There are both military and political dimensions to arms transfers, and their effects on state behavior may not be the same. In this article I examine the degree to which arms transfers and arms transfer dependence interact to affect foreign policy conflict. I hypothesize that, as a transfer of military capability, weapons shipments increase the tendency of the recipient to strike a conflictual posture in its foreign policy, while arms transfer dependence restrains that tendency. An arms recipient faces the possibility that weapons shipments will be curtailed during periods of regional crisis and hostility, and when a state is dependent on one or a few major suppliers for the bulk of its imported weaponry, the costs associated with supply restrictions increases. This should encourage restraint on the part of states otherwise emboldened by arms acquisitions. My analysis treats conflictual behavior as a multiplicative function of arms transfers and arms transfer dependence. Parameter estimates are derived from time series data for nine states engaged in enduring rivalries during the Cold War. For some of these states, there is evidence that arms shipments encouraged more conflictual foreign policies; but there is also evidence that this propensity was tempered by the degree of arms transfer dependence. The model is nonlinear, so the precise effects of dependence vary depending on context - i.e. the state's current level of arms importation and dependence - but realistic predictions involve changes in foreign policy conflict equal to 5-25% of their mean levels during the period.
Replication datasets available