Testing the Nuclear Stability-Instability Paradox Using Synthetic Control Method

Image: International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons [CC/Flickr]

Event details

Department of International Relations Seminar

Date & time

Friday 23 March 2018


SDSC Reading Room, Hedley Bull Centre (130), corner of Garran Road and Liversidge Street, ANU


Professor Benjamin E. Goldsmith, ANU


Bell School

Does acquisition of nuclear weapons by security rivals increase their level of conventional militarised conflict? Some recent theoretical and quantitative work has supported the ‘stability-instability paradox’, the proposition that while nuclear weapons deter nuclear war, they may also provide the conditions for nuclear-armed rivals to increase conventional military conflict with each other. However, other quantitative analysis and qualitative studies of the India–Pakistan dyad have delivered more equivocal assessments. Potentially relevant dyads such as China–India have not received as much attention. Empirical tests of the stability-instability paradox lack clearly relevant counter-factual cases for comparison, and are vulnerable to a number of problems that might greatly reduce their validity, including selection on the dependent variable, unintentionally biased inference, extrapolation to irrelevant cases, and endogeneity. A promising method for valid comparison when fully relevant control cases are lacking is synthetic control. In this seminar we apply it to international conflict between India and Pakistan, India and China, and North Korea and the US, before and after nuclearisation. We do not find support for the paradox as a general theory, but find tentative support within certain scope conditions.

Please note, this seminar is based on research conducted by Dr Francesco Bailo (University of Sydney) and Professor Goldsmith.

Professor Benjamin E. Goldsmith is Australian Research Council Future Fellow in the School of Politics and International Relations at the Australian National University. His research and teaching are in the areas of international relations, comparative foreign policy, and atrocity forecasting. He is the author of the book Imitation in International Relations: Observational Learning, Analogies, and Foreign Policy in Russia and Ukraine, as well as articles in leading academic journals including European Journal of International Relations, Journal of Conflict Resolution, Journal of Peace Research, Journal of Politics, Quarterly Journal of Political Science, and World Politics.

Updated:  24 March 2023/Responsible Officer:  Bell School Marketing Team/Page Contact:  CAP Web Team