Brinkmanship is the policy or practice of pushing a dangerous situation to the brink of disaster in order to achieve the most advantageous outcome. It occurs in international politics, foreign policy and (in contemporary settings) in military strategy involving the threatened use of nuclear weapons.

This maneuver of pushing a situation to the brink succeeds by forcing the opposition to back down and make concessions. This might be achieved through diplomatic maneuvers by creating the impression that one is willing to use extreme methods rather than concede. During the Cold War, the threat of nuclear force was often used as such an escalating measure.

The term brinkmanship was introduced during the Cold War by United States Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, who advocated such a policy against the Soviet Union. In an article published in Life Magazine, Dulles defined the policy of brinkmanship as “the ability to get to the verge without getting into the war.” His critics blamed him for damaging relations with communist states and contributing to the Cold War.

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