Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



Security Studies



Publication Title

Strategic Stability: Contending Interpretations


There is no question that Europe was the focal point for American strategy during the Cold War. From the end of World War II to the fall of the Berlin Wall, the European continent witnessed the largest buildup of military forces in human history. As a result, arms control became an invaluable diplomatic tool for ensuring stability between the superpower blocs and preserving Alliance solidarity. In this regard, “stability” is defined as the absence of war, and any nation wielding predominant power is considered stable. John Lewis Gaddis describes a “stable system” as generally being characterized by minimal direct violence, particularly between the superpowers. A stable system has methods to peacefully resolve disputes and ensure that low level disputes do not escalate to larger crises. In a larger sense, a system might be stable if it is self-regulating in the sense that the principal members establish the means, including agreed procedures, to counteract pressures that might jeopardize peace and further agreed procedures to resolve disputes.


This published version is made available on Dickinson Scholar with the permission of the publisher. For more information on the published version, visit The Strategic Studies Institute's Website.