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By almost pure luck the wizards/scientists of Empire A made a gigantic breakthrough that allowed them to create a weapon able to destroy the world, i.e. the one and the only planet on which Empire A and Empire B are located. They were lucky because there was only one correct path in their discovery and endless false ones and by sheer luck they managed to choose the correct one. Otherwise, exhausting even half of possible dead ends would take about a decade of intensive well-funded research.

The wizards/scientists are sure that the weapon will destroy the whole world because they know how the weapon is supposed to work (the weapon has never been activated, as it would destroy the world). The government of Empire A has no reason to distrust its wizards/scientists on that. Empire A knows that Empire B wants to completely destroy Empire A (although it's mutual, Empire A also wants to destroy Empire B), so the weapon will allow Empire A to survive even if war goes really poorly, as Empire A will threaten to activate the weapon in that event ("We don't value the existence of this world if it will exist without us").

The problem? They need to convince the Government of Empire B that they really have this doomsday weapon. Obviously Empire A can't activate the weapon to demonstrate it in action. Of course they could just give the blueprints of the weapon to wizards/scientists of Empire B, so they would confirm that the weapon really works the way Empire A claims it works. But then it would not take Empire B long to produce the same weapon, thus foiling the plan of Empire A on eradicating Empire B. Eventually Empire B will re-discover the way to make this weapon anyway, but it will take lots of time, giving Empire A hope of being able to eradicate Empire B before its research will be completed.

P.S. The weapon is too large, complex and delicate to be sent to another planet (it must be placed on the planet that it will destroy) or even built on the planet to be destroyed. Constructing it in space or sending it to space isn't feasible either. And it can't be downscaled, neither in its size nor effect.

P.P.S In case of wizards, they use mathematics to model work of magical artifacts and their mathematical models are top-notch.

P.P.P.S Both Empires are dicatorships. For this reason if the regime of Empire A falls (whether due to war or revolution), then it's a death sentence to its elites. They will literally die.

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    $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Jul 6 at 15:04

11 Answers 11

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Just wait for the right time

Empire A should fight their war with Empire B. If it goes badly enough that they want to abandon their chance at victory, then they should show Empire B how the weapon works.

This way, Empire A still has a chance to win, but Empire B does not.

While fighting their war, Empire A should still claim to have the weapon, but only for the demoralizing that it might have on Empire B's fighers.

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  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Jul 6 at 14:27
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As described after your edit this is just a doomsday device for mutual destruction.

It really doesn't matter if the other empire figures out how to make one as using it is only going to be even remotely sane if your are facing utter and complete annihilation anyway.

It is useless for conquest.

Telling them you have a doomsday weapon means they know they can figure out how to make one as they are at a similar technological level to you (or you'd relatively easily defeat them without the doomsday device). There is no practical use for this device beyond ending the conflict.

However, knowing you have such a device means it is extremely likely they will get it one day soon. They'll simply work it out or get it through espionage (there are no real secrets). As with the A-Bomb there will be scientists, engineers, politicians, and so on who believe both sides muct have this "weapon" to "ensure peace". Expect the other side to get it.

So all you really have is a device you can give them the plans for and say "look, if this war continues we're all doomed".

Unless one side becomes ruled by a crazy person in the future. Which happens.

So any peace has to be complete - a full integration of your societies in as short a time as practical. Well, that about wraps it up for your planet I guess, as that's not going to happen.

Of course eventually Empire B will re-discover the way to make this weapon anyway, but it will take lots of time, giving Empire A hope on being able to eradicate Empire B before its research will be completed.

You said a decade - that's not long.

Actually it will make Empire B likely to use a variety of strategies, dipolmatic and military and economic, to stall until they get it (probably quicker with espionage) and unless you have the military might to force a quick end you're doomed.

When exactly do you use such a weapon ? Answer - well practically never. Empire A could reduce your empire A size by half and you still won't want to destroy everything else. If they leave you with just a quarter of your empire, then you still won't want to blow everything to hell. A eight ? A sixteenth ?

They'll never push you to the point you'll commit suicide to not let them win. So it's militarily a useless piece of junk !

Long before you'd use it, you'd surrender in some way.

The enemy know this.

So you have a useless doomsday weapon. Congratulations.

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  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Jul 6 at 17:10
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    $\begingroup$ OP specifically mentioned that empire A wished to "completely destroy" empire B. Any weapon empire B could use to evade "complete annihilation" would be very counterproductive to empire A's wishes of complete destruction of empire B. $\endgroup$ Jul 6 at 18:00
  • $\begingroup$ @Martin-ReinstateMonica My point is that it's not a usable weapon and as both sides will know that it's completely useless to either side. All you can do with it is kill your own side just to spite the enemy. Who has it is pretty much irrelevant unless that side is completely insane. $\endgroup$
    – StephenG
    Jul 6 at 21:52
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Feed the Moles

An open declaration that Empire A has the doomsday weapon is likely to be treated with scepticism as a possible bluff. Better to let Empire B find it out for itself, and think that it is doing so covertly. Given their geopolitical rivalry, presumably Empire B has networks of spies embedded in Empire A's ranks. Most likely some of them are double-agents, or have been rumbled and are being fed false information. Empire A can use these channels to allow Empire B's moles to 'discover' secret documents in which political and military figures discuss the existence of the doomsday weapon, without revealing any crucial technical specifics. Failing that (or alongside it), Empire A can simply make sure that lots of documents of this kind are produced and circulated within the government with rather lax security, on the assumption that eventually some of them will fall into the hands of Empire B's undetected agents. Hopefully Empire B will be convinced that the weapon is real: after all, Empire A's leaders might lie to the world about having it, but why would they lie to each other behind closed doors?

Of course, espionage is a double-edged sword, and its existence has real drawbacks for Empire A. It may be that Empire B's spies have already independently verified the weapon's existence (which suits Empire A). It may be that they have also stolen the secret of its construction (which does not suit Empire A at all). At any rate, they will soon be trying very hard to acquire the latter secret, and I'm inclined to agree with other posters that they will succeed. Without knowing the details of the weapon's magical construction, I can't be sure how easy it is to limit the essential knowledge to a trusted handful of individuals, but it sounds like a major scientific/industrial undertaking, in which case it probably requires too many people to eliminate the possibility of leakage. The obvious parallel is the A-Bomb, which Soviet intelligence sussed the essential workings of in a matter of months.

Still, regardless of the long-term viability of Empire A's strategy, the question asks for suggested means of convincing Empire B that the weapon exists, and that's what I've tried to provide.

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  • $\begingroup$ "requires too many people to eliminate the possibility of leakage" Empire A can just kill some or all of them, leaving only enough people for maintence. $\endgroup$
    – user161005
    Jul 4 at 17:00
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    $\begingroup$ Possibly. Though killing some of the mage-scientists is likely to accelerate the defection of the remainder, lest they end up next on the list. And empires which reward breakthroughs in weapon development with death tend not to remain empires for long. $\endgroup$ Jul 4 at 18:21
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  • $\begingroup$ On more careful reflection, this is probably the only workable answer. The challenge is not to state the message, but to deliver it such that Emp B will believe it. It can either be believed because its truth is manifest (e.g. blueprints), or because it comes from a trusted source. Without specifics, we can't know how much or how little true blueprint info would close the research gap; so, we must assume any technical info is too much. The only choice left is delivery via trusted channel, like espionage. There may be other ways that also rely on intermediaries Emp B would believe. $\endgroup$
    – Tom
    Jul 5 at 21:23
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My Dearest Emperor B,

As befits the closest of eternal friends, I hope my messenger finds you and your lovely spouse in good health.

Thank you for your recent gift of exotic animals and slaves; they were delicious. It is my most fervent wish that you enjoy the reciprocal gift that accompanies this letter.

I include a humorous anecdote: My foolish and ignorant Generals and Wizards, whom I despise, have devised an infernal engine that they call a "Doomsday Weapon". When applied, this device will destroy both sides unwise enough to contest for mastery.

I have commanded my errant fools to prove to me that this device works as intended by destroying the Moon on Thursday the 10th. My Wizards sniveled that the device is too complex, and that the Moon lacks air for the construction job. Irrelevant -- after a few public crucifixions, the rest of the Wizards found a way, and construction is proceeding apace. Is that not what Magic is for?

As it is obvious that this engine is worthless for conquest, making both our nations even more unassailable, I merely mention the event so that you may command your artists to record the Moon's beauty before it is gone forever, and so that you may appropriately berate your own Astronomers, Generals, and Wizards.

Your eternal and magnificent friend,

Emperor A

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    $\begingroup$ I feel like this is just handwaving with trope "If there is a whip - there is a way" $\endgroup$
    – user161005
    Jul 5 at 5:24
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    $\begingroup$ Yes indeed, I put lots of tropes and stereotypes in there to keep it down to a readable size and focus on the point. $\endgroup$
    – user535733
    Jul 5 at 11:32
  • $\begingroup$ " they were delicious." Hold up, were the slaves eaten? $\endgroup$
    – user161005
    Jul 6 at 9:25
  • $\begingroup$ @user161005 yes, of course. That's deliberate. There are several purposes served by saying it. $\endgroup$
    – user535733
    Jul 6 at 12:06
  • $\begingroup$ Can you list these purposes? $\endgroup$
    – user161005
    Jul 6 at 12:16
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Get the wizards drunk or otherwise damage their memory after they verify the weapon is functional.

Have the wizards use their magic to prove the artifact will work, and then work to damage their memory with drugs or magic or concussion or death.

Since you are threatening to destroy the world, threatening a few scientists is a minor concession. You can simply have the scientists come to the base, verify the artifact is functional, and then damage their memory.

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  • $\begingroup$ The weapon is too large to be sent on the other planet (it must be placed on planet that it needs to destroy). And it can't either be downscaled, neither in its size nor effect $\endgroup$
    – user161005
    Jul 4 at 15:15
  • $\begingroup$ They can't build it on another planet or moon? They know it can never be downscaled? Have they tested, say, exploding one in space in such a place as to only hit their rival empire? $\endgroup$
    – Nepene Nep
    Jul 4 at 15:16
  • $\begingroup$ "They can't build it on another planet or moon?" No, it will take forever to build it on other planet or on the moon. They are certain that it can't be downscaled. Constructing it in space or sending it in space isn't feasible either. $\endgroup$
    – user161005
    Jul 4 at 15:36
  • $\begingroup$ I edited stuff on this. $\endgroup$
    – Nepene Nep
    Jul 4 at 15:43
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    $\begingroup$ "even if they showed other scientists how it worked, people are unlikely to believe the weapon works." Seems strange, how can they not believe that the weapon will work if they can analyzed how the weapon works? It's like refusing to believe that mechanical clocks will work despite knowing in all details how all its parts will move. $\endgroup$
    – user161005
    Jul 4 at 15:50
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Condemned prisoners

Empire B has sent a few spies to learn the secret of Cobalt-Thorium G. Unfortunately for them, they have been caught, and await execution. Luckily for them, Empire A has had a change of heart and has allowed them a chance to pore over all of the technical schematics and interview key scientists!

Unluckily for them, they will only get a chance to answer a single Yes/No question about whether the plans work, in the presence of international observers, before their meeting with the intestinal spindle. *(this is via a highly restricted choice of hand signals, to prevent any untoward outburst or covert sign)

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    $\begingroup$ If you were a leader of Empire B, would you believe the testimony of one of your captured spies, only giving a 'Yes'/'No' answer, with the threat of immediate execution, about a subject they're not experts on and are purportedly only using testimony from enemy spies to form their opinion of? I mean, at that point, you're trusting that Empire A hasn't broken/coerced/turned your spy, that your spy hasn't been lied to, that the enemy scientists are correct without any verification, etc. All about something that Empire A has intense motivation to lie about. $\endgroup$
    – Kevin
    Jul 6 at 18:22
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You can prove that you have a doomsday weapon by enacting the Doomsday Weapon Antiproliferation treaty with empire B

To start, you must immediately disassemble the doomsday machine. There is no situation where the use of the weapon by any actor results in a favorable outcome for anyone.

Then send send the math that proves it is a doomsday weapon. Once the empire realizes the math is for a doomsday weapon they will have no use for it. Normally you wouldn't do this, since any research you give to the enemy is a loss, but since the weapon

can't either be downscaled, neither in its size nor effect.

there is nothing to be gained from this knowledge aside from that a doomsday device is possible. You should also send empire B a treaty you want signed.

DWA treaty details

The treaty will have every nation who signs this make laws to make the construction of doomsday devices, research into doomsday device technology, and the collection of materials vital to the construction of doomsday devices illegal. The treaty will detail sanctions to those who violate the treaty, either by failing to complete inspections or amassing illegal magical materials. It also includes an agreement to invade countries that have Doomsday devices or are attempting to construct doomsday devices. Also included will be regular checks for doomsday devices by impartial observers, and observers sponsored by each member of the treaty. This will be similar to nuclear inspections in real life.

Don't tell anyone the secret

You only need to tell people what materials are needed to make the device, but not how. Everyone is under the same restrictions, including your empire. Just like most people know radioactive materials are needed for nukes without knowing how to make a fusion bomb, you can do the same.

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    $\begingroup$ " invade countries that have Doomsday devices" I don't think this is a good idea $\endgroup$
    – user161005
    Jul 4 at 18:52
  • $\begingroup$ The hope is to invade countries that are building the devices, or have amassed the capability to create the device. Also, if a country has a choice between disarming a doomsday device and getting invaded, resulting in defeat or total destruction, they will disarm. If they don't then that means they are willing to use the device and that the device must be deactivated or it will be used soon. Also, even if a country has a device and doesn't plan to use it someone may attack the device and trigger it for other reasons. So just having a weapon is a threat to everyone even without using it. $\endgroup$ Jul 4 at 18:58
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    $\begingroup$ Experience shows us that trying to use force to deter people from building weapons you don't want them to have is actually just feeding their paranoia Which you've proven true) that they need the weapons even more. Invading them creates what amounts to a race memory that they should hate you as oppressors. This is why we use diplomats and economics as often as possible - even the conquest hungry Roman's did this. $\endgroup$
    – StephenG
    Jul 4 at 22:46
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If the common population won't admit Covid-19 exists until people start dying from it, the government of Empire B won't believe a doomsday weapon exists either.

The answer is simple. Demonstrate the weapon on another planet. If you could make this device, then you could move to the nearest planet as well. If not, you have to make a scaled down version at least to demonstrate it. The world's governments didn't believe in the existence of nuclear bombs until Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as well.

The "many dead end paths to solution, got lucky" problem that is a barrier to inventing the doomsday device sounds like an NP problem (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P_versus_NP_problem), for which a solution could be checked if it is the solution quickly but you can't solve the problem quickly. After all, how could A's inventors even tell they've got a working device themselves? In this case, let the solution check be sent to B's people, or have a few highly renowned and trustworthy people from B go to A to check the solution, but without sending the whole blueprint or the complete set of equations.

This is not a useless weapon. If war breaks out, Empire A's best possible outcome is victory, while the worst possible outcome for Empire A is a tie where A and B gets destroyed. Yes, you might think that the death of everyone on the planet is far worse than the surrender of Empire A and the death of a few Empire A elites. However, those Empire A elites are in charge of Empire A. If A surrenders, the elites die. If they turn on the doomsday device, the elites also die. There is a branch possibility where Empire B believes in the doomsday device's existence but uses it to persuade Empire A's non-elite disgruntled population (those that would never have died but would come under a new overlord if Empire A loses) to rebel, where A would need to do their best to convince their population it's in their best interests not to rebel because B would rape, kill, pillage, etc.

Back to it being not a useless weapon: it's a form of one-sided mutually assured destruction. By the way, I recommend the Three Body Problem trilogy. The second book, Dark Forest Theory, has a similar scenario of MAD being used in negotiation.

B has two options: attack A swiftly with everything before the persuasion could finish and use spies or fake news to incite rebellion etc to take the doomsday device before anyone reacts, or settle down for a long peace period because starting a war is clearly a dead end with no victory in sight while using the long peace to steal the doomsday device's secrets. On the other hand, A needs to hand the doomsday device's trigger to a seemingly insane or highly resolved emperor in order to make sure MAD is believable.

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    $\begingroup$ "If the common population won't admit Covid-19 exists until people start dying from it, the government of Empire B won't believe a doomsday weapon exists either." Thinking of commoners=/= thinking of elites $\endgroup$
    – user161005
    Jul 5 at 7:10
  • $\begingroup$ " Demonstrate the weapon on another planet." I'ts explicitly stated that it's not feasible. Scaling down isn't possible either. "The world's governments didn't believe in the existence of nuclear bombs until Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as well." Proof-link is needed. "In this case, let the solution check be sent to B's people" I doubt and have no idea how this is possible to have "solution" for weapon without its blueprints and such. "while the worst possible outcome for Empire A is a tie." No, the worst outcome is that it will suffer defeat, but will survive. Empire B wants to live too. $\endgroup$
    – user161005
    Jul 5 at 7:24
  • $\begingroup$ "or settle down for a long peace" There will be no peace. Empire A wants to destroy Empire B before it can construct its own doomsday weapon. So I would expect immediate war after empire B became convinced that empire A has doomsday weapon. "attack A swiftly with everything" Do you want the end of the world? Because it's how you get the end of the world. $\endgroup$
    – user161005
    Jul 5 at 7:27
  • $\begingroup$ "A needs to hand the doomsday device's trigger to a seemingly insane or highly resolved emperor" Only if used offensibly. For defense purposes it will be enough to state red lines in war (like loss of important colony) after crossing which the regime of A will collapse. In case of collapse elites will die, thus they can as well activate the weapon. So they can credibly threaten to use the weapon if their regime will become too close to collapse. $\endgroup$
    – user161005
    Jul 5 at 7:33
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Empire A should announce that they have the doomsday weapon, and request a meeting. During this meeting, Empire B would send a delegation consisting of the most trusted and patriotic people, including at least one scientist/wizard who could verify the claims, given the evidence that Empire A's science division has produced.

Empire A would put all the proof inside a room or vault and invite the delegation to meet outside. B's scientist/wizard would be invited into the room to verify the claims while the rest waits outside. After B has verified the doomsday weapon exists, they would exit the room and proclaim to the delegation that the doomsday weapon is in fact real. The scientist/wizard would then be taken into custody of Empire A and kept in isolation, so they could not spill the secret, or be executed immediately depending on what Empire A is like. In any case, the scientist/wizard can not be allowed back home as they have learned the secret to the doomsday weapon.

Instead, only the delegation will return to Empire B and be able to verify that the doomsday weapon indeed exists, based on the trusted word of the scientist/wizard left behind. As these are trusted and patriotic people, Empire B will be assured that they have not been pressured to simply state that the weapon exists even if it really doesn't.

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Dr. Strangelove, I presume?

Doomsday devices are not far-fetched. It is actually something that happened during the Cold War. It is still happening. At least one exists on Earth, and is fully functional right now (if Wikpedia and Vladimir Putin are to be believed).

Allow me to present: Dead Hand.

During the Cold War, the Soviets built a system designed to destroy all civilization, and they deliberately set it up so that it would activate automatically if it detects that Russia was about to be nuked.

Apparently it is turned off most of the time, but they keep it in working order and turn it on "during times of crisis."

The only use for a doomsday weapon is as a deterrent. All you need is to convince the other side you have one. This is actually made far easier if the enemy already knows how to build the core elements (i.e. nukes, detection hardware, automatic targeting & firing).

So: if the enemy doesn't have the tech to build one, here's what you'd do. (I'll use a nuclear weapon as an example)

  1. Invite envoys from the enemy to witness a weapons demonstration.
  2. Detonate a small nuke. Maybe do it over a small, abandoned town, something that shows the destruction, instead of an empty field or desert.
  3. Maybe afterward, you all don protective gear and go measure the radiation. Maybe you bring a parrot or a dog or some other small animal, and let them keep it afterward so they can watch it die horribly. (Yes, this is monstrous, but no less monstrous than creating a weapon that could end all life.)
  4. Tell the envoy that you've built hundreds of these, bigger, and wired them up to fire at a moment's notice if they attack you.

That's it.

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    $\begingroup$ "I really think you're missing the point of doomsday weapons." I'm not. Rememberr that Empire A wants to destroy Empire B. If Empire A has the doomsday weapon and Empire B doesn't, then Empire A has guarantee against complete destruction by Empire B and Empire B can be destroyed without triggering the end of the world $\endgroup$
    – user161005
    Jul 5 at 6:42
  • $\begingroup$ @user161005 You're right. I'll update my answer accordingly. $\endgroup$
    – Tom
    Jul 5 at 21:13
  • $\begingroup$ @user161005 But if Empire A can defeat Empire B using conventional warfare anyway, then the weapon is pointless and they don't need it, nor do they need Empire B to believe it is a credible threat. $\endgroup$
    – J...
    Jul 6 at 18:39
  • $\begingroup$ @J... The weapon isn't pointless. It's used not to destroy Empire B, but to avoid destruction of Empire A. The weapon would deter Empire B from dealing fatal blows to Empire A $\endgroup$
    – user161005
    Jul 7 at 3:11
  • $\begingroup$ @user161005 But not a less-than-fatal blow? Empire A has 20 states. Empire B takes one. What does Empire A do? Blow everything up? Or do they sabre-rattle and make some noise about the weapon and warn them to stop? Empire B calls the bluff and marches their army in and takes another state. Now what does Empire A do? End the game? Or keep playing for time? Empire B takes another state... now what? See how this goes? $\endgroup$
    – J...
    Jul 7 at 12:32
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It doesn't matter if Empire B knows how to make the weapon.

Case I - Empire B does not have the weapon

Options

  1. Submit to Empire A
  2. Die with the world and everything else by the weapon

Case II - Empire B DOES have the weapon

Options

  1. Submit to Empire A
  2. Die with the world and everything else by the weapon

Does it really matter if Empire A pushes the button or Empire B does? The choices are the same. As long as Empire A succeeds in convincing Empire B that they are serious about accepting no future where their wishes are unfulfilled, and their intention to destroy the world and everything in it if they cannot have their way, then it really doesn't matter if Empire B gets the weapon or not.

If they use it, they are dead, which is the same result as if Empire A used it. Why should Empire B go through all the work of building their own version of the weapon when they could just thumb their nose at Empire A and have them use their weapon instead? If their intention is to not submit to Empire A, everyone dies no matter what.

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  • $\begingroup$ Empire A wants to destroy Empire B, but not to such fanatical degree that they would be able to credibly threaten Empire B like that. $\endgroup$
    – user161005
    Jul 6 at 15:13
  • $\begingroup$ Also elites of Empire B will likely to be executed once Empire B falls. Empire A can promise to spare them, but it's not very reassuring from POV of elites of Empire B. So if elites of Empire B are deeply sceptical of such promise they can as well decide to go with bang (i.e. show Empire A the middle finger and get the world destroyed as consequence) if Empire A will threaten them like in your post. $\endgroup$
    – user161005
    Jul 6 at 15:34
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    $\begingroup$ @user161005 If both empires genuinely are so bent on destroying each other that they place this objective above their own continued existence then these empires will destroy each other. If they're both willing to destroy themselves to stop the other from winning then they both will lose. $\endgroup$
    – J...
    Jul 6 at 15:46
  • $\begingroup$ Antecedent of each "if" is false in the world as I imagine it. $\endgroup$
    – user161005
    Jul 6 at 16:20
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    $\begingroup$ @user161005 Then the weapon is tactically and strategically useless. $\endgroup$
    – J...
    Jul 6 at 16:38

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