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Arms exports double to place Türkiye among top global sellers

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Türkiye’s share of the global arms export market increased from 0.7% to 1.6% in the period between 2019 and 2023 compared to 2014 to 2018, correlating to a 106% surge and making it the world’s 11th largest supplier, according to a report from a leading think tank on Monday.

The country followed the United States, France, Russia, Italy, South Korea, China, Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain and Israel on the list of largest exporters of major arms, according to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), placing it among top global sellers.

SIPRI prefers to analyze trends over half-decades as a few deliveries of major contracts can tilt yearly figures.

European states imported almost double the amount of arms between 2019 and 2023 compared to 2014 to 2018, SIPRI data showed, as Ukraine emerged as the continent’s largest arms importer following the invasion by Russia in early 2022.

Arms imports to Europe rose by 94% in 2019-2023, compared to the preceding five-year period, while overall global arms transfers decreased slightly in the stated period.

In the shifting dynamics of the global defense landscape, Ukraine has thus become the world’s fourth-largest arms importer, the SIPRI report showed while at the same time, exports from Russia halved, leaving the spot of the world’s second-largest exporter to France.

The increase is “partially explained by the war in Ukraine, and Ukraine has become the fourth largest importer of arms in the world in the last five years,” SIPRI researcher Katarina Djokic told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

SIPRI noted that at least 30 countries had supplied major weapons as military aid to Ukraine since Russia invaded in February 2022.

But other European nations also increased imports, with a larger share coming from the world’s number one exporter of arms, the United States.

In 2019-2023, 55% of imports to Europe were from the U.S., up from 35% in the 2014-2018 period.

This is partly due to most European states being NATO members and partners of the U.S. in the development of weapon systems like the F-35 fighter jet, Djokic said.

At the same time increased imports from the U.S. underlined many European nations’ desire to quickly acquire weapons and therefore buy “off the shelf” rather than develop new systems.

Globally, U.S. exports grew by 17% in the period, bringing its share of total arms exports to 42%.

Russia’s exports plummet

Meanwhile, Russia – which long held the position as the second largest exporter – saw its exports fall by 53% between 2014-2018 and 2019-2023.

Russia was not only exporting fewer weapons, it was also exporting to fewer recipients. It only exported to 12 countries in 2023, compared to 31 in 2019.

“There are also important changes in the policies of their biggest customer, China,” Djokic said.

China was traditionally one of the biggest recipients of Russian arms but has been pushing to develop its domestic production.

China still accounted for 21% of Russian exports, while India was the biggest recipient with 34%.

While Russia’s exports declined, France saw its own grow by 47%, therefore narrowly edging out Russia to become the world’s second-largest exporter.

France accounted for 11% of total weapons exports in 2019-2023.

In particular, Djokic noted that France had been particularly successful in selling its Rafale fighter jet outside Europe.

The global transfer volume of international major arms, which include aircraft, major warships, artillery, surface-to-air missiles and tanks, meanwhile fell slightly by 3.3% between 2014 to 2018 and 2019 to 2023.

Moreover, Israel’s war on Gaza is said to have already affected arms imports to Israel.

This is primarily through transfers of weapons from the U.S., either via new military aid or the speeding up of already existing contracts, according to SIPRI researcher Zain Hussain.

Hussain cautioned that the longer-term impact of the conflict was harder to predict.

“We already see in certain European states a kind of push by different actors or states to limit arms to Israel during its (military) operations in Gaza due to potential violations of international humanitarian law,” Hussain said.

Such measures could affect transfers to Israel.

The question then remains as to whether they would remain in place after the end of Israel’s current ground and air assault on Gaza, Hussain explained.

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