arms race

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arms race

the competition between NATION STATES to attain a position of military superiority over adversaries. In its contemporary usage the concept has been applied especially to the competition between the US and the USSR. This has taken the form of a dramatic increase in the size of nuclear arsenals and an intensification of weapons development. Each technological advance by one side has produced an attempt by the other side to build superior weapons, which the initial mover has then to attempt to further improve upon. The pattern can be characterized as one of action-reaction. An early statistical study of arms races in these terms was made by L. F. Richardson, The Statistics ofDeadly Quarrels (1960).

Although arms races between major powers have attracted most attention, they also occur between minor powers (e.g. between the Arab states and Israel), where their outcome may more often lead to war than those between major powers. A major consequence of the arms race between the US and the USSR has been economic ‘waste’. Although it was once suggested that its economic effect may have been to sustain a post-World War economic boom (see MILITARY INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX), more recently it has been proposed that it has acted as a brake on the economic prosperity of nation-states with the largest military commitments (e.g. the slower growth and relative economic weakness of Britain and the US compared with Germany or Japan). Undoubtedly, excessive military commitments have had this effect in the USSR, leading some commentators to suggest that the COLD WAR has been won by the Western powers as a consequence of this burden. See also NUCLEAR DETERRENCE, BALANCE OF POWER.

References in periodicals archive ?
The Very Real Potential of a Sino-US Extraterrestrial Arms Race
To begin the discussion, it should be noted that the possibility of a Sino-US arms race in space is related to the larger phenomenon of the rise of China and the transmutability of economic power into political and military power.
A space arms race is somewhat different than a terrestrial one for several reasons, however.
If this analysis is correct, a space race is actually more likely than a traditional terrestrial arms race, which should be something of concern to those of us who study IR.
Each of the articles in this collection brings to the fore some important observations that contribute to the discussion of avoiding Sino-US conflict or an arms race in space.
His observations are interesting in that they are quite realistic about certain issues: first, given Teheran's and Pyongyang's nuclear-weapons programs and their refusals to yield to international pressure or inspections, Washington has an understandable need to develop ballistic missile defense (BMD); second, it is difficult for any country not to deploy BMD if it has the technology; third, while China's leadership says the development of BMD and ASAT systems is bad, it is nevertheless doing so itself; and fourth, if the the United States and China are not careful, they may find themselves in a self-fulfilling conflict in terms of trying to prevent proliferation and an arms race.
Some have even argued that Southeast Asia could be in the midst of a new, potentially destabilizing arms race.
In fact, this is unlikely, as they do not meet the requirements of an arms race as laid out by leading theories of such behaviour.
a regional arms competition that falls somewhere short of a true arms race, but which is more extensive than "mere" modernization.
In fact, simply describing the action-reaction cycle of arms acquisitions as an arms race borders on tautology: two or more countries are in an arms race because they are each buying arms.
For Hammond, an arms race occurs in (1) a primarily bilateral relationship, (2) where each party specifically designates the other to be an adversary, (3) where a high degree of public animosity and antagonism exists between the two parties, (4) where each party's military/political planning is directly based on the capabilities and intentions of the other party, (5) entailing "extraordinary and consistent increases" in military spending and arms acquisitions, (6) with the intention of seeking dominance over one's rival through intimidation.
However, if we apply these requirements to the current process of arms acquisitions in Southeast Asia, then it is most certainly not an arms race.