Look Out, Russia: There's a New Arms Trade Powerhouse

France is on pace to move into the No. 2 position behind the US
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 3, 2023 1:05 PM CDT
Look Out, Russia: There's a New Arms Trade Powerhouse
French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech at a security trade fair near Paris in 2022.   (Ludovic Marin, Pool via AP)

France overtook China as the world's third-largest arms exporter just two years ago. But it could soon be in a position to surmount Russia in the second spot. A report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) found France's share of the global arms trade rose from 7% in 2018 to 11% in 2022. In the same period, Russia's share fell from 22% to 16%. (The US is tops at 40%, per SIPRI.) Report author Pieter Wezeman says France is poised to continue its climb, per AFP. He says 210 combat aircraft have been ordered from France since late last year, but only 84 from Russia. The numbers "indicate that for sure France will remain a major arms exporter," he says. Indeed, "it may be possible that in 2024, 2025 or 2026, France becomes equal to, or surpasses, Russian arms exports."

With its war in Ukraine, Russia has been sending more arms to the front line and withholding other supplies with an eye on replacing those damaged in battle, AFP reports. It's also possible international sanctions are affecting arms production. But certainly the war has turned some countries off of Russian arms. It "has not been a particularly compelling advertisement for Russia's leading-edge military technology," University of Denver international affairs professor Cullen Hendrix wrote at Foreign Policy in May, describing "images of 'headless' tanks and reports of high failure rates for Russian missiles."

Reportedly displeased with the Russian arms it's received in recent years, India, the world's largest arms importer, turned to France in July, placing an order for six Scorpène submarines and 26 Rafale jets—adding to the 36 Rafales it purchased in 2016. Qatar, Colombia, and Serbia are also said to be considering deals for Rafale jets, already on order from Croatia, Indonesia, and the United Arab Emirates. According to the Financial Times, orders for the French-built, twin-engine jet from Dassault Aviation reached a record $23 billion last year, contributing to a 59% increase in French arms sales over the last decade—more than any other country, according to the SIPRI report. The jet is now outselling all foreign competitors except the F-35 from US company Lockheed Martin. (More arms sales stories.)

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