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Conference Proceeding

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Arms transfers -- Developing countries, Military assistance -- Developing countries, National security -- Developing countries, Deterrence (Strategy)


Controversy surrounds the alleged effects of foreign arms transfers on belligerency: do they precipitate international conflict, as some critics suggest, or do they promote stability by reinforcing deterrence, as others maintain? This paper examines the connection between arms transfers to the Third World and the occurrence of interstate conflict, including militarized disputes, from the end of World War II until the early 1990s. My analysis indicates that, in the aggregate, arms transfers almost uniformly contributed to subsequent instability within security complexes located in various regions of the Third World, but that the effects of American versus Russian arms supplies often appear incongruous. Although a structural realist interpretation fails to account for these findings, a traditional realist perspective – one that emphasizes the different implications of foreign policies oriented to defend or to oppose the international and regional status quo – offers a more promising explanation


Paper prepared for presentation at the annual meeting of the International Studies Association, 24-27 March 2002, New Orleans. This paper is a draft.

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