Arms transfers and international relations theory: situating military aircraft sales in the broader IR context

Richard Johnson, Spencer Willardson

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Quantitative research on arms transfers has not adequately accounted for broader theories of international relations. We review the specialized literature on arms transfers and examine how arms transfers fit with the broad international relations theories. We derive and test seven hypotheses based on realist, liberal and constructivist theories using a dataset of all non-US/Russian aircraft transfers between 1990 and 2010. We find limited support for realist hypotheses. We find little support for hypotheses derived from the Democratic Peace literature, but some support for liberal trade arguments. We also find some support for constructivist arguments based on shared identity and prestige measures.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)191-213
Number of pages23
JournalConflict Management and Peace Science
Issue number2
Early online date26 Feb 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 26 Feb 2021


  • military aircraft sales
  • arms transfers
  • international relations

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