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


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. We posit that the prevalence of this approach gives rise to strategic effects that affect all players’ behavior. We explore this phenomenon using a simple game-theoretic model of weapons acquisition and denial. We find that denial may indeed be the equilibrium result of such strategic interactions, and provide the conditions under which the threat of denial is sufficient to cause adversaries to refrain from acquisition altogether. We 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.


Working Paper


Sarit Markovich, Oren Setter

Date Published



Markovich, Sarit, and Oren Setter. 2016. Shadow Wars of Weapons Acquisition: Arms Denial and its Strategic Implications.


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