In politico-military terms, the term arms race refers to a situation where two countries continuously try to surpass each other in terms of military capacity, sometimes in ostentatious ways.
While some might argue that arms races are pointless, U.S. President Ronald Reagan succeeded in winning the Cold War against the Soviet Union by forcing their inefficient economic system into bankruptcy by pursuing the (pre-existing) arms race more aggressively.
The political nature of an Arms race is explained as follows:
|“||An arms race denotes a rapid, competitive increase in the quantity or quality of instruments of military or naval power by rival states in peacetime. What it connotes is a game with a logic of its own. Typically, in popular depictions of arms races, the political calculations that start and regulate the pace of the game remain obscure. As Charles H. Fairbanks, Jr., has noted, “The strange result is that the activity of the other side, and not one’s own resources, plans, and motives, becomes the determinant of one’s behavior.” And what constitutes the “finish line” of the game is the province of assertion, rather than analysis.||”|
Arms races have occurred throughout history, with a particularly large one preceding, and serving as a precursor to, World War I and subsequently again leading up to World War II.