15 April 2015
A recent article in the Wall Street Journal (“The ‘Hyundaization’ of the Global Arms Industry”) makes a provocative argument, namely that “new defense exporters are joining the global game with advanced and well-priced offerings, creating potential threat to the U.S. and its allies, and weakening Western influence.” In other words, the proliferation of “good enough” weapons by neophyte arms exporters such as Brazil, South Korea, and Turkey, offered at rock-bottom prices, will cut into the United States’ sizable predominance in the global arms trade. The emergence of such new supplier-states will have grave economic repercussions for U.S. arms producers, and negative ramifications for Washington’s global sway.
An interesting argument, if not a particularly novel one. For decades many in the West have been fearful of – and many arms producers in the newly industrialized world have been yearning for – the possibility that the global arms trade could be inundated by new, ambitious supplier-states who would aggressively flog their weaponry to all comers. This would not just cut into the profits of those U.S. and European defense mega-firms – the Lockheed Martins, Northrop Grummans, BAE Systems, and Airbus SAS’s – that have traditionally dominated the global arms business; it would also complicate efforts to control the proliferation of advanced conventional weapons and the enabling technologies behind them.
The implications of such proliferation are self-evident. Flooding the global arms market with relatively cheap but highly capable weapons systems would not only increase the probability of conflict – a country is more likely to attack a noxious neighbor if it feels that it possesses superior military capabilities – but that conflict would likely be more “high-tech” and therefore more devastating in its effect.
… Richard A. Bitzinger is Senior Fellow and Coordinator of the Military Transformation Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. Formerly with the RAND Corp. and the Defense Budget Project, he has been writing on defense industries and the global arms trade for more than 20 years.
IDSS / Online
Last updated on 23/11/2015