SIPRI Report: Europe's Arms Imports Nearly Doubled Since 2019

As of: March 11, 2024 12:17 am

Peace researchers at SIPRI document significantly higher arms imports to Europe. America is the main exporter. Russia is now not in second place, but France. Biggest buyer: Ukraine.

European countries have almost doubled their arms imports. This emerges from a report by SIPRI (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute). Peace researchers always compare five-year periods. From 2019 to 2023, the demand for weapons in European countries was high. On the one hand, this is due to the extensive supply to Ukraine.

Ukraine is the fourth largest arms importer in the world. But that alone does not explain the rise in European imports, says Pieter Wezeman of SIPRI. “Over the past decade, we've seen an explosion in Europe's perception of the Russian threat.”

All European countries have come to the conclusion that they need to expand their military capabilities, the scientist said. This meant they had to buy and import weapons. “Most European countries do not have their own extensive arms industry.”

France is second largest for the first time Arms exporter

There is also a clear shift in arms exports. America is still number one, but France is not second, but France. The country has managed to increase its exports by 47 percent between 2019 and 2023 – compared to the previous five-year period. At the same time, Russia has slipped to third place due to a significant drop in exports.

“There is considerable demand for weapons outside of Europe and many countries have chosen to buy from France rather than Russia,” said SIPRI's Wessmann. “This may have political and technical reasons. For example, China is now able to produce its own weapons of satisfactory quality and no longer needs Russian imports.”

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Germany is the fifth largest arms exporter in the world. Wezeman of SIPRI says some of the weapons produced here are in Europe – but not all so far. “Egypt has bought a whole lot of warships and submarines from Germany. And Israel has bought ships and machinery from Germany in recent years.” Singapore is also an important customer with the delivery of the first submarine in 2023.

Global growth is slow

A look at global growth in the arms trade: Overall, the global increase in imports between 2019 and 2023 is modest and only three percent. Asia and Oceania are the largest arms importing regions. According to the SIPRI researcher, the background here is tensions between China on one side and Taiwan, Japan, Philippines and Singapore on the other. This is followed by the Middle East and Europe.

Arms trafficking has both economic and political dimensions. Because where you sell to or who you import from – that is closely linked to your own foreign policy. There is a lot of talk in Europe about having its own arms industry with some bias – but this is a matter of the future, says SIPRI researcher Wessmann.

“Europe will not break away from America overnight”

“Many European countries have invested heavily in weapons from the United States. And the weapons have a very long lifespan,” says Wessman. If you buy an “F-35” fighter jet from America now, it will be in service for the next 20 or 30 years. “As far as we can see right now, Europe will not separate from America overnight.”

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SIPRI is an independent peace research institute based in Stockholm. Since the late 1960s analysts have been regularly publishing data on arms transfers, military spending, and nuclear weapons. This research is funded by the Swedish government.

Sofie Donges, ARD Stockholm, tagesschau, March 10, 2024 3:41 pm

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