Stockholm Peace Research Institute: Europe is going into massive arming
The Stockholm Peace Research Institute reports that arms imports to Europe have increased sharply, primarily as a result of the Ukraine war.
Conversely, arms purchases are declining in other parts of the world, so what does that mean?
The world is disarming, while Europe is radically arming.
The findings of the latest Stockholm Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) report can be summarized in this formulation.
The Swedish Peace Research Institute examines and compares the global arms trade over a four-year period.
Every four years because the arms trade often fluctuates dramatically over shorter periods such as one year, therefore, according to the Institute, longer periods of time better reflect developments.
In an interview with DW, Peter Weizmann, a researcher at the institute, considers that the two most important trends in this report are that arms transfers to European countries have increased significantly and that the role of the United States as a global supplier of weapons has also increased significantly.
However, the last years, from 2018 to 2022, witnessed a decrease in international arms transfers by 5% compared to the period from 2013 to 2017.
On the other hand, European countries’ imports of arms, mainly obtained from the United States, increased by 47%.
As for the imports of the European NATO countries, they increased by up to 65%… The reason is the war in Ukraine, of course.
Previously, Ukraine itself didn’t play any role as recipient or buyer of arms.
Also because the former Soviet republic manufactures weapons itself and has kept weapons from the times of the Soviet Union, so the need for imports was low.
However, from 2018 to 2022, Ukraine ranks 14th in the world, and if you look at 2022 alone, it’s in third place in the world as an arms recipient country.
In its report, the institute usually talks about arms transfers, that is, arms trade and free military aid, which constitute the main focus of support for Ukraine.
These weapons aren’t among the newest, and are often weapons from donor stockpiles.
Thus, the value of arms sales to Ukraine is rather low, and according to the SIPRI calculation: The value of massive US arms shipments to Ukraine in the war year 2022 didn’t reach the level of US shipments to four other recipient countries like Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Japan, because these countries acquired particularly advanced and new systems such as combat aircraft.
Kiev is still urgently requesting combat aircraft, but hasn’t yet obtained them from Western countries.
The five most important arms exporting countries in the world according to the volume of exports are the United States, Russia, France, China and Germany.
The ranking hasn’t changed compared to the previous period, but there have been significant changes in these countries.
Exports from the United States, already number one, increased by 14% and now account for 40% of global arms supplies.
France, which managed to extend its third-place position, registered an even larger increase of 44%.
According to the SIPRI Institute, such strong changes aren’t uncommon, because sometimes especially profitable large orders come only during a certain period of time.
It’s on this basis that Peter Weizmann explains the sharp decline of 35% in the German arms trade.
However, and according to Weizmann: “The change in French arms exports may be of a more structural nature… France is promoting the arms industry very aggressively and has had great success with this policy over the past decade”.
This is what German Chancellor Olaf Scholz observed during his recent visit to India, which was also about reducing India’s dependence on Russia in the field of armaments.
While France has established its role there for years as the second most important supplier after Russia, Germany doesn’t play an important role in this field in India.
What’s also remarkable is the losses in Chinese arms exports by 23%.
In general, the importance of China as a global exporter of weapons is weak compared to its economic importance.
Peter Weizmann puts it this way: “China has failed to penetrate some of the most important defense markets, in some cases for obvious political reasons”.
For example, China doesn’t sell weapons to its rival, India, and surprisingly, China has also failed to compete with the Americans and Europeans in most countries in the Middle East.
The sharp increase in arms imports by European countries led to a significant increase in Europe’s share in international arms supplies, from 11% in the period from 2013 to 2017 to 16% in the years from 2018 to 2022.
In contrast, arms supplies decreased in all other regions of the world.
This decrease appears very significantly in Africa, which witnessed a decline of 40%, “But that doesn’t make Africa more peaceful,” Weizmann says.
The SIPRI numbers are not directly related to the conflicts in which these weapons are used.
There are many armed conflicts in Africa, he added, but countries cannot buy large numbers of advanced weapons, and therefore the total value of arms supplies to the region is not as great as the number of conflicts suggests.
And in sub-Saharan Africa at least, Russia has overtaken China as an arms supplier.
Mali is an example of Russia’s progress in Africa, as Mali used to get weapons from a number of countries, including France and the United States.
However, after the coups in Mali in 2020 and 2021, these two Western countries clearly declined, while Russia expanded its sales there.
Another example of the consequences of political unrest in the field of armaments is Türkiye.
From 2013 to 2017, the NATO member country was the seventh largest buyer of US weapons.
However, since the disagreements with Washington during the reign of President Recep Erdogan, Türkiye ranked only 27th in the period from 2018 to 2022.
Who will be at the forefront of the international arms trade in the future?
To do this, the Stockholm Institute/SIPRI looked at the order records of manufacturers in the major arms exporting countries.
Orders from combat aircraft and helicopters as well as large warships such as aircraft carriers, destroyers, frigates and submarines are taken into consideration.
These are weapon systems with a particularly high order value.
So the United States will remain by far the most important arms supplier.
This is evidenced by the fact that about 60% of all combat aircraft and attack helicopters ordered worldwide are of American production.
In 2022 alone, 13 countries have ordered a total of 376 combat aircraft and attack helicopters from American manufacturers.
France has many orders for planes and ships and must strengthen its position as an arms exporter.
Meanwhile, Germany has a mixed export order record, with not a single fighter jet or helicopter, but a number of watercraft on order from shipyards. Russia currently has relatively few orders on its books.
This is due to its need for many weapons that could have been exported, in the Ukraine war.