From ArticleWorld

Brinkmanship is the practice, used to effect in diplomacy, of threatening the worst possible actions or consequences in order to prevent an opponent from doing worse. That is, taking a situation to the brink so the worst case scenario is visible to all, making them step back. The deterrence idea behind nuclear proliferation is often cited as a case of brinkmanship. Countries with nuclear weapons hold a threat that they can wave if and when they wish, but they also will nearly always refrain from using it, because the consequences are deemed too terrible. Brinkmanship is generally considered a slippery slope, because as the provocations or threats become more extreme, there are more chances that something will go wrong, triggering the exact reaction that 'no one expects'.

The term became common parlance, and the strategy widely recognized, during the 1950s when at the height of the Cold War United States Secretary of State John Foster Dulles advocated such a strategy against the Soviet Union. Notable instances of brinkmanship since then have included the Cuban missile crisis, repeated skirmishes and nuclear build-up between India and Pakistan, North Korean nuclear threats in the 2000s, rows between Japan and China over Japanese history textbooks and Japanese head of state vists to a war shrine.

Sabre-rattling is a term similar to brinkmanship, and Bertrand Russell compared the practice to the children's game of chicken.