Arms and Arguments: Modeling the Effects of Weapons Transfers on Subsystem Relationships

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This research assesses the effects of arms transfers from the Superpowers (the US and the USSR) and third parties (the UK, the PRC, and other states, more generally) on India-Pakistan and Iran-Iraq political and military relations during the Cold War. At issue here is whether each exporter's weapons shipments were politically and militarily stabilizing or destabilizing for the rivalry dyads: Did they contribute to political cooperation and balanced military relationships or did they perpetuate conflictual and imbalanced relations? Models are developed that take into account the intensity of arms transfers (how much was delivered rather than simply whether arms were sent) and that examine, in sequence, all possible combinations of the exporters as stabilizers and destabilizers. Testing on the models over the period 1950-91 shows the UK to have been a balancer of military relations in both South Asia and the Persian Gulf; the US and the PRC, on the other hand, emerge as consistent imbalancers. The tests also suggest that the USSR behaved conservatively, for the most part reacting to the US's use of arms transfers as a foreign policy tool. The impact of arms transfers on the importers' political relationships is less clear, but there is an indication that political tensions may have been reduced by arms transfers that furthered military imbalances.

This study explores the impact of US, USSR, and certain third-party (chiefly UK and PRC) arms transfers on India-Pakistan and Iran-Iraq political and military relationships during the Cold War. It extends previous work (cf. Sanjian 1995, 1998, 1999) by concentrating on the amount of weapons transferred and by examining the arms exporters individually It was found in Sanjian (1999), for instance, that Superpower arms transfers may have upset the military balance between India and Pakistan, but there was no attempt to differentiate between the roles of the US and the USSR. The work proceeded on the assumption that the two exporters delivered weaponry in essentially the same circumstances with essentially the same effects; whether one of them was more responsible, and the other less so, for the importers' unbalanced military relationships was not addressed. Sanjian (1999) also focused on just the presence or absence of arms transfers: Did the US supply weaponry to Pakistan during year t and, if so, what were the political and military consequences of those supplies? This research contends with that question, too, but uses recently released SIPRI dollar-value data to determine whether the relationships between the importers were affected by the amount of arms that were delivered.1

Further, this study also develops an aspect of a larger fuzzy systems model that was presented and analyzed in Sanjian (1998). The present model concerns only that portion of the original construction that pertains to the political and military consequences of Superpower and third-party arms transfers on rival importers. Tests of the model cover the period 1950-91 (the Cold War years for which data are available) and focus on the India-Pakistan and Iran-Iraq dyads because of their historical interest. The four states were among the more active arms importers during the Cold War, establishing and sometimes breaking arms trade relationships not only with the Superpowers but also with some third-party exporters, such as the UK and the PRC. The military and political relationships between these dyad rivals also varied over time, meaning that their choice for study requires the model to contend with some diversity. These were (and still are, of course) fundamentally conflict dyads, but there were occasions during the 1950-91 period when the political relationships between the rivals improved and military relationships either moved toward balance or turned in favor of the state that had been disadvantaged. Whether and how arms transfers influenced such developments is the subject of this research.


The objective of the model is to determine whether the weaponry of each of the exporters had either stabilizing or destabilizing effects on the system. …


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