Although the international arms market has declined over the last decade, arms imports to Europe have increased significantly, largely “due to tensions between Russia and most European countries”.
This is stated in a new report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), which shows a 47% increase in arms imports to Europe comparing the period 2013-2017 with the period 2018-2022, despite the overall market having decreased by 5, 1%.
The increase in demand for weapons on European soil is particularly evident after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Russia down while France gains ground
For three decades, Russia was clearly the second largest arms exporter after the United States. Moscow holds its ground but has seen its global market share drop to 16% and is now followed closely by France with an 11% share.
According to Siemon T. Wezeman, a senior researcher at SIPRI’s arms transfer program, “The invasion of Ukraine will likely further limit Russia’s arms exports,” which “will prioritize the supply of its armed forces, while orders from other states will remain reduced due to sanctions” against the Kremlin.
For Paris, meanwhile, the market is going from strength to strength: comparing the five-year period 2013-2017 with that 2018-22, France recorded an increase in exports of 44%. Most of the recipients have been from Asia – with India accounting for 30% of French arms exports -, Oceania and the Middle East.
Ukraine’s ‘thirst’ for weapons and Nato’s fears
Not surprisingly, the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 completely reversed the country’s need for weapons. From 1991 to the end of 2021, Kiev practically did not import heavy weapons. Since the beginning of the war, however, it has become the world’s third largest importer, after Qatar and India. A result, in particular, of military aid provided by the United States and many European countries.
While European NATO members have offered assistance to Kiev, many have also beefed up their arsenals in response to a perceived growing threat from neighboring Russia.
Arms imports by NATO countries increased by 65% in 2018-2022 compared to 2013-2017. Most of these weapons come from the United States.
The call for “state-of-the-art weapons” in the Middle East
In the Middle East, the goal seems to be the renewal of arsenals. Between 2018 and 2022, Saudi Arabia and Qatar were the world’s second-largest and third-largest arms importers, respectively. For Qatar, imports have increased by 311% in the past five years.
The vast majority of weapons destined for the region come from the United States (54%), followed by France (12%), Russia (8.6%) and Italy (8.4%).
Among the most sought-after weapons are 260 modern fighter aircraft, 516 new tanks and 13 state-of-the-art frigates.