Russia’s share of global arms exports declined sharply in the most recent five-year period, as Western sanctions against Moscow and the Kremlin's own need to conserve weaponry for its ongoing war effort in Ukraine limited sales abroad, new data from an influential research group showed.
Russia’s share of global arms exports declined from 22 percent in the 2013-17 period to 16 percent in 2018-22, according to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) published on March 13.
Meanwhile, the United States remained the global leader in arms exports, with its share rising to 40 percent from 33 percent in the same five-year period.
"It is likely that the invasion of Ukraine will further limit Russia's arms exports," said Pieter Wezeman, a senior SIPRI researcher.
“This is because Russia will prioritize supplying its armed forces, and demand from other states will remain low due to trade sanctions on Russia and increasing pressure from the U.S.A. and its allies not to buy Russian arms,” he added.
SIPRI noted that arms exports worldwide have long been dominated by the United States and Russia, with the two countries ranking first and second over the past three decades.
But Russia’s gap over France, the third-biggest exporter, narrowed, with Paris’s share rising to 11 percent from 7.1 percent.
"France is gaining a bigger share of the global arms market as Russian arms exports decline, as seen in India, for example," Wezeman said. “This seems likely to continue, as by the end of 2022, France had far more outstanding orders for arms exports than Russia.”
U.S. arms exports rose 14 percent from the 2013-17 period to 2018-22, while Russia’s exports tumbled 31 percent. France’s exports rose 44 percent, mainly to states in Asia, Oceania, and the Middle East.
India received 30 percent of France’s arms in the recent five-year period, surpassing the United States as the second-largest supplier of weaponry to New Delhi.
Russian remained the largest supplier to India of arms exports and managed to increase sales to two large nations -- China by 39 percent and Egypt by 44 percent over the period.
Ukraine became the third-largest arms importer globally in 2022 as Kyiv continues to battle against the full-scale invasion by Russian forces, a major change from the nation’s actions over previous decades.
“From 1991 until the end of 2021, Ukraine imported few major arms,” the report said. “As a result of military aid from the U.S.A. and many European states following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Ukraine became the third-biggest importer of major arms during 2022 [after Qatar and India].”
It said Ukraine accounted for 2 percent of global arms imports in the five-year period.
European NATO nations hiked their arms imports 65 percent “as they sought to strengthen their arsenals in response to a perceived heightened threat from Russia,” the report said.
“Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, European states want to import more arms, faster,” Wezeman added.
The European increase came as the global level of international arms transfers dipped 5.1 percent over the five-year period.
SIPRI, an independent international institute focusing on research into conflict, armaments, arms control and disarmament, was established in 1966.
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Western sanctions hardly affect Russia’s exports since the countries importing Russian weaponry like India for instance ignore the sanctions.
Russia will resume its full-scale exports the minute the Ukraine conflict is over, This is also one reason why the United States will continue agitating the conflict in Ukraine to export more weapons worldwide.
Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
International Oil Economist
Global Energy Expert