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European arms imports double amid Ukraine conflict

Kiev alone has hiked its weapons purchases by more than 6,600% in the last five years, a new report has found

European nations nearly doubled their weapons imports over the last five years, with the conflict in Ukraine the primary factor behind the increase, according to new data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

The continent imported 94% more weapons between 2019 and 2023 than it did between 2014 and 2018, according to a SIPRI report published on Monday. Almost every major Western European power hiked arms purchases in this period, with France increasing its imports by 112%, Germany by 188%, and the UK by 41%, the data shows.

However, Ukraine increased its imports by 6,633%, becoming Europe’s largest weapons importer and the world’s fourth-largest, behind India, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar.

Across the board, European nations have dramatically hiked defense spending in response to the conflict in Ukraine, both to fund weapons transfers to Kiev and to rearm their own militaries. EU members increased their military spending to a record $261 billion in 2022, with six member states implementing hikes of more than 10% in 2021.

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However, the EU has struggled to produce enough arms and ammunition to maintain its own stocks and to supply Ukraine’s demand, particularly for artillery shells. Out of a million 155mm shells promised to Kiev by March, less than a third were delivered, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky complained late last month. Brussels disputed his figures.

With their own industries lagging, European countries have turned to foreign suppliers, particularly the US. From 2019-2023, 55% of Europe’s arms imports came from the US, with the remainder coming from Asia, the Middle East, and other European countries. Overall, the US increased its share of global arms exports from 34% to 42% during the period studied, selling weapons to 107 states.

 Although arming Ukraine has strained European production capacity, two nations – France and Italy – have managed to increase their arms exports since 2019, with customers in India and the Middle East driving this rise. Paris boosted its exports by 47% from 2014-2018 and 2019-2023, eclipsing Russia as the world’s second-largest weapons exporter.



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