The Purple Elephant in the Corner: Nuclear Weapons and Arms Sales

Submitted by: Jamie Hastings

We have not talked about military power much lately and I pondered for a long time whether to bring up the subject. Nonetheless, while we have been talking in depth about the trading of goods that deal mostly with consumerism, it is clear that that’s not all that has been passing across the borders of China, India, the U.S., and numerous other countries around the world. I see this subject as being a big deal and while I am not extremely informed on the subject, I have been trying to enlighten myself. It is an important topic because arms and weapons sales are a part of business and sometimes make monumental economic impacts when it comes to embargoes and trade agreements. Countries don’t always play nice with each other a person may not want to conduct business in a country where political ties are on the rocks. This blog may not evoke a lot of debate and may only serve as a chance to learn. I am not extremely opinionated on the following topics, but very intrigued.

Nuclear Arms Information:

For some of you, a lot of this information might be common knowledge, but it wasn’t for me. Look on this site and click on the country flags to get a quick rundown on their nuclear status. With whom are they trading nuclear technologies? The countries of interest to me are the U.S., China, India, Russia, Iran, Israel, North Korea, and Pakistan. The two other nuclear powers that are not on my list are the U.K. and France. I am most interested to see that some of our best trading partners could have questionable technology exchanges with some of our most potential adversaries. It is interesting to see that not everybody plays by the rules (including the U.S.) or even acknowledges them.

An interesting Conventional Arms Deal:

I am interested in flying for our military, so lately I have been following India’s interest in procuring a new MMRCA or Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft to replace its aging Soviet fighter fleet. Traditionally, India has been an arms trading partner with Russia, but they are now looking towards other suppliers for new fighters. When and if this deal goes through, it is big business as we are talking about billions of dollars. Here is an article that gives a brief description of the planned purchase and this great article, gives a good look at who is closing these big deals. Maybe arms sales would be a good profession for us as MBA graduates? It will be interesting to see where India decides to buy their new fighter and if any of The United States’ past sales has any effect? Remember that we sold Pakistan numerous Block 50/52 (an advanced version) F-16’s over the past few years. Also of some interest to those who have always thought that the U.S. is the top dog in all things military (as I always thought), we are not always correct. We play war games with India annually and in the fighter realm, they almost always come out on top as they have a great Air Force and superb pilots. Also something to think about, when arms sales are made, that technology is fair game (i.e. our fighter aircraft technology could go to Russia via India). Nonetheless, these decisions are closely evaluated by the U.S. government. Should we be worried about our technologies falling into others hands? Is it important to stay close with India as we may have future political problems with other countries in the near vicinity? Perhaps China?

I invite comments, further findings, and insights on these topics. This topic is not very specific and I apologize, but it may be of some interest to you. Like I said earlier, perhaps this will only inform you as it has me, but perhaps good questions would be:

Do you think weapons will affect economic relationships in the future? Were you surprised with whom countries are trading nuclear technologies and do you see future conflicts? Is this simply a political issue or do economics play an important role?

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6 Responses to The Purple Elephant in the Corner: Nuclear Weapons and Arms Sales

  1. Matthew Neal says:

    As an aerospace engineering student planning to go into the aerospace and defense field this subject is of particular interest to me. I have been amazed at the strides China has been able to make in the aerospace and defense sectors. I know a lot of the nuclear proliferation laws remain from the cold war era. Many of the ITAR policies are lingering reminders that America and the world is still is not as comfortable with each other as they may seem on the surface.

    The JSF is a perfect example of this. Even with US allies, the project has been basically brought to its knees due to the red tape created by the different countries and ITAR regulations. This joint venture of allies has been put on hold because even today there is way too much red tape left from the red scare of the Soviet Union, and our fear of the weapons ending up in the wrong hands. China as expected comes under strict scrutiny from the US in any flexing they try and do as a country on the national defense stage. Although we are economically friends and comrades, China is far from an ally in the defense program and creation of new products and machines for defense. One reason for this is the “mysterious” rapid advance of Chinese rocket technology right after an American rocket happened to have a failed launch on Chinese soil. After this incident the US basically cut all ties to China and forbid any American defense contractor to use Chinese launch pads.

    I believe that with any advanced technologies the trade regulations will be strict and most of the information will be kept proprietary. The one thing that you pointed out, that I agree with, is that we have no regulation over what happens to our technology after we give it to another country. I do not see the American government giving weapons directly to our enemies. There is however already a twisted web of alliances that makes it possible for our products to come back to us. It is very possible, and even probable, that the bullets and missiles being shot at Americans can be traced back to American factories and companies.

  2. Jay Ponto says:

    Yes, the US should be concerned about our technologies falling into the hands of some other countries.

    At this time, I do not think it is a wise idea for the US to share many military secrets or armaments with countries like India who were previously aligned with the Soviet Union in terms of military armament. The US clearly spends more money annually on military expenditures than any other country, which provides a large strategic advantage to either our forces, or the forces of any country we choose to share our technology or equipment with.

    With our military spread throughout the world and our involvement in military spending/deals with Taiwan and Pakistan, allowing extensive sales to another major power in the region (India) might serve to harm US relations with China.

    It is imperative that the US government be very careful regarding which countries are allowed to receive certain technologies. While forming business deals can be very profitable with countries like India, defense company relations with foreign governments must be carefully considered before allowing such deals to take place.

  3. Yeah, there is no business like war! I am not someone who sees black helicopters all day but I think it’s important to understand that the Military-industrial complex President Eisenhower mentioned in his Farewell Address to the Nation is very real and carries a huge political weight in this country.
    As the referenced article outlines, India accounts for about one third of Russia’s total arms exports, with aircraft making up the bulk of sales. I would be surprised if the US wouldn’t try to grab a piece of that pie.

  4. Yuxiang Gao says:

    The issue of nuclear proliferation is a growing concern as more countries are starting to edge forward in economic strength. Nuclear capabilities is a common language that commands legitimacy and forces others to take notice. As long as there is disparity in power, there will be a push to meet the “nuclear bench mark.”
    I do not think it is a wise idea for the US to share many military secrets or armaments with countries like India.
    Nuclear weapon has huge risk for all human-being, but on the other side, it keeps the balance of India and Pakistan. Without it, Pakistan may disappear several years ago.
    I am not saying it is good thing that Pakistan has nuclear weapons, instead, I totally support nuclear limitations

  5. Austen Diliberto says:

    News of trading arms and building armies always makes me nervous. Much of the world puts on a facade of peace and friendliness, but behind the scenes is constantly working to build stronger militaries. I know it is good to be prepared and stronger than any potential adversary but still, it’s like everyone is walking around hiding a gun behind their backs.
    For now I don’t see any reason that the US, India, or China would engage in war with one another. Each country is too dependent on one or both to spoil the relationship. In the future it is possible that China becomes so powerful and uncontrollable that it takes the US plus India and much of the rest of the world to bring it down. That’s probably the scenario those in charge have in mind when they decide to share military technology with India. If that time comes we will be glad to have an strong ally. For now we don’t have anything to worry about, a war like that could only happen in a very different world than we live in today.

  6. AliyaZ. says:

    The article is definitely informative to me as I have very little knowledge of this process. Other than the new on TV I haven’t read much about it. Unfortunately war is a business, and trading arms is an important component of the war. Who sells arms to who has a political aspect. It is like the question in the article: “Will India buy arms from the United States after the fact the US sold arms to Pakistan in the past?” The two top arms exporter are Russia and the United States. Russia’s leading purchaser is India. From reading some articles online it looks like Russia and the US are competing with each other on obtaining more purchasers around the world. I think there is still a spirit of the Cold War and Russia will do everything to keep India as a leading customer.

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