The New Race in Armaments

July 24, 1937

Report Outline
Initiation of World Arms Competition, 1934
Recent Great Rise in Arms Expenditures
Pre-War Competitions in Armaments
Failure of Post-War Disarmament Efforts
Special Focus

Initiation of World Arms Competition, 1934

Collapse of the Disarmament Conference following the withdrawal of Germany from the Conference and the League of Nations in October, 1933, ended all immediate hopes of achieving an international arms limitation agreement and lifted the last restraint to initiation of an arms race that was to dwarf all previous competitions in the building of armaments. Arms budgets had already begun to rise, but after 1933 they mounted by leaps and bounds in the atmosphere of almost continuous tension created by such events as Germany's repudiation of the naval and military clauses of the Treaty of Versailles and her reoccupation of the Rhine-land, Italy's invasion of Ethiopia, and the civil war in Spain. The Reich's strenuous efforts to build up its fighting strength were answered in due course by announcement of a huge British rearmament program. Meanwhile, nearly every nation, not excluding the United States, was stepping up its military appropriations. The almost incredible result was that within a period of only two years—from 1934 to 1936—world expenditures for military and naval purposes more than doubled.

Apprehensions Aroused by the Present Arms Race

With the powers embarked upon an arms race on a scale and of an intensity never before witnessed, fear was widely expressed that such feverish competition was itself increasing the likelihood of war. Equal or greater concern was voiced over the economic hazards. Economists and public officials pointed out that while arms manufacture was contributing heavily in some countries to the semblance of returning prosperity, expenditures for that purpose were storing up trouble since they were unproductive and would give no return to help liquidate indebtedness incurred to finance them. Everywhere, moreover, the armament load was being imposed on peoples already heavily burdened by debt and taxation. Hence it was predicted that continuance of arms competition at such a pace would lead sooner or later to widespread financial collapse, bring unforeseeable consequences in its train. In the meantime, there was danger that war might be resorted to by the hardest-pressed countries as a desperate measure to relieve the economic strain.

Such apprehensions have been voiced frequently of late by President Roosevelt and other administration officials. Addressing the Inter-American Conference for the Maintenance of Peace, at Buenos Aires last December 1, the President mentioned the fact “that vast armaments are rising on every side and that the work of creating them employs men and women by the millions.” He warned “that such employment is false employment, that it builds no permanent structures and creates no consumers' goods for the maintenance of a lasting prosperity.”

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
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Jan. 31, 1997  Chemical and Biological Weapons
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Aug. 15, 1980  The Neutron Bomb and European Defense
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Jul. 01, 1970  Nuclear Balance of Terror: 25 Years After Alamogordo
Jun. 18, 1969  Chemical–Biological Weaponry
Jun. 30, 1965  Atomic Proliferation
Mar. 21, 1962  Nuclear Testing Dilemmas
Aug. 16, 1961  Shelters and Survival
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May 15, 1957  Changing Defense Concepts
Jul. 03, 1956  Civil Defense, 1956
Nov. 16, 1955  International Arms Deals
Oct. 04, 1954  Industrial Defense
Apr. 15, 1954  National Defense Strategy
Feb. 10, 1954  New Aproaches to Atomic Control
Oct. 10, 1953  Atomic Information
Apr. 11, 1952  Biological Warfare
Oct. 03, 1951  World Arms Race
Feb. 04, 1948  International Control of Atomic Energy
Dec. 06, 1946  International Inspection
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Jul. 24, 1937  The New Race in Armaments
May 05, 1932  Abolition of Aggressive Weapons
Arms Control and Disarmament