The possibility of selling US-made arms to Armenia has been discussed often. There are all sorts of interpretations and approaches. Many claim that it is a matter of political expediency for the US. Others say that for such a deal it is necessary for Armenia to break its military ties and legal obligations with the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and Russia. The answer to this question must be sought not only in Armenian foreign policy but also in the American legal and political context.
History of US Arms Sales and the Main Regulatory Documents
The United States began its international arms sales after World War I, but it was only after World War II that US arms sales reached large volumes. One of the main reasons for the unprecedented increase in arms sales was the rivalry between the USSR and the USA during the Cold War. During those years, the United States used arms sales as a means of defending Western Europe, and in a broader strategic sense, the US goal was to prevent the advancement of the USSR and the spread of communism.
Now the United States is the world leader in arms exports. US arms exports grew by 14 percent in 2017-2021 compared to 2012-2016 and the US increased its global share from 32 percent to 39 percent.
The modern process of arms sales by the United States is regulated by the 1976 Arms Export Controls Act (AECA). The act authorizes sales by the United States government to “friendly countries having sufficient wealth to maintain and equip their own military forces at adequate strength, or to assume progressively larger shares of the costs thereof, without undue burden to their economies.” However, the sale should also be in accordance with the restraints and control measures specified in the act and in furtherance of the security objectives of the United States and of the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter.
In addition to the legal regulation of arms sales, there is also a political component. US arms sales policy is stipulated in the following document: Conventional Arms Transfer Policy, which is regularly updated by US presidents. In general, no major changes are made, but there is a difference in the emphasis of this or that criterion. For example, unlike Nixon’s 1995 policy, Obama’s 2014 directive put a greater emphasis on human rights and their violations, the purpose of which was to prevent the USA from being involved or associated in any way with such violations. In addition to Obama’s policy, Trump’s policy also emphasized the issue of US economic security. The Biden administration has not yet issued its policy in this area; however, it is clear from the president’s political priorities that human rights and the preservation of democracy will be of key importance in this area as well.