The action-reaction model is the classical view of arms racing, and provides the basis for the metaphor of a race. Most attempts to define arms racing are rooted in it. The basic proposition of the action-reaction model is that states strengthen their armaments because of the threats they perceive from other states. The theory implicit in the model explains the arms dynamic as driven primarily by factors external to the state. An action by any state to increase its military strength will raise the level of threat seen by other states and cause them to react by increasing their own strength (Rathjens, 1973). In theory this process also works in reverse. If states are driven to arm by external threats, then domestic economic pressures to apply resources to other items on the political agenda should lead them to disarm in proportion to reductions in military capability by others. Whether in fact the logic of action-reaction works with equal facility in both directions has important implications for the logic of disarmament discussed in Chapter 15.


Gross National Product Power Struggle Weapon System North Atlantic Treaty Organization Military Technology 
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Copyright information

© International Institute for Strategic Studies 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • Barry Buzan
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of International StudiesUniversity of WarwickUK

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