Paper - Managing the Atom Project, Belfer Center

Shadow Wars of Weapons Acquisition: Arms Denial and its Strategic Implications

| July 01, 2014

In trying to prevent adversaries from acquiring new military capabilities, countries often employ strategies of arms denial; e.g., “unilateral diplomacy,” supply chain interdiction, covert sabotage, and targeted military strikes. Setter and Markovich posit that the prevalence of this approach gives rise to strategic effects that affect all players’ behavior. The authors explore this phenomenon using a game-theoretic model of weapons acquisition and denial. Their model shows that denial could indeed be the equilibrium result of such strategic interactions, and provides the conditions under which the threat of denial is sufficient to cause adversaries to refrain from acquisition altogether. They further identify strategic levers that actors can use to improve their position in this interaction. The results of the model are illustrated using real-world examples and are then used to assess the implications of arms denial on arms races and regional stability.

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Markovich, Sarit and Oren Setter. “Shadow Wars of Weapons Acquisition: Arms Denial and its Strategic Implications.” Paper, Managing the Atom Project, Belfer Center, July 1, 2014.

The Authors