Wartime Trade Between Belligerents of War Materials

It is not unknown in the annals of history for warring powers to continue to trade with each other, on a limited basis, during active hostilities. But journalist Adam Hochschild found a remarkable episode of it during World War I and wrote about it in his new book To End All Wars. Tyler Cowen, an economist, summarizes:

My favorite section details how the British responded when it turned out they had a drastic shortage of binoculars, which at that time were very important for fighting the war. They turned to the world’s leading manufacturer of “precision optics,” namely Germany. The German War Office immediately supplied 8,000 to 10,000 binoculars to Britain, directly intended and designed for military use. Further orders consisted of many thousands more and the Germans told the British to examine the equipment they had been capturing, to figure out which orders they wished to place.

The Germans in turn demanded rubber from the British, which was needed for their war effort. It was delivered to Germany at the Swiss border.


Cowen offers a few possible explanations for this transaction at the link.

Link | Amazon Link | Photo: Imperial War Museum

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Of course this was when war was was considered by politicians to be a continuation of diplomacy by other means. And anyhow, why should you let a little thing like a war get in the way of making a profit?

@James don't forget that in 1981 Iraq were on our side. Just like the US were supplying the Taliban with arms when Russia occupied Afganistan. Allegiances change.
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