A report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) on March-April 2022, covering the period from 2018 to 2022, revealed that global military spending set a new record, rising by 7.3% to reach $24.2 trillion. Through a geopolitical analysis of this report, the following file will try to first identify some of the most important aspects of continuity and change in the ranking of the countries that spend the most in the military field, and secondly identify the trends in arms transfers and the main winners and losers of these transfers. Finally, it will look at the future of the most important arms suppliers in the short term.
1 The countries spending the most on arms in 2022, between continuity and change
The report revealed that the United States remains at the top of the list of countries with the largest military spending in the world, with $877 billion (including $19.9 billion in military aid to Ukraine).
This means that USA spends on its military 3 times more than China which spends $292 billion, and 10 times more than Russia, which spends 84 billion and moved from 5th to 3rd place due to the Russian-Ukrainian war.
Furthermore, this war was the main reason for the highest increase in military spending in Europe in 30 years, which amounted to 13%.
Thus, the increase led many former Eastern Bloc countries to double their military spending since 2014, the year Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula.
SIPRI also pointed out that India and Saudi Arabia have joined the club of major military-spending countries, with India ranking 4th and Saudi Arabia ranking 5th in 2022, as shown in the table below.
2 Arms Transfers Trends: Winners & Losers
One of the most important findings of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s report is that the recent period from 2018 to 2022 has witnessed a decrease in arms transfers (i.e. arms trade and military aid) at the international level, by 5% compared to the period from 2013 to 2017.
However, by monitoring the military spending trends of European countries, the report revealed an increase in arms transfer to Europe, which can be summarized in the following points:
1. Many former Eastern Bloc countries have doubled their military spending since 2014 after Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula.
2. Central and Western European countries spent a total of $345 billion on their armed forces in 2022.
3. European countries such as Poland, the Netherlands, and Sweden have significantly increased their military investments during the last decade.
4. The high cost of technologically advanced weapons explains the increase in European military spending, as in the case of Finland, which purchased 64 American F-35 fighter jets last year.
5. Germany still ranks 7th on the list of the highest military spending countries, even after an increase of 3.2%.
6. Ukraine saw an increase of 640%, rose from 36th on the list to 11th last year, and became the world’s third largest recipient of weapons in 2022.
7. European countries’ imports of weapons were mainly obtained from the US, with a total of 47% of their imports.
This can be summarized as the existence of:
1. A significant decrease in international arms transfers, with Africa experiencing a decline of 40%.
2. A substantial increase in arms transfers to European countries.
3. A significant increase in the role of the US as a global arms supplier.
4. More Asian countries, including India and Saudi Arabia, have entered the list of the top military spenders in 2022, ranking fourth and fifth, respectively.
3 The top 25 arms exporting countries and their main importers in the period between 2018-2022: Main indications and signals
A report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute revealed that the list of the largest arms-exporting countries included USA (40%), Russia (16%), France (11%), China (5.2%), Germany (4.2%), Italy (3.8%), Britain (3.2%), Spain (2.6%), South Korea (2.4%), and Israel (2.3%).
While the United Arab Emirates and Jordan have joined the arms exporting club and secured their place among the top 25 arms exporting countries. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Egypt were among the world’s top 10 arms importers.
Aside from the US, Russia, and France, the 7 remaining largest arms exporting countries in the world include 5 that saw a decline in their arms exports: China (-23%), Germany (-35%), the United Kingdom (-35%), Spain (-4.4%), and Israel (-15%). Meanwhile, Italy (+45%) and South Korea (+74%) experienced strong increases.
The report confirmed that India remains the world’s largest arms importer, despite a decrease in imports by 11% between 2013-2017 and 2018-2022. This decrease is due to a complex purchasing process, diversification of arms suppliers, and attempts to replace imports with local manufacturing.
One of the main results highlighted by the report is the increase in American and French arms exports and the decrease in Russian exports, as the gap between the US as the largest arms exporter and Russia as the second largest has widened significantly.
However, this may be due to Russia’s need for weapons in the context of UKrainian-Russian war and the trade sanctions imposed on Russia because of that conflict.
As a result, the gap between Russia and France, the third largest arms exporter in the world, has narrowed, as France has increased its exports by 44% and has surpassed the US to become India’s second-largest arms supplier after Russia.
The report also shows that the vast majority of arms imports in the Middle East come from the US (54%), followed by France (12%), then Russia (8.6%) and Italy (8.4%). These include over 260 advanced aircraft, 516 new tanks, and 13 frigates.
The report notes that the UAE’s ranking in the list of the world’s largest arms importers has declined from 5th place in the 2013-2017 report to 11th place in the 2018-2022 report. This decline in the country’s arms imports can be attributed to its shift towards manufacturing part of its own weapons and exporting the surplus.
This policy has been successful, and the UAE has even risen to 18th place among the world’s largest arms exporters.
The following table shows the most important alliances and geopolitical interests based on the largest 25 arms-exporting countries and their main importers between 2018-2022:
The main features of these alliances and the interlocking of geopolitical interests can be summarized as follows:
1. Egypt is the largest importer of arms from the UAE and Germany and the second largest importer from Jordan and Italy, and the third largest importer of arms from Russia and France.
2. Egypt, Jordan, and Algeria are respectively the largest importers of arms from the UAE, which is the largest importer of arms from South Africa and the second-largest importer of arms from Canada and Turkey.
3. Saudi Arabia is the largest importer of arms from 3 countries at once, namely the United States, Belgium, and Canada, and the second largest importer of arms from Spain and the 3rd largest importer of arms from England.
4. Qatar is the largest importer of arms from Turkey and the second largest importer of arms from France and England.
5. The United States, Egypt, and Armenia are respectively the largest importers of arms from Jordan, which is the second largest importer of arms from the UAE. Tunisia, on the other hand, is the third most important importer of arms from the Netherlands.
6. India, Azerbaijan, and the Philippines are the largest importers of arms from Israel, the 9th largest arms exporter in the world, and at the same time the 3rd largest importer of arms from Germany.
7. Saudi Arabia, Japan, and Australia are the largest importers of arms from the world’s largest arms supplier, the United States, which is, in turn, the largest importer of arms from England, Norway, and Jordan and the second largest importer of arms from South Africa and the third largest importer of arms from Canada and Australia.
8. India, China, and Egypt are the largest importers of arms from Russia and the second largest arms supplier in the world.
9. India is the largest importer of arms from Russia and China and the third largest importer of arms from South Korea.
10. Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Serbia are the largest importers of arms from China, which is the largest importer of arms from Ukraine and the second largest importer of arms from Russia.
Conclusion: Will there be any changes in the future of the most important weapons suppliers?
Although it is difficult to make predictions about future trends in arms transfers, data on agreed-upon future weapon orders and negotiations that have reached their final stages regarding arms supply can indicate the countries that will be among the largest arms exporters in the coming years.
Based on these indications, as shown in the table below, it is almost certain that the United States will remain the largest exporter of major weapons after 2023, especially given that around 60% of the total number of fighter aircraft to be purchased in the coming years are American-made. While Russia, which was the second-largest exporter of weapons in the world in 2018-2022, has a relatively low number of orders.
On the other hand, France has numerous orders for aircraft and ships, which could enhance its position as a weapons supplier in the coming years and Germany has orders that are almost exclusively limited to warships.●
» By: Dr. Wael Saleh, PhD (Expert at Trends Research & Advisory