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Pamp, Oliver; Dendorfer, Florian; Thurner, Paul W. (October 2018): Arm your friends and save on defense? The impact of arms exports on military expenditures. In: Public Choice, Vol. 177, No. 1-2: pp. 165-187
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Is there a substitution effect between arms exports and military spending? Do arms producing countries use weapon deliveries as a means to affect their external security? Whereas free-riding in alliances is extensively discussed by researchers and practitioners, the literature has surprisingly neglected the effect of transfers in defense goods on domestic military budgets. We develop a formal theoretical framework that conditions a country’s budgeting calculus on its arms trade decisions. The general conclusion is that exports lead to domestic cuts in military spending—provided suppliers expect positive security externalities. We use an innovative measure for external security based on UN voting records and regime type to test our model predictions on data covering both the Cold War as well as the post-Cold War period. Our results strongly suggest that democratic and non-democratic countries behave very differently. We find a clear substitution effect only for arms transfers by democratic states to other aligned democracies during the post-Cold War years. No such effect can be found for the Cold War era. There is no evidence for a substitution effect in either period for non-democratic suppliers.