Mutual Threat: The Cold War Game

Uri Weiss*, Joseph Agassi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


What must be avoided during a cold war? The reply of Bertrand Russel (1959) was that the game of chicken must be avoided. He described the game between the USSR and US as a super-game in which every country can refuse playing the (repeat) game of chicken. We will discuss some subsets of the chicken game: the simultaneous one versus the sequential one, one with free information and one without free information, one with an option of communication versus one without this option. Some games are clearly much more dangerous than others; they can be prevented easily by the flow of credible information. We will also contrast the replies of Schelling (1960) and (2006), who supported MAD strategy, with that of Ellsberg (1968). Schelling and Aumann have proposed to apply the strategy of attacking if and only if the other side attacks, while Ellsberg has pointed out that the commitment to attack with big enough probability is sufficient in order to prevent the other side from attacking. (Ellsberg actually proposed to minimize the price of deterrence, while Schelling did not see the price). We argue that Russel’s proposal is better, and Ellsberg’s is a better choice of the plan of action in the bad game. We propose that even small changes in the choice of the chicken game may make the game less risky. There are many variants of the chicken game, some are much less risky than the others, and some changes of the game can be done with ease.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationStudies in Systems, Decision and Control
PublisherSpringer Science and Business Media Deutschland GmbH
Number of pages16
StatePublished - 2023

Publication series

NameStudies in Systems, Decision and Control
ISSN (Print)2198-4182
ISSN (Electronic)2198-4190


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