Next customer, please: The risk in conventional arms sales along with nuclear energy deals

By Charles D. Ferguson, November 1, 2010

At the same time as major powers are saying that they want to rein in nuclear
proliferation, they are offering both nuclear energy programs and conventional
weapons to client states. Military arms sales may shore up certain
countries’ defenses, but such sales may also stimulate conventional
arms races and conventional force imbalances may serve as a rationale for states
to acquire nuclear weapons as great equalizers. More nuclear weapons in more
states could increase the likelihood of losing control of these weapons to
terrorists, criminals, or other malicious actors. This author evaluates nuclear
energy deals that could result in changing security perceptions and shifting
security alliances, and writes that such evaluations are important in the
context of global security. Military and nuclear suppliers have incentives to
sell conventional arms and nuclear technologies to clients, he writes, but both
suppliers and clients need to be aware of the potential security consequences. A
conventional or nuclear arms race may not result in armed conflict, but would
divert scarce resources—especially in the developing
world—from the civilian economy.

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