Hundreds of thousands dead in Eastern Europe as the Russia-Ukraine war is about to reach a grim 2-year mark... tens of thousands of civilians slain in Gaza, Israel, and the West Bank... Iraq, Syria, and Yemen again sliding into chaos, on the precipice of yet more Western military intervention... no one wins.
Correction: someone does win....
With all the global geopolitical flashpoints erupting at the same time in the last year, Western defense firms have been raking it in, with US arms exports in particular reaching a record high in fiscal year 2023.
"The United States sold $238 billion worth of weapons to foreign governments in 2023, as many European countries sought to replace stock sent to Ukraine for its defense against invading Russian forces," Stripes writes. "That sum is a 16% increase from the year before and includes sales by U.S. arms companies and those directly negotiated by Washington, a statement Monday from the State Department said."
The demand has largely been driven by the war in Ukraine, which has cost the West tens of billions each month to sustain in support of Kiev. More importantly, in the now two-year long effort to keep up the flow of advanced weapons and vital artillery ammo, which is constantly depleted on the stalemated frontlines, European nations have seen their own stockpiles dwindle.
NATO leadership has in response issued a desperate plea for members states to drastically and urgently jump start and ramp up production. The private sector, especially in France in Germany, is also racing to forge partnerships with Kiev.
But meanwhile, standing in the gap remains the major US defense firms, with the biggest companies like Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, and Northrop Grumman leading the way. As global instability rises, so do their stock prices...
Arms sales and transfers are viewed as "important U.S. foreign policy tools with potential long-term implications for regional and global security," the State Department said in a statement.
Sales approved in the year included $10 billion worth of High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) to Poland, $2.9 billion worth of AIM-120C-8 Advanced Medium-Range Air-To-Air Missiles (AMRAAM) to Germany, and National Advanced Surface to Air Missile Systems (NASAMS) to Ukraine.
NATO's so-called 'eastern flank' has been a big driver, with State Dept. data confirming that Poland is a leading buyer. For a partial list of deals for major military hardware inked between US defense firms and Warsaw in the last year:
- $12 billion worth of Apache helicopters
- $10 billion worth of High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS)
- $3.75 billion worth of M1A1 Abrams tanks
- Poland invested $4 billion in integrated air & missile defense command systems
Prime Minister Donald Tusk has lately committed NATO-member Poland to becoming "the most powerful land force in Europe" and he's building a US-supplied arsenal to make that happen (in continuity with prior Polish administrations). What has helped is the perception advanced in Western media sources that Putin is eyeing expanding the war into Europe, even threatening NATO countries.
In the Pacific region, US arms sales have been boosted by the "China threat". One report underscores, "Notably, countries outside Europe also participated in the arms market, with South Korea spending USD 5 billion on F-35 fighter jets and Australia investing USD 6.3 billion in C130J-30 Super Hercules aircraft. Japan secured a USD 1 billion contract for E-2D Hawkeye surveillance aircraft." Of course, weapons have been drasticallyl boosted to Israel amid the Gaza war as well.
But while Biden's State Department is busy bragging about "the highest annual total of sales and assistance provided to our allies and partners," the bodies are piling up on blood-soaked soil in various far-flung corners of the globe. Responsible Statecraft asks the apt question here... Tone deaf? Admin brags about 55% hike in foreign arms sales.