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The evolution of second-tier arms production and transfers
Matters become more complex as one surveys the policy and practice of second-tier arms producers and suppliers. The first difficulty is specifying which states are in the second tier. If membership is determined by production endowments and technological capabilities, tables 9 and 10 confirm that there is a qualitative gap between the production levels and research and development capabilities of the first-tier states and those of the next largest producers or exporters. At the lower end, however, another qualitative break is somewhat harder to distinguish. One task of this chapter will be to delineate with more precision how production capabilities help determine which states are second-tier producers. A second will be to distinguish the different policy stances adopted by these producers towards arms exports. Although the export and production practice of the leading second-tier states (France and Britain) is relatively straightforward, other states in this tier occupy somewhat ambiguous positions vis-à-vis the central dilemma posed by their status in the global arms transfer and production system: how to produce weapons at a sufficiently high level of sophistication to ensure national independence and global status without placing too great an economic burden on the state.
The French experience is the starting point for analysis, primarily because French policy and practice establish the paradigm case to which other second-tier producers conform to a lesser degree.
Arms transfers and arms production have appeared as an inevitable concomitant to war and military preparations throughout human history. Although from our vantage point the technologies of warfare in the pre-modern period were primitive, important technological advances and sources of innovation created even then a diffusion of techniques for (and possibly a trade in) arms and armour between Greece, Central Europe and Asia. The significance of improved weaponry was not lost on early rulers, who supported and encouraged military innovation: ‘Hellenistic mechanicians earned their livelihood as military engineers. War industry was lavishly supported … [and] kingdoms and cities competed keenly for the services of the most able engineers, whose rewards, in terms both of money and prestige, were great.’ The first major technology that required such investments was the catapult, which emerged around 399 BC in Syracuse and was soon diffused throughout the Mediterranean. Its impact on war and society may have been great, as ‘improvements in siege craft that promoted the equality or ascendancy of the besieger played a part in the establishment of larger political units’ and the decline of Greek city-states.
The first recorded arms transfers are probably those found in Thucydides' Peloponnesian War. What was transferred, however, was usually not only arms, but men, weapons, supplies and ships. Athens, for example, demanded the supply of specified numbers of ships and men as part of membership in the Delian League.
To understand the evolutionary dynamic of the global arms transfer and production system, one must first untangle the forces that generate the demand for the production and trade in weapons and second, explain the way in which this demand may change over time. Thus this chapter will begin by expanding upon the motive forces briefly outlined in the introduction – the pursuit of wealth, power and victory in war – to sketch the way in which these may shape the emergence and evolution of the global arms transfer and production system. The second section will focus on the processes of technological innovation and diffusion in the arms transfer system. The final section will outline the structure of the arms transfer system this analysis suggests. This chapter thus both presents the argument in skeletal form to be measured against the evidence to follow and provides some organising principles for that evidence.
Two important difficulties with this approach should be acknowledged at the outset: a wide gulf separates the scholarship that concentrates on different sets of forces identified here as fundamental, and there is no consensus on the process of change in the international system on which one could easily erect an analysis of the evolution of arms transfers and production.
The arms trade is a ubiquitous aspect of international relations. Today it involves up to 50 states as suppliers and 120 as recipients, and its annual volume exceeds $48,000 million. But although its current scope and magnitude are unprecedented, arms transfers have been used at least since the Peloponnesian Wars to achieve the political, military and economic goals of states and rulers. The invention of the cannon in the fourteenth century, and the ‘Military Revolution’ of which it was a catalyst, ushered in the modern global arms transfer and production system, as leading suppliers of that time such as Liège and Venice shipped their products to customers across Europe. But over the following six centuries, suppliers ascended and disappeared and the trade, then as now, had an impact on the direction of international politics and the evolution of the modern state system.
The patterns of change and continuity in the modern state system are complex, multi-dimensional and ill understood. On the broad canvas, different writers have highlighted crucial turning points in the legal, economic, technological, military and political spheres. These include the crystallisation of the modern state system after the Peace of Westphalia, the emergence of market economics, the transition from mercantilism to capitalism, the technological transformation of the Industrial Revolution, the rise of modern nation-states, the changing nature of warfare and the rise and fall of empires.
This book analyses the structure and motive forces that shape the global arms transfer and production system. The author distinguishes three tiers of arms producers, defined by such factors as defence production base, military research and development capabilities, and dependence upon arms exports. These factors interact with underlying political, economic, and military motivations to drive states to produce and export arms, and provide the force which directs the international trade in arms. The author discusses the United States and the Soviet Union, the European arms suppliers, and the emerging arms producers of the developing world. Although it concentrates on the contemporary period, the book covers a wide historical span, from the development of military technologies in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries to twentieth-century revolutions in weaponry. By focusing on the processes of technological innovation and diffusion, the author shows the evolutionary nature of the spread of military technologies, and situates the current arms transfer system in a broad historical context.
The volume of information available on the post-1945 (and especially the post-1960) period allows a much more complete picture to be drawn of the evolution of the arms transfer and production system. Despite some suggestive indications presented in the historical chapters above, the evidence is insufficient for one to draw definitive conclusions on the motive forces driving the system and its evolutionary dynamic. But an unfocused history of arms transfers since 1945 would not be sufficient either, and the historical backdrop is essential to an understanding of contemporary developments in the arms transfer and production system. What follows is a sketch of the post-1945 international arms transfer system that illuminates its outlines and current structure based on the factors that have already been highlighted as critical: technological innovation, the transfer and diffusion of technology and the relationship between production and exports. It concentrates on producers and suppliers; chapter 8 will integrate this discussion with an examination of the role of arms recipients. Chapters 5–7 will present in detail the policies, practices and motivations of the different tiers of producers or suppliers. This will allow the evolution of the contemporary global arms transfer and production system to be placed against the backdrop of historical precedent and account for some of the distinctive features of the current system.
Any publication using arms transfer data ought to acknowledge the severe, and possibly crippling, shortcomings of such data. Several specific and general problems can be highlighted which make conclusions based on statistical manipulation of the data extremely tentative. This appendix merely sketches the problems; readers are encouraged to consult the more detailed studies noted throughout.
There are four main sources of arms transfer information: The United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA) annual publication World Military Expenditures and Arms Transfers; the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute Yearbook of World Armaments and Disarmament (and related publications using the same data base); the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) annual The Military Balance; and other (usually country-specific) studies. The ACDA data have been relied upon most in this book, because they possess three advantages other sources do not: they include all suppliers and recipients, they attempt to capture all transfers (not just major weapons systems), and they present at least roughly comparable dollar figures for arms deliveries. SIPRI data, on the other hand, include only deliveries of major weapons systems (aircraft, armour and artillery, guidance and radar systems, missiles and warships), and they also detail major identified arms agreements in their comprehensive data base of arms transfers since 1950.
Chapter 4's profile of the international arms transfer system sets the stage for a closer examination of the practices, policies and motivations of the three tiers of suppliers. Each of the following three chapters will examine the scope and evolution of arms transfers, the structure of policy and decision making and the economic dimensions of arms exports and arms production, and conclude by discussing the motive forces that govern the participation of different producers in the arms transfer and production system. Since the contemporary first-tier producers, the United States and the Soviet Union, have complex and vastly different production and decision-making structures, they will be treated separately in the following discussion.
The evolution of American arms transfers
American arms transfers have not remained relatively constant since 1945, in their volume, destination or composition. Figure 3 presents military deliveries from 1950 to 1988 (by programme), and it indicates a sharp decline in American deliveries after the Korean War and initial European rearmament, with the same high totals (in real terms) not being reached again until the early 1970s. Despite somewhat dramatic ebbs and flows since 1973, total transfers have fluctuated around an annual average of about $16,000 million. The programmes under which the transfers were made also changed radically, and different programmes each had a distinct clientele.