Report: France Challenging Russia as World's Second Biggest Arms Exporter

    Report: France Challenging Russia as World's Second Biggest Arms Exporter
    Last updated Mar 14, 2023
    Image credit: AFP/Getty Images [via The Guardian]


    • According to a report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) — entitled 'Trends in International Arms Transfers' — France is set to become the world's second-largest arms exporter in the coming decade, as it has recently narrowed its share gap to Russia's exports.[1]
    • Paris has reportedly expanded its participation in the global arms trade from 7.1% in 2013-2017 to 11% in 2018-2022, due to rising exports to Asia Pacific and the Middle East. France is also one of the biggest suppliers to NATO members, along with the US and South Korea.[2]
    • Meanwhile, Russia — which has long ranked only behind the US in its share of global weapons exports — saw its share drop from 22% to 16% over the past five years. The decrease began in 2014, when Moscow first supported the secession of parts of Ukraine and the downturn has since been aggravated by the invasion in 2022.[3]
    • The trend is likely to continue, based on the order books of manufacturers. While France has many aircraft and ship orders, Russia currently has relatively few orders as its war effort is affecting the country's arms exports.[4]
    • Russia's weapons sales decreased to eight of its top 10 buyers between 2013-2017 and 2018-2022, including to its largest market, India. SIPRI has further pointed out that order volumes from China and Egypt are also likely to shrink in the long-term.[5]
    • The report, published on Monday, also indicates that NATO states have increased their weapons imports by 65% over the past five years compared to 2013-2017, despite an overall global decrease of 5.1%. Asia and Oceania remain the top importing regions, representing 41% of the global share.[6]


    Pro-establishment narrative

    The thundering success of the French defense industry means, not only that the country has achieved its long-sought goal of strategic autonomy, but also that it has expanded the country's share of global arms sales and, consequently, its diplomatic influence. In the face of anticipated economic slowdown, this key sector must be treated as a national priority.

    Establishment-critical narrative

    While those boasting France's weapons sales claim that the country would take advantage of so-called arms diplomacy to justify exports to authoritarian regimes — that may even use French-made weapons against civilians — Paris has failed to turn the assertion into a reality. France is not achieving any strategic autonomy but rather disturbingly becoming more dependent on autocratic, unscrupulous clients.

    Nerd narrative

    There's a 50% chance that at least 2.19% of world GDP will be spent on military expenses in 2030, according to the Metaculus prediction community.

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