in other regions than it was before. The increased interdependence of different states and non-state actors has led to a synergy effect, i.e. the interaction of all actors gives a result significantly greater than the sum of their activities individually. With the growth of globalization, the synergy factor has only increased, since there is a "merger of markets, organizations and production chains", there is an "increase in the absolute and relative level of world trade in goods and services, as well as the movement of capital and labor" [30, pp. 285-294], leading to increased economic interdependence [31]. Consequently, a nuclear war in the context of globalization will lead to the rupture of many ties built over a long time. In fact, we are talking about the emergence of a chain reaction of cascading effects, which will also create a synergistic effect, but already negative, with a colossal destructive potential.

Therefore, with the increasing globalization of the world socio-political and economic system, the use of increasingly destructive means (nuclear weapons and strategic non-nuclear weapons) can lead to much more catastrophic consequences than at the beginning of the last century (see earlier). In fact, even a limited nuclear war (together with non-nuclear means) at the present time will cause more damage than a similar, i.e. equal in terms of military potential, resources, etc., war in a less interdependent and interconnected environment. Consequently, the risks associated with nuclear war are becoming greater in recent times than before, and they are increasingly difficult to calculate.

3. Nuclear war scenarios Let's assume that the US leadership calculated the number of options for China's response with acceptable accuracy and on this basis (and taking into account the acceptance of all risks) it still decided to strike.

The question arises: what kind of blow should it be? Consider the scenarios of massive and limited YAU.

3.1. Massive blow

In such a scenario, the enemy ? China will also use its entire arsenal if it is able to do so. This means that the United States will decide to inflict such damage on China, after which (according to the calculations of the American leadership) China will immediately or within a reasonable time and with losses acceptable to the United States (according to the initial forecasts and estimates of their leadership) will accept its defeat or suffer unacceptable damage. That is, we are talking about the first disarming strike by the United States, which means inflicting critical damage to China on its means of retaliating[26]. However, in order for the strike to be disarming (counter-forceful), it is necessary to calculate the possibilities for a retaliatory strike by the PRC. Moreover, the result of such a comprehensive analysis should convince the US leadership that there will be no response from China or it will not cause critical damage, but at the same time the goal of the war will still be achieved and the position of the United States will be better than before the war[27] ? and so much so that the idea of the first strike the American leadership initially recognizes it as appropriate. The same applies to the case if China acts as an attacker.

However, it is doubtful that China or the United States have absolute confidence that their first strike will be disarming. So, according to the US Department of Defense, China already possesses a nuclear triad. Consequently, Washington cannot be absolutely sure that China does not have the ability to strike back, since Beijing already has the necessary military and technical capabilities for this[28]. In the reverse situation (if China acts as the attacker), the situation is even worse, since Beijing does not have enough nuclear weapons for a disarming strike against the United States. In the near future, China will not be able to inflict a massive counter-force YAU on the United States.

Consequently, the attacker is capable of delivering a retaliatory or counter-counter strike (OVU) on the attacker (hereinafter, the attacker in the scenario of the first massive counter-force YAU means only the United States), which in turn, by virtue of the logic of the launched mechanism of mutual extermination, will be unable to stop, since his position will be much worse than the position that preceded the outbreak of war. A unilateral stop of the attacker in the war (for example, through a request for a truce and a reduction/cessation of attacks on the enemy) can be interpreted by the attacker as the inability of the enemy to continue the war, and at the same time recognized by the attacker as the collapse of the control system of the troops and the state as a whole of the attacker. Precisely because if the attacker is not disarmed with the first blow, the latter can strike at the attacker, which means that the first blow in this scenario should be disarming [29].

Thus, the question partly boils down to the following:

1) risk ratio assessment: will the attacker strike back/not strike back?

2) if the attacker's retaliatory strike cannot be avoided, then what damage is he able to inflict on the attacker?

3) which retaliatory damage to the attacking leadership should be considered acceptable, and which is not?

Moreover, even if a disarming strike is realized, will not the mere possibility of its implementation become an unacceptable risk for the attacker? This question is not idle, because even the reality of the threat of a disarming strike is catastrophic in the conditions of intensive globalization. Only the expectation of YAU, assuming that the world actors at some point will be convinced of the high probability of a nuclear war, in itself can lead to destructive cascade effects for the attacker. We are talking about the impact of the expectation of nuclear weapons on the world economy, migration processes, etc., capable of affecting the attacker directly or indirectly even before the start of a nuclear war. It seems that it is hardly possible to completely hide the preparation for a strike from modern intelligence tools and with many channels of information leaks. At a minimum, the growing atmosphere of hostility and escalation in the current conditions cannot be hidden, and this is enough to provoke a mental panic in the stock markets, lead to political and diplomatic crises between states belonging to third parties that will be affected by a nuclear war to one degree or another.

Intermediate conclusions follow from the above:

1) in the counter-force strategy, the YAU should be massive on a par with the massive use of non-nuclear weapons (combined strikes [30]);

2) the United States has the opportunity for a counter-force strike (China hypothetically will have such opportunities only in the distant future);

3) the implementation of a scenario in which the attacker from the very beginning of the war, through a disarming strike, will gain complete superiority over the attacked (which is far from guaranteed), will have consequences that can cause a destructive chain reaction of destructive effects in the world economy, environmental and humanitarian spheres, etc., which are able to level the meaning of a full-scale nuclear war.

3.2. Limited nuclear war scenario

Let us consider the scenarios of a limited nuclear war (studied, in particular, in [37-39]) and the cessation of escalation in the conditions of a limited nuclear confrontation. One of the main risks in this scenario is that striking even with the help of tactical missiles (artillery shells, depth charges, cruise missiles, torpedoes, etc.) of low power (several kilotons in TNT equivalent and less) at a limited number of enemy targets [37] will create a precedent for their use, and will also lead to to erase the boundary between the use of tactical and strategic nuclear weapons. This reduces the likelihood of a limited war and increases the risk of its transition to an unlimited one. The fact is that the use of nuclear weapons is inextricably linked with the risk of escalation (in the absence of effective mechanisms for its control) and, accordingly, an increase in the number of targets and the scale of nuclear weapons. Of course, the risks of a massive disarming attack by an attacker, if compared with a limited strike on the attacked, are initially maximum, since the attacked is able to respond (including in the OVU scenario) up to a counter-value strike (on cities and civilians). In the scenario of a limited YAU, the initial risks are undoubtedly lower, since from the attacker's point of view such a strike does not carry unacceptable risks, provided that the attacker does not dare to retaliate/OVU or the predicted damage from a retaliatory strike/OVU is acceptable to the attacker. However, there is a possibility that the attacker interprets such a blow differently and the war will grow from limited to full-scale.

An attacker who has carried out a limited in goals and a small in power YAU on the attacked can expect that under certain conditions the attacked will consider it unacceptable for himself to increase the risks in the form of a retaliatory YAU (or OVU) and he will retreat, having to make concessions to the attacker. In this scenario, in contrast to the massive disarming YAU (counter-force scenario, see above), the initial risks are indeed lower. However, the problem is that the enemy can either retreat or not retreat, depending on a number of factors. In this case, even a relatively small probability from the attacker's point of view of a limited retaliatory strike/OVU carries significant risks.

Moreover, in real conditions, there can be, in principle, one hundred percent guarantees that the enemy will not respond (provided he has the capabilities for this, and the United States and China have them, especially for limited retaliatory / counter-counter YAU). In combined (nuclear and non-nuclear) strikes [40], this risk still persists, since the attacker is capable of delivering a retaliatory or counter-counter YAU (further, by YAU we mean a combined strike, i.e. using nuclear and non-nuclear weapons, since we believe that in modern conditions the opponents will not be limited to nuclear weapons only). The difficulty in making a decision by the attacker is to assess whether the attacker will retreat or not, and if so, at what stage of escalation? How to determine the line beyond which the escalation will not fade? The main thing is that in a nuclear war, such risks have more weight than in a non-nuclear war, and this further deters the attacker even from limited nuclear weapons. After the attacker has inflicted the first limited YAU, the attacker in the conditions of escalation will not know for sure whether new attacks will follow or not. But the attacker will already know that the enemy has used nuclear weapons against him, i.e. he has crossed the nuclear threshold (see [1, 41, 42]) and can do it again. In this case, the attacker will perceive any subsequent strikes or threats of their application in such a way that the attacker is ready to re-use nuclear weapons, even if he convinces otherwise. There is no absolutely reliable way to check the attacker's real readiness to de-escalate and limit the YAU that he has already inflicted. This means that there are no guarantees that the attacked party will not respond if it has the capabilities for this (and it will have them, since the scenario of a limited YAU is being considered).

As a consequence, in this scenario, the main difference from a massive YAU is that the reaction of the attacked to a massive YAU will be unambiguous (if there is an opportunity to respond), and in the case of a limited YAU, there will be a choice to strike back YAU / OVU or refuse and retreat. There is a risk of a response in a scenario of limited nuclear weapons, and it exceeds in importance the risk of a response in a non-nuclear war. In the scenario of a massive disarming strike, the probability of a response, if there are opportunities for it, is almost one hundred percent, and in a limited YAU it is less and depends on many factors. However, even a small chance to get a response that can lead to unlimited escalation in this scenario is a factor that prevents the attacker from making a decision to inflict YAU. The same applies to the concept of nuclear-conventional integration, conventional-nuclear integration[31] [43], which means finding the best combination of nuclear, non-nuclear and dual potential to contain conflict and escalation[32]. Considering the above, the YAK concept has the same risks as a limited YAK in combination with non-nuclear weapons.

We believe that it is impossible to eliminate these risks in scenarios of massive and limited nuclear weapons (including according to the concept of nuclear weapons), even taking into account all the accumulated experience of arms control [44]. In principle, with the advent of concepts such as YAKS, including the use of ultra-small nuclear charges and hypersonic weapons, arms control is extremely difficult, especially given the above-described increase in contradictions between the United States and China (which resembles the situation in relations between Russia and the United States [45]). It is also doubtful that China will take measures similar to those agreed to by the United States and the USSR in the foreseeable future/Russia in the DSNV-1, DSNV-2, DSNV-3. Some analysts believe that the United States should continue its attempts to involve China in a dialogue on nuclear issues with an eye to developing an arms control system in the long term [46; 47 pp. 219-250]. At the same time, other experts believe that the concepts of arms control during the Cold War are inapplicable in relations between China and the United States [48]. In general, changes in the US defense strategy, including the militarization of outer space[33], may signal to China that its capabilities are insufficient to deter the US from using force. In response, China will be forced to reconsider its restraint in its nuclear strategy, which will damage the weakened arms control regime, as previously pointed out by analysts [49]. This, however, does not mean that attempts to achieve arms control with the inclusion of China in new or revised treaties are pointless.

When analyzing Chinese views on the problem of escalation control, researchers note that Chinese strategists are under the illusion that war can be controlled if only the right processes and scientific principles are followed. They insist that advances in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, precision weapons, command and control have further strengthened this capability. As B. Laird notes, such ideas not only do not control crises and conflicts, but also contribute to the emergence of a certain degree of self-confidence, contributing to unintended escalation[34]. The United States understands this and their leadership cannot ignore the peculiarities of the strategic culture of the PRC, which is able to carry out an unintended escalation, mistakenly believing that it is able to manage it. This aspect is important for the scenario of a limited nuclear war between the United States and China. In the process of making a decision on the first YAU, it is necessary to take into account this risk, since it itself prevents the first YAU due to the fact that at least one of the parties is capable of escalating in the absence of understanding the complexity of its control.

In this regard, the most realistic scenario for the reintegration of Taiwan seems to be the most fleeting operation of taking it under control by the PLA forces of the PRC before the United States is able to provide it with direct military assistance. By doing this, China will create a choice for the United States: to strike at the PLA forces with the risk of escalating into a YAU exchange, or to refuse, considering that these risks are too great. However, the same risks are also true for China if it does not have sufficient confidence that the United States will not have time/ will not want to provide direct military support to Taipei.

4. Factors of deferred risks and elite consensus

One of the key issues is the forecast of the ratio of potentially achievable results to costs and risks, and costs and risks include everything ? from the immediate consequences of a possible retaliatory strike to the economic and long-term consequences of war. It is necessary for the military-political leadership of the attacker to come to the conclusion that the result of the unleashed nuclear war will sufficiently cover all the main risks, costs and negative consequences (both those that will immediately make themselves felt, and those that will manifest themselves much later) associated with the war itself. It is unacceptable to make a decision in which the short?term consequences are positive, and the long-term, i.e. strategic, will turn out to be negative. Negative long-term consequences devalue positive short-term ones. As a result, in the long run, the attacker's victory will at best become pyrrhic for him, and at worst it will turn into defeat. In this scenario, the attacker is defeated in the first hours or days of the war, and the attacker suffers a delayed defeat. Even in the scenario of a limited nuclear war against an attacker possessing nuclear weapons, it is unlikely (although not completely excluded) that the order to strike the first nuclear weapon was given without taking into account the opinion of a critical number of decision makers (LPR).

The first limited YAU will also require an order from the attacker's political leadership after approval, since the negative consequences of even a limited YAU potentially (given the risk of uncontrolled escalation) may become unacceptable for everyone. Therefore, the decision on the first YAU should be a consensus of a critical number of LPR[35]. Taking into account the ultra-high stakes at stake, the probability that the narrow-clan interests of a particular elite/power group will outweigh all others is quite small. To clarify: here we are talking about the attacker's first YAU. For an attacker who can cause an attack, such a question is not worth it, since he will be forced to answer as soon as possible, which does not require a broad consensus. Theoretically, an exception may be the case if the attacker strikes a limited-purpose and scale YAU in the expectation that the attacker will retreat and will not dare to respond. However, the attacker does not know how likely the attacker's response is, including with the use of nuclear weapons, and this risk is unavoidable.

There is also a factor of incompleteness and/or unreliability (inconsistency) of data, which, together with a factor of powerful mental stress, can influence the decision to apply YAU (we will touch on this issue in more detail below). However, since we assess the factors that prevent the decision to apply the first YAU (preventive strike) to the attacker (USA or China), it should be assumed that the attacker is preparing a well-thought-out YAU in the absence of signs of similar actions on the part of the attacker. These conditions differ from the time pressure and stress regime typical for cases when:

? there are convincing intelligence signs of the enemy's readiness to inflict YAU;

? the enemy has already struck and it is required to respond as soon as possible.

That is why in the scenario of the first strike, the attacker needs consensus among his elites, without which the probability of making such a decision is small. This, of course, does not exclude the risk when a minority among the LPR imposes its will on the majority and implements the scenario of the first YAU, but, given all the above, such a scenario has much less chance of success.

It should be noted that it is precisely the complexity of assessing the ratio of a potential result to costs and risks, the difficulty in defending it among the LPR, if we imagine that the conditional "war party" of the attacker will still decide to promote the idea of a real nuclear war, together with the incompleteness and/or unreliability of data in the event of a retaliatory strike (or OVU) by the attacked is one one of the most significant factors hindering YAU.

5. Low probability of de-escalation and "fog of war"

An important aspect that cannot be ignored by any of the parties to a hypothetical nuclear war between China and the United States is that it is much easier to start a war than to stop it, and in previous eras the likely opponents clearly understood this. So, during the Arab-Israeli wars (1967, 1973), each of the superpowers ? the USSR and the USA ? did not allow direct intervention of the enemy superpower on the side of its "wards": the USSR did not allow the USA to speak on the side of Israel, and the USA did not allow the USSR to speak on the side of Arab countries (Egypt, Syria). All this was accompanied by military maneuvers in the Mediterranean, coordinated with complex diplomatic, political, economic and intelligence efforts [54, pp. 420-426]. At the same time, none of the superpowers wanted to engage in even a small direct armed clash, since Moscow and Washington understood the risk of unlimited escalation up to nuclear war. At the same time, there were situations, for example, when in October 1973, due to the attack of the Syrians and Egyptians on the Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights, the Americans increased their combat readiness to DEFCON 3 (the level of increased combat readiness of US troops). However, the availability of readiness for escalation does not mean the desire for escalation by the top management. On the contrary, at the first opportunity, the USSR and the USA tried to avoid unlimited escalation, and at the end of October, tensions subsided. An earlier example is the events of 1956-1957 during the Suez crisis, when, in response to the actions of France and Great Britain, N.S. Khrushchev threatened a thermonuclear strike, which could lead to a war with the United States and its transition into a total form. Realizing the possible consequences, the superpowers used political and diplomatic measures of influence, and the crisis itself was resolved not without the efforts of the UN and the introduction of the first UN peacekeeping contingent into the conflict zone.

Other crises (the Berlin crisis of 1961 and the construction of the Berlin Wall; the 1962 Caribbean crisis with the blockade of Cuba; the Able Archer command exercises of 1983, when the USSR leadership accepted large-scale NATO military exercises for preparing for an attack and was ready to launch a preemptive YAU) could also lead to a nuclear war, and, perhaps, with greater probability. However, it is important that in these crises, even one non-nuclear strike on the enemy could provoke a nuclear war. These examples are important in the context of the study of a hypothetical nuclear war between China and the United States, because they show the full danger of a strike with just one missile or torpedo without a nuclear warhead, which can later lead to overcoming the nuclear threshold. If the initial level of escalation between China and the United States begins with a massive YAU, then it will be almost impossible for the attacker to stop. The very logic of escalation will force him to totally crush the enemy, regardless of the possible consequences of such a decision, so that he will not be able to respond.

If we assume that a disarming strike will not work, then it is unlikely that the parties would be able to restrain themselves from further escalation steps. This follows from the fact that the YAU in the counter?force strategy is an attempt on the existence of the state and the people as such, and therefore on its key national interests, therefore it is not possible to respond (to the attacked, if he has military-technical capabilities, which in the case under discussion are available regardless of who is considered to be attacked ? China or the United States) is practically impossible ? neither politically, nor organizationally, nor psychologically, but on condition that if we are talking about a failed disarming strike of the attacker, when the attacker retains organizational and military-technical capabilities, as well as moral readiness for a retaliatory strike.

Speaking of massive nuclear weapons, it should be noted that its destructive impact on the world economy, the humanitarian sphere, the environment, etc. will manifest itself in a much enhanced form compared to a large-scale non-nuclear war. This is logical, since in this scenario the stakes will be maximum (physical and geopolitical existence). So, with a high degree of probability, the attacker's "war party" will prevail simply because, having unleashed a large-scale nuclear war, the enemy, if he can still resist, will try to respond. This implies the need to strike the attacker until the attacker is unable to pose a critical threat.

In a non-nuclear war, it is easier for the parties to agree on a truce, especially when their forces are approximately equal and/or other circumstances make further war meaningless. At the same time, in an initially nuclear war or in a scenario of keeping a limited nuclear war under control while avoiding its transition to a full-scale form, the probability of a truce is significantly lower than in a non-nuclear war. This factor was thoroughly investigated in T. Schelling's work "Conflict Strategy", where the author, analyzing a limited war, points out that actors "deal with tradition", as well as "with precedent, convention and the power of suggestion" [32, pp. 313-324]. Since there is no experience of nuclear war (the case of the atomic bombing of two Japanese cities in August 1945 is inapplicable, since the attacked side was not able to respond to the enemy), then there is no tradition (convention, precedent) either, i.e. there is no political or moral and legal deterrent mechanism for de-escalation of the already unleashed nuclear wars. We should add that in such conditions it is extremely difficult to agree to a truce, since there are no guarantees that the attacked side will not decide to use this truce to inflict nuclear weapons. This again creates a huge risk, because the attacker, with unlimited escalation, is able to inflict unacceptable damage to the attacker, making the possibility of a truce completely negligible.

The next risk that prevents the initiation of nuclear war is what was once called "Nebel des Krieges" or "Fog of War", which is a reference to the work of the great military theorist K. von Clausewitz "On War". "The unreliability of news and the constant interference of chance," wrote K. von. Clausewitz, ? lead to the fact that the belligerent actually faces a completely different state of affairs than he expected" [55]. In fact, we are talking about the unreliability of information, in game theory corresponding to the so-called incomplete information game [36], i.e. a game in which players (in our case, China and the United States) have only partial (incomplete) information about the enemy. We believe that in a hypothetical nuclear war between China and the United States (and any other actors), this property will manifest itself to the greatest extent. Despite the lack of experience of such a confrontation, this conclusion logically follows from the consideration that a nuclear war introduces serious uncertainty even before it begins, taking into account the risks that arise.

An example of the "fog of war" is the behavior of the command of China and the United States during the exchange of YAU that has already begun. If the attacker's disarming strike (it does not matter who exactly acts in this role) does not reach the target and an exchange of blows begins (including in the OVU scenario), then the probability of de-escalation decreases sharply. In a counter-force strategy, YAU will be perceived by the attacker as the enemy's desire to inflict a crushing defeat on him, which will probably put the attacker on the brink of existence. In this case, the attacker cannot admit defeat, since it automatically means a catastrophic loss of positions, which will be comparable to defeat in a nuclear war. Therefore, the attacked party is most likely to respond. In addition, if an attacker makes a request for a truce (which is practically excluded in the scenario under discussion ? at least in the first stages of the war), then the attacker will not know exactly what the true purpose of such a request for a truce from his opponent is. In conditions of extreme psychological tension, an atmosphere of hostility to the enemy, lack of information and mutually exclusive intelligence, it is extremely difficult to believe that the attacker is really ready to de-escalate. Therefore, the attacker is much more likely to decide that the request for a truce (let's assume that some technical capabilities for information exchange between China and the United States will remain ? something like a "Hotline" between Moscow and Washington during the Cold War) is just a trick, so you should strike back while there are still opportunities for this, and try to hurt the enemy as much as possible. The attacker, even if the blow does not turn out to be disarming, will be forced to go to the end, since the attacker has (even hypothetical) the ability to respond. Any request from the attacker for a truce, assuming that his command has decided to do so, will be regarded a priori, first of all, as an attempt to gain time for a new strike, and all other options will be regarded secondarily (especially by the attacker's "war party"). It is the possibility of a new attack by the attacker that outweighs the desire for de-escalation. This follows from extremely high risks while maintaining even a small probability of striking the attacked as a retaliation action. This means that it is much more likely that the attacker's command will continue to strike at the enemy until it is able to make sure with an acceptable degree of certainty that the attacker is not able to pose an arbitrarily serious threat. This is the reason for the low probability of de-escalation in a failed counter-force strategy in the conditions of the "fog of war", which is why the consequences of such a nuclear confrontation will be catastrophic for both sides, regardless of their intentions after the attack begins (in this scenario, the winner and the loser will get the same losing result, see [36]). Note that in escalation scenarios, the attacker (be it the USA or the PRC) needs to take into account the factor of Russia, which will be discussed in more detail later, which distinguishes the analysis of the current situation from the situation analyzed by G. Kahn [41].

Of course, the parties (the United States and China) have a limited understanding of each other's capabilities and, to a lesser extent, intentions. In the scenario of a failed disarming YAU, the parties may seek to de-escalate. The attacker ? because he understands that further exchange of YAU will lead to consequences exceeding any benefits from further war; the attacked ? because further exchange of YAU means disaster for him. The problem is that the implementation of a decaying exchange is extremely difficult, since even the preservation and expansion of communication channels and intelligence capabilities on both sides does not mean that the possibility of de-escalation remains after the exchange of nuclear weapons. Can the attacker agree to stop the strikes? With some probability, yes. But there is another scenario that this will not happen. This is also accompanied by the risk of loss of control means (elements of the SPRN, including satellites, ground-based radio devices, etc.), which significantly limits the ability of the parties to verify each other's intentions, even if their desire for de-escalation is sincere. Thus, according to estimates, there is an imbalance in the calculations of the United States and China: Americans are afraid of a false positive result and unintentional escalation, and the Chinese are afraid of a false negative result and deliberate escalation[37]. Beijing associates its concerns with the shortcomings of its early warning system [58]. There is also a risk when one of the parties misinterprets the opponent's behavior, which will affect the course of its leadership's decision-making on the application of YAU. Therefore, the parties are not interested in creating conditions when the opponent's behavior can lead to such catastrophic consequences. Naturally, the strategic planning of the PRC and the USA (similar to the USSR/Russia and the USA) takes into account these factors, and their presence in itself prevents the outbreak of a nuclear war even at the stage of consideration of the first nuclear weapon. Of course, this does not exclude the possibility of escalation due to an erroneous interpretation and technical failure of the SPRN, but we consider it unlikely.

In the scenario of limited nuclear weapons, the situation differs in that it is easier to make a decision on de-escalation at the initial stages of the exchange of blows (or immediately after the first strike, if the attacker decides not to respond and retreats), since the destruction is not yet so critical, the means of objective control are more likely to remain compared to the counter-force scenario of a full-scale nuclear war, damage much less damage has been done to the economies of countries and the whole world, the activation of the relocation of migration masses will not begin or will be significantly more modest, etc. However, taking into account the above arguments (the interdependence of economies, the risk of transition to a full-scale war, etc.), in the scenario of limited nuclear weapons, the risk associated with incompleteness and/or unreliability of data is lower compared to massive nuclear weapons, but as escalation increases, it will also increase. This means that this circumstance should be taken into account by the attacker even at the decision-making stage. The experience of previous de-escalations, which resolved the crises of 1962, 1983, etc., is difficult to apply here, since the increase in combat readiness in response to enemy actions in those cases is not equivalent to the actions of the parties with the YAU already committed.

Together with the previously mentioned risks, there is also reason to believe that in the scenario of escalating dominance with limited YAU, the risk of incompleteness and/or unreliability of data increases, which leads to greater psychological stress. The longer the exchange of blows goes on, the higher the risks of irrational behavior of the parties, and at the same time the likelihood of their unwillingness to retreat or respond inadequately increases.

6. The problem of assessing unacceptable damage and the limitations of a nuclear strike

An important point in assessing the possibility of a limited nuclear power plant is the assessment of unacceptable damage. In the 60s of the XX century, it was believed that the power of 400 Mt charges was sufficient to guarantee the destruction of the country (for example, the so-called McNamara criterion, see [59]). At the same time, the McNamara criterion was later reduced by half due to taking into account indirect damage to the economy[38]. In general, the concept of "unacceptable damage" is extremely vague[39], but in the context of this work it is not fundamental.

Let's assume that for the United States and China, the damage leading to guaranteed destruction is 200 Mt, but it is obvious that unacceptable risks for the leaders of both powers lie significantly lower than the damage from strikes with a capacity of 200 Mt. Even the damage is two orders of magnitude less than two dozen YABZ with an average capacity of 100 kt for AUG, military bases, etc. This, we believe, contains an unacceptable risk for any of the parties (disruption of global supply chains of goods in the Asia-Pacific region, a devastating psychological effect, a drop in stock market quotations, etc., in addition to direct military, political, economic, psychological and reputational damage). At the same time, in early estimates, unacceptable damage was reduced due to indirect damage to the economy. Consequently, in the conditions of intensive globalization, taking into account the indirect damage to the economy (taking into account the much greater interdependence of the current world economy compared to the situation in the 60s of the XX century) should be taken into account to a greater extent. This means that the amount of damage (primarily indirect) from a nuclear war, which carries unacceptable strategic risks to the attacker, has decreased for both the United States and China at the present time. Obviously, the potential damage leading to unacceptable strategic risks is significantly lower than the damage leading to guaranteed destruction. In fact, the second is an extreme form of the first.

Another question is how to evaluate the limitations of YAU. There are three main problems here:

1) what are the criteria for the limitation of YAU (by goals and means);

2) how does the American understanding of the limitations of YAU correlate with the Chinese;

3) the adequacy of the perception of the attacked YAU scale.

In other words, if the United States strikes China with five 100 kt nuclear weapons with a capacity of five objects, will China consider this strike limited? Or will this blow be massive for him, although the Americans consider it limited? Will the Chinese adequately assess the scale of the attack in conditions of incompleteness and/or unreliability of data, serious stress and lack of time? Will the PRC respond disproportionately to the US strike and will this provoke further escalation? The same applies to the USA. Thus, the need to take into account this risk is also a factor that prevents the attacker from making a decision about applying the first limited YAU.

If we combine the problem of damage leading to unacceptable strategic risks and the problem of assessing the limitations of nuclear weapons, then this gives grounds for the following conclusion. On the one hand, with the intensification of globalization, the total power of strikes leading to unacceptable damage decreases (due to the growth of indirect damage). On the other hand, there is the problem of the parties determining the limitations of the YAU. Therefore, in the conditions of intensive globalization, even a limited nuclear war can lead to damage leading to unacceptable strategic risks. Moreover, since such damage and the criteria of limited nuclear weapons are difficult to determine, it means that the probability increases that the damage from a limited nuclear war, even without taking into account possible escalation (meaning the scenario: the first limited strike ? limited retaliatory or OVU ? termination of the exchange) will be comparable to the damage from a massive strike, in which unacceptable damage is much more likely. In an escalating scenario, the probability of this will only increase. In fact, the retaliatory YAU (or OVU) of the attacked, comparable to the limited YAU of the attacker, may initially carry the risks of exchanging massive YAU. This is also due to the fact that the attacker is able to deliver a retaliatory / OVU, which the attacker will consider massive, although the attacked may consider his response limited.

In other words, as a result of globalization, there is a decrease in the power level of nuclear weapons capable of causing damage, leading to unacceptable strategic risks. Together with the complexity of determining the damage and assessing the scale of the YAU, this leads to the erosion of limited and massive YAU. It follows from this that damage leading to unacceptable strategic risks, in the conditions of blurring the boundary between limited and massive nuclear weapons, is able to prevent a limited nuclear war in the same way as before the risk of damage from a massive exchange of nuclear weapons prevented a full-scale nuclear war.

At the same time, we believe that with further globalization, the total capacity of nuclear power plants during their exchange, leading to unacceptable damage to the parties, will decrease, since indirect damage to the economy, etc., will increase with the growing interdependence of economies, the information environment, etc. This means that the blurring of the boundary between limited and massive nuclear war and the reduction of the damage of nuclear weapons leading to unacceptable damage due to the intensification of globalization can lead to the following. Unacceptable damage, previously calculated for a massive YAU, in the current conditions may correspond to a limited YAU. That is, for the attacker, the risk increases that the negative consequences of a limited nuclear war will become equivalent to the consequences of a massive nuclear war. In fact, if 20 years ago the USA and China had inflicted a total of 10 YAU with a total capacity of 100 kt on each other, they could have assessed such an exchange of YAU as limited. However, in the current conditions, the same nuclear power plants with the same total capacity would cause such direct and indirect (trade, economic, political, psychological, etc.) damage, as if 20 years ago the parties exchanged 10 nuclear power plants with a total capacity, for example, 500 kt. In the first case (20 years ago), the attacker could assess the risks as acceptable, and in the second (currently) ? as unacceptable. An alternative example. For example, in modern conditions, an exchange of blows with a total power of 100 kt is capable of causing unacceptable damage to the attacker (consists of direct and indirect damage). At the same time, 20 years ago, unacceptable damage to an attacker, let's assume, would correspond to an exchange of blows with a power of 1 Mt. This is due to the fact that the share of indirect damage in the conditions of intensive globalization has increased dramatically (see section 2). Therefore, the damage caused by the exchange of blows with a total power of 500 kt, 20 years ago, the attacker could have considered acceptable for himself, but at the present time, the damage caused by the exchange of blows with a total power of 500 kt would have been unacceptable for him. In two scenarios, the total power of the YAU would be the same, but the consequences are different. In the first case, the consequences could correspond to a limited nuclear war, and in the second ? a massive one, because the environment in which a nuclear war could be unleashed has changed.

7. The third-party factor Another factor complicating the assessment of the risks of a nuclear war between China and the United States, and thereby putting an additional barrier in the way of making a decision to unleash a nuclear war by any of the actors, is the factor of third parties.

There is no guarantee that in the case of a counter-force/counter-value or limited YAU, a third party will not interfere in the process of an attack at one stage or another. There is a risk of a third party (or parties) hitting China or the US ? whether targeted or unintentional. For example, how will Russia, which also possesses nuclear weapons, behave if intercontinental ballistic missiles, for example, the United States, fly over its territory? Does the Russian leadership interpret this fact as a threat to its security and will it react the way it should react in the event of a direct and obvious threat of a nuclear attack? Especially in case of a SPRN error that can lead to an OVU [7]. There are also no guarantees that Moscow does not interpret information about a strike, for example, by the United States on China as a distraction by the American leadership at the same time. In other words, Russia may consider that it is another (secondary) or genuine (main), but hidden target of a US strike, even if their leadership claims otherwise. The absence of nuclear war precedents forces these threats and risks to be taken into account to a greater extent than in a non-nuclear war, since in a nuclear war there are significantly fewer acceptable risks precisely because of the monstrous destructive ability of nuclear weapons and the destructive cascade effects of its use in conditions of intensive globalization.

It is also worth noting that there is a risk of provocation of escalation by other state actors in conjunction with non-state, for example, terrorist organizations. Let's assume an unlikely scenario when, at a certain point in the exchange of YAU, the United States and China decided to de-escalate and went to stop the fighting. However, there is a possibility that another State or non-State actor (or their union) may try to deliberately pit both sides to force them to continue the exchange of blows. Is this possible if we assume that the described option with stopping the escalation is still being implemented? Undoubtedly, it is possible, and there are no conditions that could exclude such a probability, which means that this risk is also included in the total number of the above risks. For example, if a third party is extremely hostile towards the United States (Iran, North Korea). Then there is a non-zero probability that directly or through their proxy structures (especially in the case of Iran, which trained about 200 thousand fighters on the territory of the Middle East and Central Asia back in 2016[40]) these actors will be able to "under a false flag" carry out sabotage against American strategic facilities outside The United States, and under certain circumstances, on their territory. In the conditions of the "fog of war" and an extremely tense atmosphere, even a small escalation on a global scale can provoke a nuclear re-escalation, violating a fragile truce. This is logical, since the United States (or, in the symmetrical case, China, if terrorists are used against it, for example, from the Islamic Movement of East Turkestan (a terrorist organization banned in Russia), which, according to a number of signs, is seriously influenced by Western intelligence services [41]) with a high degree of probability will not be able to reliably and in the shortest possible time determine whether whether China's attitude to this or its denial of its involvement will be perceived as a trick.

In addition, there is a risk of deliberate disinformation (through intelligence sources and technical channels, including cyber attacks) by third parties, which can convince China and/or the United States that the enemy is hatching plans to resume nuclear weapons. At the same time, provocations to pit the conflicting parties against other goals can be carried out without a de-escalation scenario, i.e. there may be an effect of strengthening the antagonism of the warring parties in the event of an already unleashed nuclear war, involving other participants in it. Despite the fact that a nuclear war, especially a full-scale one, is not beneficial for the actors of international relations, this does not exclude that in the event of its occurrence, some third party (for example, a non-state actor) will not decide to contribute to a limited escalation. There is a risk that provoking the continuation of the exchange of blows will bring benefits to the third party from its point of view, although such a calculation may be erroneous.

Finally, the current situation is significantly different from the situation in the bipolar era, since the United States believes that for the first time in history their country is simultaneously facing two potential equal strategic adversaries with nuclear weapons, which need to be restrained in different ways[42]. The actions of each of them separately or coordinated (for example, Russia and China) increase uncertainty.

Conclusions With that said, it can be concluded that the observed increase in the number of studies, statements by military officials and experts about the possibility of a nuclear war between China and the United States is also due to the fact that factors preventing the implementation of a nuclear war by the initiator actor - limited and even more so full?scale - are not taken into account.

Among the main strategic risks preventing a nuclear war between China and the United States, we will highlight the following:

? the high interdependence of countries in trade, economic, information and technological relations reduces the likelihood of the first YAU;

? any YAU, including a limited one, immediately brings escalation to an extremely high level, automatically preventing de-escalation, even if both sides were ready for it and aspired to it;

? the "fog of war" effect, when mutually exclusive and incomplete intelligence, their contradictory interpretation, as well as deliberate misinformation are able to disrupt the truce, which in itself creates an unacceptable risk in scenarios of a counter-force strike and escalatory dominance in a limited nuclear war;

? the practical impossibility of a disarming strike (counter-force strategy) by Beijing and Washington actually excludes this scenario;

? lack of confidence that the attacker will adequately assess the damage inflicted on him in the case of limited YAU, which can lead to a disproportionate response and provoke an escalation;

? in conditions of intensive globalization, the boundary between limited and massive nuclear power is erased when the total power of nuclear power is reduced, corresponding to unacceptable damage to the parties;

? the threshold of massive YAU is reduced;

? a limited YAU in its consequences may be comparable to a massive YAU, with unacceptable risks for an attacker;

? the factor of third parties who can incorrectly assess the attacker's intentions or disrupt the truce during the exchange of massive nuclear weapons or in the scenario of a limited nuclear war between China and the United States.

All the listed risks in a non-nuclear war radically increase in a nuclear war, which in conditions of strong interdependence of countries in itself has a powerful deterrent effect even before it begins. We believe that a nuclear war between China and the United States as an extreme way to resolve existing and emerging new contradictions will not really be unleashed, but there is always a residual risk of nuclear war, no matter how small it may be.

Final conclusions. Alarmist statements by some military officials and analysts regarding a significant increase in the likelihood of a nuclear war between China and the United States should be taken skeptically. The specifics of intensive globalization, the complexity of escalation management, the risks of incomplete/unreliable information and deliberate misinformation, the blurring of the boundary between limited and massive nuclear weapons, the presence of third parties and the problems of China's inclusion in the nuclear weapons control treaty prevent a nuclear war (limited or full-scale) even before its initiation. These risks are a powerful factor preventing nuclear war. However, this conclusion cannot be regarded as the need to abandon the improvement of the existing arms control system to prevent a war between China and the United States. On the contrary, it seems that the updated system will further reduce the likelihood of a nuclear war, but for this it is necessary to seek the inclusion of strategic non?nuclear weapons in new treaties (in the Russia? China-USA triangle). In addition, it is necessary to involve China in the treaty, but it must be said bluntly that it is unlikely to achieve this in the foreseeable future.

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[5] the Representative of the Chinese Embassy in the US issued a statement in connection with the statement of U.S. Secretary of state Blinken about "Supporting Taiwan's participation in the system of the United Nations" (?????????????????????????????????) // Embassy of the People's Republic of China in the United States of America. 26.10.2021. Access: http://www.china-embassy.org/chn/sgzhichuang/t1917068.htm (date of application: 12.11.2021).

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[9] See: Ferdinando L. Three-Carrier Strike Force Conducts Exercise in Western Pacific // Department of Defense. 13.11.2017. Available at: https://www.defense.gov/News/News-Stories/Article/Article/1370807/three-carrier-strike-force-conducts-exercise-in-western-pacific/ (accessed: 11.02.2022).

[10] Martin D. Available at: Exclusive: No. 2 in U.S. military reveals new details about China's hypersonic weapons test // CBS News. 16.11.2021. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/china-hypersonic-weapons-test-details-united-states-military/ (accessed: 11.02.2022).

[11] Copp. T. It Failed Miserably: After Wargaming Loss, Joint Chiefs Are Overhauling How the US Military Will Fight // Defense One. 26.06.2021. Available at: https://www.defenseone.com/policy/2021/07/it-failed-miserably-after-wargaming-loss-joint-chiefs-are-overhauling-how-us-military-will-fight/184050/ (accessed: 11.02.2022).

[12] Richard C. Forging 21st-Century Strategic Deterrence // Proceedings. 02.2021. Available at: https://www.usni.org/magazines/proceedings/2021/february/forging-21st-century-strategic-deterrence (accessed: 11.02.2022). Also see the speech of Ch . Richard at the Von Braun Center at the "Symposium on Space and Missile Defense": Richard C. Space and Missile Defense Symposium // U.S. Strategic Command. 12.08.2021. Available at: https://www.stratcom.mil/Media/Speeches/Article/2742875/space-and-missile-defense-symposium / (accessed: 02/11/2022).

[13] In particular, the report of the Czech military intelligence: V?ro?n? zpr?vy o ?innosti Vojensk?ho zpravodajstv? za rok 2019 // Ministerstvo obrany ?esk? republiky. 2020. Available at: https://www.vzcr.cz/uploads/41-Vyrocni-zprava-o-cinnosti-VZ-za-rok-2019.pdf (accessed: 15.11.2021). In addition, former UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Sha Zukang urged the Chinese leadership to be ready to be the first to use nuclear weapons to counter the new alliances being created by the United States. See: Pleasance C. China 'must be prepared to make the FIRST nuclear strike' in response to growing US presence in the region and AUKUS strategic partnership, senior diplomat declares // Daily Mail. 24.10.2021. Available at: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10024535/China-prepared-strike-using-nukes-diplomat-says.html (accessed: 15.11.2021).

[14] Joint Leaders Statement on AUKUS // The White House. 15.09.2021. Available at: https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/09/15/joint-leaders-statement-on-aukus/ (accessed: 14.11.2021).

[15] Williams J. France to bill Australia over canceled submarine deal // The Hill. 23.09.2021. Available at: https://thehill.com/policy/international/europe/573553-france-to-bill-australia-over-canceled-submarine-deal (accessed: 14.11.2021).

[16] Niblett R. AUKUS reveals much about the new global strategic context // Chatham House. 18.09.2021. Available at: https://www.chathamhouse.org/2021/09/aukus-reveals-much-about-new-global-strategic-context (accessed: 14.11.2021).

[17] Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian's Regular Press Conference on September 22, 2021 // Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the People's Republic of China. 22.10.2021. Available at: https://www.fmprc.gov.cn/mfa_eng/xwfw_665399/s2510_665401/t1908814.shtml (accessed: 14.11.2021).

[18] For example: Ripley W., Cheung E., Westcot B. Taiwan's President says the threat from China is increasing 'every day' and confirms the presence of US military trainers on the island // CNN. 28.10.2021. Available at: https://edition.cnn.com/2021/10/27/asia/tsai-ingwen-taiwan-china-interview-intl-hnk/index.html (accessed: 13.11.2021); Stavridis J. Four Ways a China-U.S. War at Sea Could Play Out // Bloomberg. 26.04.2021. Available at: https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2021-04-25/u-s-china-sea-war-could-spread-to-japan-australia-india (accessed: 13.11.2021).

[19] The release of the geopolitical thriller "2034: A Novel about the Next World War", which caused a wide resonance, is noteworthy. The authors are Marine Corps Officer Elliot Ackerman and Admiral James Stavridis, in which they consider the collision between the United States and China in the South China Sea in 2034. See: Ackerman E., Stavridis J. 2034: A Novel of the Next World War. New York: Penguin Press, 2021.

[20] For example: China won't accept US hegemonic acts in the South China Sea: Global Times editorial // Global Times. 08.09.2021. Available at: https://www.globaltimes.cn/page/202109/1233756.shtml (accessed: 11/13/2021); Jun M. China's military must spend more to meet US war threat // South China Morning Post. 08.03.2021. Available at: https://www.scmp.com/news/china/politics/article/3124591/chinas-military-must-spend-more-meet-us-war-threat (accessed: 13.11.2021).

[21] See: This led to discussions among specialists, for example, [13-15]. Also see: Thompson L. Why The Air Forces Plan For Fighting China Could Make Nuclear War More Likely // Forbes. 15.06.2021. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/lorenthompson/2021/06/15/why-the-air-forces-plan-for-fighting-china-could-make-nuclear-war-more-likely/?sh=1964f59824b1 (accessed: 15.11.2021); Talmadge C. The U.S.-China Nuclear Relationship: Growing Escalation Risks and Implications for the Future // Testimony to the U.S.-China Economic & Security Review Commission. 10.06.2021. Available at: https://www.uscc.gov/sites/default/files/2021-06/Caitlin_Talmadge_Testimony.pdf (accessed: 12.02.2022).

[22] Thus, sinologist N. Vavilov believes that Australia as part of AUKUS "will be sacrificed" in a nuclear war with China. See: N. Vavilov. What made China threaten the West with a nuclear war // Nikolay Vavilov YouTube channel. 08.10.2021. Access: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XVuCJrHqhnw&ab_channel=%D0%9D%D0%B8%D0%BA%D0%BE%D0%BB%D0%B0%D0%B9%D0%92%D0%B0%D0%B2%D0%B8%D0%BB%D0%BE%D0%B2 (accessed: 15.11.2021). V. Kashin stated about the high risk of a conflict between the United States and China over Taiwan. See: Skosyrev V. The Chinese nuclear club is scarier for America than the Russian one // Independent newspaper. Accessed: 03.02.2021. https://www.ng.ru/world/2021-02-03/6_8073_usa.html (accessed: 12.02.2022). See also interview with K. Sivkov: Gundarova L. "Konstantin Sivkov: "The United States is planning a small nuclear war and is preparing for it right now"" // Weekly "Zvezda". Access: https://zvezdaweekly.ru/news/20219241446-LwJ6y.html (accessed: 02/13/2022).

[23] Pryakhin V. The Trap of Thucydides // Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Of the Russian Federation. 24.08.2020. Access: https://www.mid.ru/about/social_organizations/association/-/asset_publisher/w6CkLeKcy2bQ/content/id/4296127 (accessed: 11/21/2021).

[24] For criticism of G. Allison's work, for example, see: [25-27].

[25] Also see: China's National Defense in 2010 // State Council Information Office. 03.2011. Available at: http://english.www.gov.cn/archive/white_paper/2014/09/09/content_281474986284525.htm (accessed: 13.02.2022).

[26] See T. Schelling's work "Strategy of Conflict", published in 1960 [32].

[27] In accordance with the definition of B. H. Liddell Garth, "the goal of war is to achieve a better, if only from your point of view, the state of the world after the war" [33].

[28] Thus, according to the Pentagon document "Military and Security Developments Involving the People's Republic of China", the PRC "may have already created an emerging "nuclear triad" with the development of an air-launched ballistic missile with nuclear warheads and the improvement of its land- and sea-based nuclear capabilities." In addition, according to the US Defense Department, "the accelerating pace of China's nuclear expansion may allow China to have up to 700 nuclear warheads by 2027. The PRC probably intends to have at least 1,000 warheads by 2030, which will exceed the pace and size projected by the Ministry of Defense in 2020." See: Military and Security Developments Involving the People's Republic of China // U.S. Department of Defense. 2021. Available at: https://media.defense .gov/2021/Nov/03/2002885874/-1/-1/0/2021-CMPR-FINAL.PDF (accessed: 20.11.2021). At the same time , according to the assessment of X. Christensen and M. Cord, the PRC's total stock of warheads for 2020 was estimated at 350 units. See: [34]. Even considering that at the beginning of 2021, the United States had "about 1,800 warheads deployed, of which approximately 1,400 strategic warheads are deployed on ballistic missiles and another 300 on strategic bomber bases in the United States. Another 100 tactical bombs are deployed at air bases in Europe. The remaining warheads ? about 2,000 ? are stored as so-called insurance against technical or geopolitical surprises" [35], this may not be enough to launch a counter-force strike against the PRC. As China builds up its military-strategic potential (primarily nuclear potential), the possibilities for a counter-force strike from the United States will decrease.

[29] This conclusion is consistent with the conclusions of G. Kissinger, who believed that an unlimited nuclear war would have the same consequences for both the winner and the defeated [36].

[30] Nuclear Posture Review Report // Federation of American Scientists. 08.01.2002. Available at: https://uploads.fas.org/media/Excerpts-of-Classified-Nuclear-Posture-Review.pdf (accessed: 13.02.2022).

[31] Hersman R., Rodgers J. Reading the Nuclear Tea Leaves: Policy and Posture in the Biden Administration // Center for Strategic and International Studies. 14.06.2021. Available at: https://www.csis.org/analysis/reading-nuclear-tea-leaves-policy-and-posture-biden-administration (accessed: 14.02.2022).

[32] Warden J. Conventional-Nuclear Integration in the Next National Defense Strategy // Center for a New American Security. 26.10.2020. Available at: https://www.cnas.org/publications/commentary/conventional-nuclear-integration-in-the-next-national-defense-strategy (accessed: 14.02.2022).

[33] On the readiness of the United States to improve operational space forces, see the Nuclear Posture Review of 2018 // Department of Defense. 2018. Available at: https://media.defense.gov/2018/Feb/02/2001872886/-1/-1/1/2018-NUCLEAR-POSTURE-REVIEW-FINAL-REPORT.PDF (accessed: 14.02.2022).

[34] Laird B. War Control: Chinese Writing on the Control of Escalation in Crisis and Conflict // Center for a New American Security. 04.2017. Available at: https://s3.us-east-1.amazonaws.com/files.cnas.org/documents/CNASReport-ChineseDescalation-Final.pdf?mtime=20170328141457&focal=none (accessed: 13.02.2022).

[35] The issues of decision-making in international relations, including a two-level analysis of the decision-making process, were studied, in particular, in the works: [50, pp. 70-74; 51-53].

[36] For games with incomplete information, see [56, 57]. Also, the case under discussion is close to the game of silent bargaining (according to T. Schelling), i.e. "bargaining when communication is incomplete or impossible." See [32, p. 73].

[37] Saalman L. Fear of false negatives: AI and Chinas nuclear posture // Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. 24.04.2018. Available at: https://thebulletin.org/2018/04/fear-of-false-negatives-ai-and-chinas-nuclear-posture/ (accessed: 15.02.2022).

[38] Fenenko A.V. Changing the role of the nuclear factor in modern international relations (military-political and institutional aspects): diss. ... doctor. polit. sciences: 23.00.04 : protected. 04.06.18. ? Moscow State in-t International. Relations, Moscow, 2018. p. 103.

[39] Burenok V., Pechatnov Yu. Unacceptable damage // Independent Military Review. 08.02.2013. Access: https://nvo.ng.ru/concepts/2013-02-08/1_zerofication.html (accessed: 02/15/2022).

[40] IRGC Commander: ISIL Causes Increasing Awareness in Regional States // Fars News Agency. 12.01.2016. Available at: https://www.farsnews.ir/en/news/13941022001355/en/Arcive (accessed: 23.11.2021).

[41] Thus, the report "Xinjiang: China's Western Frontier in the Heart of Eurasia" notes that the US special services, as well as related structures like the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), have been covertly controlling Uighurs living abroad for decades. At the present time, the NED plays the same role that the CIA played during the Cold War, actively promoting separatism of "East Turkestan". See: Xinjiang: China's western frontier in the heart of Eurasia // Australian Alert Service. 11.202003.2021. Available at: https://citizensparty.org.au/sites/default/files/2021-05/xinjiang-series.pdf (accessed: 16.02.2022). In addition, for how the US government supports and subsidizes Uighur extremist organizations through the NED, see: Things to know about all the lies on Xinjiang: How have they come about? // Embassy of the People's Republic of China in the Cooperative Republic of Guyana 28.04.2021. Available at: https://www.mfa.gov.cn/ce/cegy//eng/zgyw/t1872249.htm (accessed: 17.02.2022). For the CIA's sponsorship of the "Islamic Movement of East Turkestan", see [60].

[42] Richard C. Space and Missile Defense Symposium // U.S. Strategic Command. 12.08.2021. Available at: https://www.stratcom.mil/Media/Speeches/Article/2742875/space-and-missile-defense-symposium/ (accessed: 18.02.2022).


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The subject of the peer-reviewed study is a very interesting topic of strategic risks, due to which potential participants in a nuclear war refuse to use the first nuclear strike. The huge arsenal of nuclear weapons traditionally accumulated in the world, as well as the uncontrolled expansion of the member States of the "nuclear club", are themselves considered serious risks for humanity. The author of the reviewed article suggests the opposite course of thought to explore those strategic risks that minimize the risk of nuclear war. These include the possibility of uncontrolled escalation, disproportionate response, factors of globalization, incompleteness and unreliability of information, etc. The author rightly points to the sharply increased relevance of the topic under study in recent years due to the observed increase in tension between the towering China and the United States trying to maintain world leadership. Unfortunately, the author did not pay enough attention to theoretical and methodological reflection, except for a few remarks made in passing that the approach used in the research process fits into the context of the analysis of the risks of nuclear war by some domestic authors (A.G. Arbatov, V.Z. Dvorkin, A.S. Zelenkova, S.K. Oznobishchev, etc.), as well as foreign ones From the context, it can be understood that, in addition to general scientific analytical methods, the author used case study tools, scenario approach, historical and institutional methods as a methodological basis. The correct application of this methodology allowed us to obtain results with signs of scientific novelty. First of all, (as already noted above) the approach to the problem of assessing the threat of nuclear war by studying the risks that prevent the implementation of the first nuclear strike by the initiator actor is interesting. Based on the results of the study, the author wrote out and justified nine such risks: the high interdependence of countries in the context of globalization, the effect of the "fog of war", the practical impossibility of a disarming strike, etc. The author rightly points out the fact that these risks are a powerful factor preventing nuclear war, therefore alarmist statements by various military and political analysts should be taken with a fair amount of skepticism. No less interesting is the author's conclusion that the updated arms control system, taking into account the changes in international relations that have taken place over the past decades, will further reduce the likelihood of nuclear war. Structurally, the article also makes a positive impression: its logic is consistent and reproduces the main points of the research, and the structural elements are categorized. The following sections are highlighted in the text: - "Introduction", which characterizes the relevance and sets the objectives of the study, defines the categorical apparatus, and suggests (unnecessarily!) a brief description of the conceptual context of the study; - "1.Prerequisites for strategic escalation between China and the United States", where, based on an analysis of the factors of potential nuclear escalation between the countries under consideration, it was concluded that there is a low probability of such an escalation; - "2.The main causes of nuclear war and the factor of globalization", which shows the deterrent factor of globalization, which increases the interdependence of the countries of the modern world; - "3. Nuclear war scenarios", which analyzes the potential and degree of realism of the two main scenarios of a possible nuclear war, as well as strategic risks preventing the implementation of these scenarios; - in the following four sections ("4. Factors of deferred risks and elite consensus", "5. Low probability of de-escalation and the "fog of war"", "6. The problem of assessing unacceptable damage and the limitation of a nuclear strike", "7. The third-party factor"), four of the key strategic risks that deter actors from the use of nuclear weapons; - "Conclusions", which summarizes the results of the study and outlines further prospects for the development of this topic. The style of the article can also be evaluated positively: it is a scientific work written quite competently, in good scientific language, with the correct use of scientific terminology. The bibliography includes 59 titles, including publications in foreign languages, and sufficiently represents the state of research on the topic of the article. The appeal to the opponents takes place in terms of discussing the likelihood of a nuclear war. GENERAL CONCLUSION: the article submitted for review can be qualified as a scientific work that meets the requirements for works of this kind. The results obtained by the author correspond to the topic of the journal "World Politics" and will be of interest to political scientists, sociologists, conflict scientists, specialists in the field of public administration, national security, world politics and international relations, as well as students of these specialties. According to the results of the review, the article is recommended for publication.
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