Watchdog Groups Blows Whistle As Arms Sales Soar

( – According to an arms-dealing watchdog, the U.S. is cementing itself as the world’s leading weapons supplier. In a press release on March 11, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute concluded that Europe almost doubled its weapons imports between 2019 and 2023. The report found that U.S. and French exports rose, and Russian exports dropped sharply, making Russia the third biggest weapons exporter for the first time.

In January 2024, it was reported that US weapons exports reached a record high of $238 billion in the fiscal year 2023. After overtaking Russia, France’s weapon exports have risen from 7.2% to 11% of the global arms market.

The SIPRI report indicated that the aggressive positions of countries such as Russia, Iran, and China drove weapons sales in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia in recent years. The majority of Europe’s weapon imports – 55% – came from the U.S., and the report highlighted the major role the war in Ukraine played in driving weapons imports. European arms imports were 94% higher from 2019 to 2023 than they were from 2014 to 2018.

Ukraine rose from being a minor buyer to being the largest arms importer in Europe and the fourth largest weapons buyer in the world after India, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. India was the highest importer of French weapons, most of which were exported to the Middle East, Asia, and Oceania. India and China were the biggest importers of arms from Russia. Italian weapons exports also increased by 86%, and South Korea’s increased by 12%. Chinese exports declined by 5.3%, as did Germany’s by 14%, the United Kingdom’s by 14%, Spain’s by 3.3%, and Israel’s by 25%.

Pieter Wezeman, a senior researcher at SIPRI, commented that Russia’s weapons exports were in decline before the invasion of Ukraine and that the war made them decrease further. The report highlighted Europe’s increasing dependency on the U.S. for weapons. Foreign governments can purchase arms from U.S. companies in two ways: through direct commercial sales or through foreign military sales typically negotiated by the government with a Defense Department official at the U.S. embassy. Both methods of purchasing arms require the government’s approval.

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