US weapons exports up 50 percent in 2023 as Washington challenges Russia, China

“The Russian defense industry is failing and continues to fail,” Mira Resnick, who runs the State Department’s Office of Regional Security and Arms Transfers, said in an interview.

Beating Russia in the arms market is part of a wider effort to isolate Moscow and its manufacturing capacity, to weaken its forces arrayed against Ukraine. Russia has for decades been the world’s second-largest arms exporter after the U.S. and its chief customers have been India, China and Egypt. But its defense industrial capacity has been strained by the war in Ukraine, and its role as a major global arms supplier is under threat, according to
a report
last year from the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“We see that because Russia’s defense industry is denied the resources that come from exports, that helps to contribute to Russian strategic failure on the battlefield,” Resnick said.

Administration officials have made the case for years that Russia’s sanctions-struck defense industry is creating a major opportunity for U.S. and Western defense firms to eat into Moscow’s share of the market.

The U.S. struck a major deal with India last year — a $1.8 billion agreement under which General Electric will produce engines in India — all while New Delhi is seeking to distance itself from its largest arms supplier, Russia.

“We are seeing in the ‘Global South’ real tough decisions by partners to move away from Russian equipment,” Resnick said. “We would love to see more from India on this and we continue to work and explore different defensive trade opportunities with India.”

The $81 billion in sales brokered by the U.S. government represents a 56 percent increase, up from $52 billion in fiscal 2022. The fiscal 2023 total is the highest since 2020 when former President Donald Trump very publicly played the role of lead salesperson for U.S. military hardware — and when the U.S. initially struck a $14 billion megadeal for
Indonesia to buy Boeing-made F-15s

Direct commercial sales between nations and defense firms themselves, which tend to be more opaque, totaled $157.5 billion for fiscal 2023, up slightly from $153.6 billion in fiscal 2022.

With the Russia-Ukraine war on its border, Poland was responsible for some of the largest orders that came through the State Department.

Warsaw struck a $12 billion deal for AH-64E Apache helicopters, a $10 billion deal for the long-range
High Mobility Artillery Rocket System
that Kyiv is using to fire deep behind Russian lines; a $4 billion deal for Integrated Air And Missile Defense Battle Command Systems; and a $3.75 billion deal for M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tanks.

Other European allies wary of Russia put in big orders. Germany agreed to a $8.5 billion order for CH-47F Chinook helicopters and a $3 billion order for AIM-120C-8 Advanced Medium-Range Air-To-Air Missiles. The Czech Republic struck a deal for F-35 aircraft and munitions worth $5.6 billion, Bulgaria is ordering $1.5 billion worth of Stryker vehicles, and Norway is buying a $1 billion MH-60R Multi-Mission helicopter package.

The increased importance Europe has placed on obtaining the latest American weaponry will be on display later this week when NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg visits Lockheed Martin’s missile plant in Alabama.
Biden and other officials
have also argued that U.S. aid to Kyiv supports American jobs through arms production, further bolstered by rearming other European allies that have emptied their stockpiles to support Ukraine.

Big Asian deals included South Korea’s $5 billion F-35 order and $1.5 billion CH-47F Chinook order. Japan plans to buy E-2D Advanced Hawkeye Airborne Early Warning And Control Aircraft worth more than $1 billion.

The State Department and Pentagon, which both supervise foreign military sales, have explored ways to fast-track those sales as global demand has surged since Russia’s 2022 invasion. Resnick said most delays are not at the State Department.

“Over 95 percent of cases go through the State Department in 48 hours,” she said. “Are there some, 5 percent, where we have some policy considerations that need to go in that require additional scrutiny under
the Conventional Arms Transfer policy
? Yes, that exists. We take our time with that.”

The State Department has a special fund meant to help counter Beijing’s influence that it can use to subsidize ally and partner purchases.

Washington is also going to the mat to push Argentina to buy second-hand F-16 fighters over Chinese JF-17 jets, Resnick said.

“They continue to weigh their options, but we have placed a considerable amount of effort into making sure that Argentina has a competitive offer from the United States,” she said of officials in Buenos Aires.

Meanwhile, as the U.S. works to support its allies in Taiwan against continued threats from China, there’s still a $19 billion backlog in U.S. arms for the self-governing island. Resnick said it takes time to negotiate final deals and produce equipment — and the administration would like the defense industry to invest in its capacity, so it can go faster.

“We are looking to make sure that kind of investments that we are asking industry to make will affect delivery timelines for all partners, including Taiwan,” she said.