Network Dynamics of Technology Diffusion in International Arms Transfers


This article explores the role of technology proliferation within the international arms trade as the major part of political structure of international system. The first part of the article suggests a brief overview of the existing studies of international arms transfer as an integral system in international relations, specifically emphasizing the impact of Krause’s (1992) “diffusion of technology” theoretical concept on the literature of 1990–2000-s. The focus of the review is on the intersection between the studies of specific technological transfers and more generalized empirical research works reveals an interesting scientific puzzle – on the one hand key arms manufacturer states accumulate most of the military R&D thus securing their place on the top of the suppliers’ hierarchy, but on the other hand more and more states acquire capabilities to produce military hardware and they more willingly interact with each other establishing strong horizontal bonds with each other to achieve some political independence and maximize economic efficiency (so-called globalization of arms production). In the second part of the article, the network-based approach is suggested as a solution to the market-hierarchy paradox, with some overview of the latest research of arms transfers via Social Network Analysis (SNA) methodology. The third and the last part of the article provides first empirical investigation of the international military technology transfers using original operationalization approach based on SIPRI Arms Transfer Database information of localized production interstate transfers. Finally, the network graphs are constructed to compare general centrality metrics and locate network communities using the Blondel’s method for community detection. The network topology demonstrates significant interconnections between secondary suppliers within technology transfers sub-network, compared to “regular” transfers sub-network, as well as the existence of a “feedback loop” for the license transfers. Overall the empirical results provide positive evidence for Krause’s “diffusion of technology” concept and also support previous network studies of dissimilarities between USA and USSR dependent sub-network – the asymmetry between them appears to be even more stark on the license transfers data.


international arms trade; technology transfer; technology diffusion; network analysis; network communities.

Authors: Artem Maltsev

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