DArms deliveries to Europe have increased significantly against the background of the war in Ukraine. Imports of heavy weapons such as tanks, combat aircraft and submarines into European countries increased by 47 percent between the study periods 2013 to 2017 and 2018 to 2022, the peace research institute SIPRI from Stockholm announced on Monday. NATO countries imported 65 percent more weapons. On the other hand, the volume of arms deliveries worldwide fell by 5.1 percent.
“After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, European countries want to import more weapons – and faster,” said SIPRI researcher Pieter Wezeman. According to this, the growing demand of many European countries should lead to a further increase in the number of heavy weapon imports in the coming years. As a result of last year’s Russian incursion, Ukraine has become the third largest arms importer, behind Qatar and India. The country previously ranked 14th.
“Before 2022, there were hardly any arms deliveries to Ukraine. They were at a very low level – especially considering her size and the fact that she’s been at war since 2014,” Wezeman said. The United States supplied the majority (35 percent) of arms to Ukraine in 2022, followed by Poland (17 percent). With 11 percent, Germany is Ukraine’s third most important arms supplier.
Russia needs its weapons for its own armed forces
For decades, the top exporters of heavy weapons have been the United States and Russia, followed by France, China and Germany. While US export volume rose 14 percent over the past five years, Russia’s shipments fell 31 percent. The institute explained the decline by saying that Russia needs its armaments for its own armed forces and the sanctions are making arms exports more difficult. With an increase of 44 percent, France ranks third in global arms deliveries. The researchers believe it is possible that France could soon overtake Russia as an arms supplier.
During the same period, Germany exported 35 percent fewer weapons. The largest buyers of German armaments are above all countries in the Middle East. In the past, there have been delays in German arms deliveries to Turkey or Israel, for example, which is reflected in fluctuations in export volumes. “In Germany we have seen such fluctuations before. This is often related to a relatively small number of major naval equipment orders, particularly for submarines and frigates,” Wezeman said. However, he considers it likely that German arms exports could increase again in the future.
In contrast to Europe, other continents are seeing a decline in arms imports. China acquired 23 percent fewer weapons. The reason for this is that China is increasingly producing armaments in its own country. Arms imports fell 40 percent in Africa, 21 percent in North and South America, and 7.5 percent in Asia and Oceania. The researchers estimate the sum of all weapons traded annually at around 100 billion dollars (93.8 billion euros).
The study by the research institute compares five-year periods in order to be able to depict a long-term global trend despite frequent fluctuations in arms transfers from year to year. Due to the effects of the war in Ukraine on the arms market, they made an exception and also looked at the year 2022.