Armaments – Europe, a new “hot spot” for the arms trade


If it is difficult to quantify, because of the opacity of many contracts, the world arms trade exceeds 90 billion francs annually.

Several European countries including Germany have already announced massive military investment plans. (illustrative image)


Europe has posted the strongest growth in the arms trade in the past five years and the trend will accelerate sharply with announcements of rearmament in the face of the new Russian threat, according to a benchmark report published on Monday.

During the period 2017-2021, the global arms trade fell by 4.6% compared to the previous five years, but jumped by 19% on the European continent, according to this study by the International Institute for Research on Stockholm Peace (Sipri). “Europe is the new hot spot,” says Siemon Wezeman, co-author of this annual report for more than three decades.

“We are going to increase our military spending enormously, we need a lot of new weapons and a good part will come from imports”, mainly intra-European and American, observes the researcher in an interview with AFP.

Massive military investment plans

Several European countries including Germany have already announced massive military investment plans. Combat aircraft – led by the very modern but expensive American F-35 – missiles, artillery and other heavy equipment should feed the armies of European countries worried after the invasion of Ukraine ordered by Vladimir Putin.

“Most of these things take a bit of time, you have to decide, order, and then produce, so it takes a few years at least. But in reality the trend has already started after the annexation of Crimea in 2014, and we are already seeing the effects today,” observes Siemon Wezeman. Europe’s share in world trade has thus increased from 10 to 13% over the past five years.

Although it is difficult to quantify due to the opacity of many contracts and arms donations, the world arms trade is close to 100 billion dollars a year (93 billion francs) year after year, according to experts. . According to Sipri, Asia-Oceania has remained the main import zone over the past five years, with 43% of global arms transfers and six of the ten largest importers (India, Australia, China, South Korea, Pakistan and Japan).

Arms trade to the most populous area in the world has declined by around 5% over the past five years, although in detail, East Asia (+20%) and Oceania (+59 %) show strong growth, against a backdrop of growing tensions between Beijing and several Asian capitals.

French carton for export

In the Middle East, the second market with 32% of world imports, growth was 3%, driven in particular by investments from Qatar in the face of tensions with its Gulf neighbors. “Current oil prices mean they’re going to have a lot of revenue, and usually that translates into big arms orders,” notes Siemon Wezeman.

The Americas and Africa saw their shares decline sharply, falling to around 6% respectively. By country, India and Saudi Arabia share first place in the world for imports, with 11% each, ahead of Egypt (5.7%), Australia and China (4.8%).

In the world’s top 5 arms exporters, the United States – by far the world leader – and France, number 3, have seen their share increase markedly in five years, rising respectively from 32 to 39% and around 6 % to 11%. China, fourth world exporter (4.6%) and Germany, number five (4.5%) kept their rank but saw their share erode slightly.


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