The thesis investigates the role of nuclear signaling by adopting a comparative case study approach to compare between two nuclear alert crises that occurred during the Cold War and two nuclear alert crises that occurred post-Cold War. The case studies included are as follows: the 1969 US nuclear alert; the 1973 Middle East nuclear alert; the 2017 US-North Korean nuclear alert; and the 2022 Russian nuclear alert. I investigate why leaders choose to employ this tactic despite its conspicuous dangers, and more importantly, I draw comparisons and similarities between the case studies to analyze how the Cold War nuclear alert crises can be compared to those after the Cold War ended.

During this investigation, I coin a new nuclear term: “nuclear bluff learning”. This term refers to how each successive nuclear alerting leader learns from the past nuclear alerts and employs their own new tactics to further evolve the game of nuclear signaling and further their leverage in a conflict. Some nuclear ‘bluffs’ have been unsuccessful in achieving the outcomes they were intended to produce, and yet leaders continue to use this tactic by learning from mistakes of the past and transforming it to serve their interests.


School of Humanities and Social Sciences


Political Science Department

Degree Name

MA in Political Science

Graduation Date

Summer 6-2023

Submission Date


First Advisor

Dr. Marco Pinfari

Committee Member 1

Dr. Mirjam Edel

Committee Member 2

Dr. Karim Haggag


171 p.

Document Type

Master's Thesis

Institutional Review Board (IRB) Approval

Approval has been obtained for this item