International Trade of Arms: A Network Approach

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Research project

This project proposes a network perspective for the empirical analysis of the international trade of arms. The identification of respective flow structures, of their dynamics, and of their causes will be a novel contribution to the positive science of peace and conflict. Our quantitatively-oriented network approach is based on measurements of the export, transfer, and import of arms over long time periods (1950-2016). We will analyze major conventional weapons (MCW) and small arms and light weapons (SALW).

For the first time we investigate multiple intra-sectoral relations between countries in order to find out whether these evolve congruently or disjointly, and how they interact. More specifically, we will test popular conjectures according to which the structure of trade in MCW follows to a higher degree political motivations whereas SALW is expected to be rather economically-oriented. Relying on multiple data sources we follow an integrative measurement approach allowing us to close data gaps, to overcome data deficiencies, to implement complex formal models of arms trade, and to forecast future transfers.

Our major hypotheses to be tested are derived from New Trade Theory and its focus on imperfect international markets. Inter alia, we will specify memberships in intergovernmental organizations, alliances, and arms control regimes in order to estimate their effectiveness and their influence on trade deflections.

The complexity of the underlying data sources requires the development of new inferential statistical techniques for the modeling of valued (i.e.: non-binary) networks - which will constitute the methodical core objective of our collaborative interdisciplinary project. This will allow us to take into account for the first time endogenous network structures and dynamics (e.g. sender effects indicating cumulative advantages, hyper-dyadic system features like triadic closures) going thereby beyond to so far investigated hypotheses based exclusively on attributes of the actors.