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HomeIndiaUS arms exports skyrocket, while China nosediveNews WAALI

US arms exports skyrocket, while China nosediveNews WAALI

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The invasion of Ukraine has benefited the United States and led to a large increase in arms imports to Europe. In other parts of the world, however, the movement of arms between nations is declining.

SIPRI: US arms exports skyrocket, while China nosedive


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While the rest of the world is disarming slowly, Europe is doing the opposite quickly, according to the latest report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). The organization examines and compares the global arms trade in periods of four years, much better to reflect general trends than to look at the arms business over a period of twelve months only.

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Among the two most important trends in the latest report, SIPRI researcher Pieter Wezeman told DW that arms transfers to European states have increased significantly” and that “the role of the United States as an arms supplier in the world has increased significantly also. .”

In the most recent period examined, 2018-22, the international arms trade fell by just over 5% compared to 2013-17. In contrast, arms imports from European countries – the vast majority of which came from the United States – increased by 47%, and those from European NATO countries increased by as much as 65%. The reason behind that is, not surprisingly, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

United States exports to Ukraine, Saudi Arabia, and Japan

In the past, Ukraine was not a major player in the international arms trade. He made much of his defense equipment on home soil, the rest being left over from the Soviet era. In the latest SIPRI report, however, it ranks 14th on the list of arms importers worldwide and if you consider only 2022, Ukraine is third.

SIPRI usually refers to “arms transfers” in its report, meaning the arms trade and (free) military aid, the latter being Ukraine’s main arms supply. This type of military aid usually includes older equipment or surplus stock from donor countries.

The report shows how, because of this, what has been delivered to Ukraine pales in comparison in value to the sale of new weapons. For example, despite massive US arms deliveries to Ukraine in 2022, Washington was still sending goods of greater value to Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Japan. Those four countries bought particularly new and sophisticated equipment such as fighter jets, something that Ukraine has been urgently asking for from Western allies.

France wins, Germany loses

The five largest arms exporters are, in order: the United States, Russia, France, China and Germany. Although this ranking has not changed since the last report, there have been significant changes in terms of the individual countries.

For example, the United States, already at the top of the list, increased exports by another 14% and now accounts for 40% of global arms transfers.

A much larger increase of 44% was recorded by France, which managed to expand its position as number three. Such sudden changes are not unusual, however, according to SIPRI, as there can be particularly large and profitable orders within a given timeframe.

This is also how Pieter Wezeman explains the sudden drop in the German defense business at 35% less than in the previous report. But, says Wezeman, this time, “maybe the change in French arms exports is more structural in nature. France has put a lot of emphasis on trying to support its arms industry and it has clearly succeeded in doing so the last decade.”

This was clearly on the mind of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz during a recent visit to India. Western powers are trying to encourage New Delhi to rely less on Russia for weapons. And while France has spent years establishing itself as India’s second largest supplier after Moscow, Germany plays no role in Indian arms imports at all.

Also striking is the 23% drop in Chinese arms exports and, in general, China’s low importance as a global arms exporter relative to its economy as a whole. Wezeman explained this way: “China has not managed to break into some of the main arms markets, sometimes for obvious political reasons.” As a result, he said, China does not sell weapons to its adversary, India, for example.

“Surprisingly enough,” he added, China also “has not really succeeded in competing against European and US arms suppliers to most Middle Eastern states, especially the Arab states.”

As Europe began to import more arms, its share of international arms transfers likewise increased, from 11% in 2013-17 to 16% in 2018-22. At the same time, arms transfers fell in all other parts of the world.

One of the most extreme cases was in Africa, where transfers went back 40%. But that has not made the continent more peaceful, said Wezeman.

There are still a number of armed conflicts in Africa. However, he added, these “countries cannot really afford a large number of advanced weapons, and so in that sense, the total value of transferring weapons to the region is not as high as the number of conflicts would be in it. suggest.”

In sub-Saharan Africa, Russia has now surpassed China as the largest arms supplier. One example of Russia’s campaign in Africa is Mali. The Sahel nation used to buy weapons from a host of countries, including France and the United States. However, after the coups in Mali in 2020 and 2021, these two Western countries began to shrink their business in the country significantly, while Russia expanded its sales.

Another example of the consequences of political upheaval for arms cooperation—in a different region—is Turkey. The NATO member was the seventh largest buyer of US defense equipment in 2013-17. But as relations between Ankara and Washington become more strained, Turkey is now ranked only 27th.

Future orders act as a forecast

Who will lead the international arms business in the future? To find out, SIPRI looked at the order books of manufacturers in the most important arms exporting countries. Particular attention was paid to orders for fighter planes and helicopters, as well as for larger warships such as aircraft carriers, destroyers, frigates and submarines. These are weapon systems of particularly high value.

The United States will therefore be by far the largest arms supplier in the world. This is evident from the fact that approximately 60% of all fighter planes and helicopters ordered worldwide are US products. In 2022 alone, 13 countries ordered a total of 376 combat aircraft and helicopters from US manufacturers.

France has many aircraft orders and many ships and is therefore likely to further increase its position as an arms exporter. The outlook for Germany is mixed. No orders exist for German aircraft, but a large number of naval ships are currently being made in German shipyards. Many German weapons that may have been exported are likely to end up in Ukraine.

This article was originally written in German.

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