Date of Graduation

Summer 2021


Master of Science in Defense and Strategic Studies


Defense and Strategic Studies

Committee Chair

Jared McKinney


The re-emergence of great power competition has brought with it a U.S. government-wide initiative to reclaim and strengthen advantage and influence across all elements of national power. Competition is considered necessary to secure American interests and protect the existing liberal international order, as well as uphold deterrence by enhancing the nation’s ability to impose costs and deny benefits. This view, however, neglects a critical factor in deterrence: the cost of restraint, which reflects the acceptability of the status quo. Paradoxically, the more successful the nation is at “competition,” the less likely it may be in important deterrence situations. Successful diplomatic and economic competition, in particular, can actually undermine a state’s vital security imperatives, thereby raising its cost of restraint to an unacceptable level undermining deterrence. This argument is illustrated by an empirical dissection of Russia’s 2014 decision to annex Crimea and examination of the conditions surrounding Japan’s decision to attack Pearl Harbor. The thesis concludes with insights for today’s great power rivalry with China, principally that excelling at strategic competition may result in strategic deterrence failure for the United States or its likeminded allies and partners.


great power competition, strategic competition, deterrence, cost of restraint, tension

Subject Categories

Defense and Security Studies | International Relations


© Kayse Jansen

Open Access