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Excluding Ukraine, Serbia is arming itself the most among European countries

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Szerbia fegyverkezik / Serbia is arming itself
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Over the last five years, global arms trade has declined, but Europe has been heavily arming itself. From the perspective of arms manufacturers, the “little good Ukrainian war” was much needed to prevent revenue sources from drying up in the global defense industry. According to data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the global volume of international arms sales decreased by 5.1% over the last five years, while European countries that “feared” the Ukrainian war saw their arms imports increase by 47%. It is striking that, excluding Ukraine, Serbia has bought the most weapons among European countries, but significant arms acquisitions have also been made by the Netherlands, Norway, and Poland.

Europe has begun to arm itself

Arms imports from European countries increased by 47% over the last five years (2018-2022) compared to the previous five-year period, while the global volume of international arms transfers decreased by 5.1%. 

In all other continents, fewer weapons were purchased, with a 40% decline in Africa, 21% in the Americas, and 7.5% in Asia and Oceania. Furthermore, the Middle East, which was separately measured in terms of arms purchases, saw an 8.8% decrease in arms transfers than before, so Europe is leading the list of arms acquisitions.

In real terms, the top five arms importers between 2018-2022 were India, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Australia, and China, while the top five arms exporters were the United States, Russia, France, China, and Germany.

So far, the Russian attack on Ukraine has had only a limited impact on the overall volume of armament over the last five years, but Ukraine has become an important importer of weapons in 2022, as shown in the following figure.

A fegyverimport növekedése az utóbbi öt évben az előző öt évhez képest

A fegyverimport növekedése az utóbbi öt évben az előző öt évhez képest (Forrás: SIPRI)

According to data, the top three countries that have provided Ukraine with the most weapons in the last five years are the United States, Poland, and Germany, with a two-thirds share of Ukraine’s arms imports. The United States accounted for 34%, Poland for 17%, and Germany for 11% of Ukraine’s armament.

In the last five years, 23% of the United States’ arms exports went to European countries, which represents an 11% increase compared to the period between 2013 and 2017. The United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Norway were the top three European recipients of American weapons.

Although the United States showed a sharp increase in its arms exports to Ukraine in 2022, the value of Ukrainian shipments fell short of those sent to Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Japan, as these countries purchased expensive combat aircraft and air defense systems from the Americans, while the US mainly supplied less advanced and mostly used military equipment to Ukraine.

Turkey, a NATO member, received relatively few American weapons due to the low bilateral relations between the two countries in recent times. Turkey ranked 27th among the countries that received US arms exports.

Who else exports weapons?

SIPRI identified 63 countries as sellers for the 2018-2022 period. The top five arms exporters are the United States, Russia, France, China, and Germany. These countries are responsible for more than three-quarters (76%) of global arms sales.

The American and French arms exports increased in the last five years compared to the previous similar period, while Russian, Chinese, and German arms exports declined.

The top five exporters in Western Europe – France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, and Spain – accounted for approximately one-quarter (24%) of the world’s total arms exports between 2018-2022.

A legtöbb fegyvert adták el

Ezek az országok adták el a legtöbb fegyvert, jól látható, hogy mekkora az öt legnagyobb exportőr részesedése (Forrás: SIPRI)

In the period between 2018 and 2022, the first 25 arms exporters accounted for 98 percent of all global arms exports. Interestingly, countries located in North America and Europe together generated 87 percent of all exports, meaning they supplied almost all of the weapons to the rest of the world.

Visszaesett a fegyvereladás

A fenti táblázat azt jelzi, hogy melyik országok fegyvereladása esett vissza az utóbbi öt évben (Forrás: SIPRI)


Eight countries sold significantly fewer weapons in the past five years compared to the previous five, with China not making the list but still experiencing a significant decline of 23%, along with Israel which saw a 15% drop in arms exports.

Serbia is rapidly arming itself

As previously mentioned, Serbia is rapidly arming itself and is worth noting as China’s significant partner. Following Pakistan and Bangladesh, Serbia received the third-largest amount of Chinese arms, though only one-tenth of what Pakistan received. 

Serbia now ranks 37th on the list of top arms-importing countries, with a staggering increase of 743%.

While Chinese arms sales to Serbia have surged in the past five years, so too have the number of Chinese weapons within the Serbian military. In fact, 43% of all weapons acquired by Serbia in the past five years were from China, with Russia and Belarus falling to second and third place with 31% and 20%, respectively. 

However, given that Belarus is almost exclusively armed by Russia and that Serbian purchases from Belarus are almost exclusively Russian-made, the Serbian military may still have more Russian than Chinese weaponry, as evidenced by their recent acquisition of MiG-29s.

A BALK Hírlevele


B.A. Balkanac



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