Who will become a chicken: Beijing or Moscow? | Eurasia Diary - ednews.net

15 May, Saturday

Who will become a chicken: Beijing or Moscow?

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The game of chicken, also known as the hawk–dove game or snowdrift game, is a model of conflict for two players in game theory. The principle of the game is that while the outcome is ideal for one player to yield (to avoid the worst outcome if neither yields), but the individuals try to avoid it out of pride for not wanting to look like a 'chicken'. So each player taunts the other to increase the risk of shame in yielding. However, when one player yields, the conflict is avoided, and the game is for the most part over.

The name "chicken" has its origins in a game in which two drivers drive towards each other on a collision course: one must swerve, or both may die in the crash, but if one driver swerves and the other does not, the one who swerved will be called a "chicken", meaning a coward; this terminology is most prevalent in political science and economics. The name "hawk–dove" refers to a situation in which there is a competition for a shared resource and the contestants can choose either conciliation or conflict; this terminology is most commonly used in biology and evolutionary game theory. From a game-theoretic point of view, "chicken" and "hawk–dove" are identical; the different names stem from parallel development of the basic principles in different research areas. The game has also been used to describe the mutual assured destruction of nuclear warfare, especially the sort of brinkmanship involved in the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The game of chicken is inspired by the 1955 American movie “Rebel Without a Cause.” In the “Chickie Run” scene of the film, two rebel teenagers drag race their cars into a cliff at full speed. The first to swerve in this extremely dangerous race will be branded as a chicken. If both drivers do not swerve, they'll be rolling into the abyss together. A tie would ensue if both swerve at the same time. Thus, the two parties won’t be able to call each other chicken. These Rebel Without a Cause racing scenes serve as a metaphor widely used to discuss the risks of military escalation between the great powers.

The thing is what is transpiring in the Southern China and Black seas is not a movie screening. The possibility that a surprise conflict could erupt between superpowers may lead to a regional or mini-world war. We witnessed a similar escalation in 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis that brought the U.S. and the Soviet Union to the brink of nuclear war. American and Soviet warships were about to clash in the Atlantic Ocean. Washington and Moscow simultaneously swerved and avoided an all-out war. Had they not blinked at the last second, nuclear heads were about to be simultaneously fired by the Soviets and Americans from Cuba and Turkey respectively.

Relations between Moscow and Washington are indeed not in the best condition lately. Even the Russian Foreign Ministry did not rule out that the interaction of the two states had reached a tipping point, especially due to the sanctions pressure from the United States and consistent accusations against Moscow.

One of the main results of the second telephone conversation between the presidents of Russia and the United States was a proposal to organize their personal meeting in a third country. Briefly describing the talks between the two leaders, in addition to possible contacts at the highest level, they discussed the escalation of the conflict in Donbass, Putin's invitation to the American climate summit at the end of April and a number of other issues on the global and regional agenda.

At the same time, Washington almost immediately made it clear that Biden's call to Putin does not mean a change in the American approach towards Russia.

Moreover, relations between Biden and Putin also cannot be called positive; contacts between the two leaders were mostly in question after in March the head of the White House actually called his Russian counterpart a "murderer." The response to this was the recall of the Russian ambassador from Washington, he remains in Moscow to this day.

The U.S. decision to dispatch two warships to the Black Sea this upcoming week is seen as yet another game of chicken. It is being described as the “New Game of Chicken” of the “New Cold War.” Russia's military buildup on the eastern Ukrainian border indicates that the “frozen” war there could thaw again. Ukraine wants to join NATO as soon as possible, however, this is a red line for Russia. European members of NATO do not look too kindly on Ukraine's NATO membership. Meanwhile, U.S. anti-Russia hawks want Ukraine to join the powerful alliance.

Biden had previously used the word “killer” to describe Putin. Russia amassing troops near the borders of Eastern Ukraine is seen as an attempt to test how far the Biden administration is willing to go. As in a “Game of Chicken,” attempts to probe for responses could result in surprising developments.

It is not expected that the U.S. and Russia would go to war over Ukraine. Nor is it likely that European countries would take up arms for Kiev. Europe is likely to rear its head when both the U.S. and Russia simultaneously pull the brakes. Attempts to test the waters may lead to the state of conflict in Eastern Ukraine to continue for a while longer.

by Alimusa Ibrahimov

Alimusa Ibrahimov is a political expert and lecturer at the International Relations department of Baku State University. 


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