1. Europe imports 47 percent more arms
Arms imports to European countries have increased by almost fifty percent in the past five years. For European countries that are members of NATO, the percentage is even higher: they bought 65 percent more weapons. Most of the weapons come from the United States.
The main motive is the war in Ukraine. For example, in the four years prior to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Poland ordered a total of 32 fighter jets from the United States. In the months following the invasion, Poland ordered 96 attack helicopters, 48 fighter jets and more than a thousand tanks, among other things.
2. Huge increase in Japan
Japan, a country that has avoided international conflicts as much as possible since World War II, imported 171 percent more weapons than five years ago. According to the researchers, this is mainly due to the increased military threat from neighboring countries China and North Korea.
Last autumn, for example, the air raid alarm went off several times in Japan because a North Korean missile flew through the airspace. North Korea conducts long-range missile exercises that fly over Japan and end up in the Pacific Ocean. For the same reason, South Korea has also invested heavily in new weapons in recent years.
At the same time, China has been threatening to invade Taiwan for some time. Japan and China are also fighting over small islands near Taiwan. They are currently under Japanese administration, but Beijing claims that the islands belong to China. Chinese spy balloons have also been reported several times over Japan.
3. The Netherlands imports three times as many weapons
The Dutch import of arms has tripled in recent years. Our country occupies 17th place worldwide on the list of largest arms importers. “That’s actually not surprising,” says Patrick Bolder, defense specialist at the Center for Strategic Studies (HCSS) in The Hague. “Although a tripling is a lot.”
You can see in the video below which companies benefit most from all this shopping spree:
According to Bolder, in the Netherlands it is mainly about ammunition. “Ammunition spoils. If you keep it too long, it is no longer usable.” So the Netherlands bought a lot of it. Because we didn’t have much. “Five years ago we still believed in world peace, so it made sense to keep that stock low. But that’s different now.”
Another important factor is the arms deliveries made by the Netherlands to Ukraine. “Then you also have to replenish your own stocks,” says Bolder.
4. Russia exports less, the US exports more
Russia remains the second largest arms exporter in the world, but exports are considerably less than five years ago. This can also be explained by the war in Ukraine: Russia desperately needs the weapons itself. However, Russian arms exports to China increased by almost 40 percent.
The largest arms exporter remains the United States. They are now responsible for forty percent of global arms exports, seven percent more than five years ago. It is striking that almost forty percent goes to the Middle East, with Saudi Arabia as the largest buyer. That would be aimed at limiting Iran’s influence in the region.
5. France’s second-largest arms exporter
Perhaps a striking country high in the export list: France. That country now exports 44 percent more arms than five years ago, making it the world’s largest arms exporter after the US and Russia. The weapons mainly went to Asia, Oceania and the Middle East.
“France has always had a very large arms industry,” says Bolder. “That’s because France has always wanted to have an autonomous position, with as little dependence on the United States as possible. They haven’t been a member of NATO for years. Then you have to have your own arms industry.”
According to Bolder, the French are ‘at home in all markets’: “They make tanks, guns, anti-aircraft systems, ships. But also think of large French companies such as Airbus, which also produces military aircraft.”
6. Smaller influence United Kingdom
The influence of the United Kingdom in arms exports has declined considerably in recent years. The UK exports 35 percent fewer arms than five years ago. On the one hand, this is due to Brexit: the British are supplying fewer weapons to the European Union. Another factor is Saudi Arabia. The UK supplied arms to Saudi Arabia for years, but new deals failed to materialize in recent years.
7. Qatar’s second-largest arms importer
Tiny Qatar is, after India and Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest arms importer. Qatar imports more than three times as many weapons as five years ago. The weapons mainly come from the United States (42 percent), France (29 percent) and Italy (fourteen percent).
“Qatar has not always been best friends with neighboring countries in the Arab world,” Bolder explains. “They’ve always been a bit on their own.” Other countries around Qatar, such as Saudi Arabia, also buy a lot of weapons. “When you are isolated, like Qatar, you have to arm yourself.”
8. Iran placed first major order since 1990s
Iran has hardly imported any weapons since the 1990s. There has also been virtually no arms imports into Iran in the past five years. But in 2022, Iran ordered 24 fighter jets from Russia, its first major order since 1993.
According to Bolder, the fact that Iran imports little is mainly due to Western sanctions. “But they also have a very large arms industry themselves. Iran is very good at counterfeiting weapons. That is because they have a highly educated population.”
For example, Iran received US anti-tank weapons used in Ukraine by Russia. “They then take it apart completely and study how it works. And then they copy it.”
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