The war in Ukraine has spurred European countries to seek hundreds of billions in new weapons. American arms manufacturers are the “biggest beneficiaries” of the increased demand for arms, according to a Yahoo News report.
Ian Bond, director of foreign policy at the Centre for European Reform, described the surge in the market for weapons as the highest since the Cold War. “This is certainly the biggest increase in defense spending in Europe since the end of the Cold War,” he said. Melissa Rossi wrote in Yahoo that American companies have “been the biggest beneficiary” of the demand.
Members of the European Union have planned to increase their defense budgets by $230 billion, led by Germany’s pledge to increase military spending by $100 billion. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), European governments get most of their weapons from American arms dealers.
The American weapons industry is defined by the “revolving door” – or the phenomenon whereby US military officials take jobs on the boards of arms manufacturers after leaving government. Current Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin was a general before retiring and joining the board of Raytheon, the latest in a long line of Pentagon chiefs to take a similar career path. After a short stint as a weapons executive, Austin now heads the US Defense Department and helps to craft America’s foreign policies. Austin’s predecessors, Jim Mattis and Mark Esper, also served on the boards of weapons makers.
The US is the globe’s largest arms seller, distributing 39% of the world’s weapons from 2017-2022. American companies accounted for over half of all arms sales in Europe. SIPRI reports show the Netherlands, UK, Poland and France list the US as their top destination for weapons, with Amsterdam spending 94% of its procurement budget with American companies.
Senior researcher with the SIPRI Arms and Military Expenditure Programme, Pieter Wezeman, told Yahoo that “many European countries have plans to increase their military spending very significantly, and to increase their purchases of arms as part of that.”
Weapons sales show no sign of slowing down. Bulgaria’s legislature approved a plan to buy 70 Lockheed Martin-made F-16s for $1.3 billion, while last week, the US State Department approved a $500 million missile sale to Finland. William Hartung, an analyst at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, told Yahoo the weapon sales are “growing at a rapid clip.”
Washington has said it will support Ukraine for as long as it takes and does not plan to push Kiev to seek a diplomatic end to the war. An extended conflict is expected to be a major boon for American arms makers.
Western sanctions on Russia will prevent many former Warsaw Pact and USSR states from resupplying and upgrading their Soviet-era weapons. The Washington-led economic war on Moscow will force those Eastern European states to buy new weapons now; many will be made in the US.
Additionally, the US and its allies plan to spend tens of billions arming Ukraine to fight Russia, with bipartisan group of American legislators now seeking to pass a new $50 billion aid bill for Kiev.