Policy of deliberate ambiguity

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A policy of deliberate ambiguity (also known as a policy of strategic ambiguity, strategic uncertainty) is the practice by a country of being intentionally ambiguous on certain aspects of its foreign policy. It may be useful if the country has contrary foreign and domestic policy goals or if it wants to take advantage of risk aversion to abet a deterrence strategy. Such a policy can be very risky as it may cause misinterpretation of a nation's intentions, leading to actions that contradict that nation's wishes.


Beijing and Taipei[edit]




  • In early April 2015, an editorial in the British newspaper The Times, with a reference to semi-official sources within the Russian military and intelligence establishment, opined that Russia's warnings of its alleged preparedness for a nuclear response to certain non-nuclear acts on the part of NATO, were to be construed as "an attempt to create strategic uncertainty" to undermine Western concerted security policy.[2]

United Kingdom[edit]

United States[edit]

  • Whether it would retaliate to a chemical or biological attack with nuclear weapons; specifically, during the Persian Gulf War.
  • Whether it would defend the Republic of China (Taiwan) in the event of an attack by the People's Republic of China (China). This policy was intended to discourage both a unilateral declaration of independence by ROC leaders and an invasion of Taiwan by the PRC. The United States seemingly abandoned strategic ambiguity in 2001 after then president George W. Bush stated that he would "do whatever it takes" to defend Taiwan.[3] He later used more ambiguous language, stating in 2003 that "The United States policy is one China".[4]
  • Whether certain United States Navy surface ships, such as destroyers, carry nuclear weapons. This led to a New Zealand ban of US Navy ships from its ports. (Besides that, the US has many ballistic missile submarines which are acknowledged to be equipped with nuclear warheads.)
  • Whether Israel has nuclear weapons. By not stating that it does, the US avoids having to sanction Israel for violating American anti-proliferation law.[5]

East and West Germany[edit]

After West Germany gave up its "Hallstein Doctrine" of ending diplomatic relations with any country recognizing East Germany (thus implicitly following a "one Germany policy"), West Germany turned to a policy of de facto recognizing East Germany in the 1970s, despite still maintaining several policies in accordance with the legal fiction of there being only one Germany.

East German citizens were treated as West German citizens upon arrival in West Germany and exports to East Germany were treated as if they were domestic trade. That created a deliberately ambiguous policy that reconciled the demand by the rest of the world for West Germany to acknowledge the existence of East Germany and the desire by the vast majority of West German politicians to avoid recognizing German partition as permanent.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Why Did the United States Invade Iraq in 2003?". 25 October 2012. 
  2. ^ "From Russia with Menace". The Times. 2 April 2015. Retrieved 2 April 2015. 
  3. ^ "Bush vows 'whatever it takes' to defend Taiwan". CNN TV. 2001-04-25. Retrieved 2007-02-05. 
  4. ^ "Bush Opposes Taiwan Independence". Fox News. 2003-12-09. Retrieved 2016-02-18. 
  5. ^ Cohen, Abner; Burr, William (2016-12-08). "What the U.S. Government Really Thought of Israel's Apparent 1979 Nuclear Test". Politico. 


Eisenberg, Eric M (2007), Strategic ambiguities: Essays on communication, organization, and identity, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage .

External links[edit]