Purchasing Prestige or Seeking Security: The Determinants of Great Power Force Planning and Military Procurement

Great powers acquire a wide range of military platforms with which to equip their armed forces, but the combat utility of these platforms varies tremendously. In certain cases, such as Stalin's battleship program or Brazil's carrier program, platforms were procured that seemingly defied strategic logic and directly conflicted with national doctrine. So what explains these states' military procurement preferences? My dissertation seeks to answer this question by considering the broader ways that military forces can generate power, both through signaling status and deterring and defeating adversaries, and the factors that lead states to prioritize these different faces of power. Specifically, I contend that military procurement is a function of a great power's level of external threat, status as a rising or declining power, and the stability of the status hierarchy. I test this argument with a series of case studies across three countries in the 20th century.

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