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War in Ukraine: the frenetic race for rearmament of European countries

Germany in June, Poland and Lithuania more recently. European countries are announcing in turn to increase their budget allocated to Defense and more specifically to armaments. The war in Ukraine, launched by Vladimir Putin last February, plunged Europe into a climate of threat, prompting Russia’s neighbors to urgently adopt new rearmament plans.

The fear of the Russians makes these countries invest heavily in the army mainly”, let it be known Leo Peria-Peigneresearcher at the Center for Security Studies at the French Institute for International Relations (Ifri).

For Frederic Maurospecialist in European defense issues at the Institute of International and Strategic Relations (Iris), this rearmament is carried out to “replace obsolete Soviet equipment. And in the event of an attack from the East”.

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Poland wants to double its number of soldiers

Last week, Lithuania announced that it wanted to increase its military budget by 148 billion euros this year to equip itself with artillery rockets, tactical vehicles and drones from the Americans. “In the context of the war unleashed by Russia, we are increasing defense funding, systematically applying the agreement of the parliamentary parties,” Finance Minister Gintare Skaiste said in a press release.

In Poland, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki announced an increase of 20 billion euros in the defense budget, of which more than 8 billion in armaments alone. The neighboring country of Ukraine has ordered 1,300 tanks from South Korea and wants to double its number of soldiers from 115,000 to 300,000 in the coming years.

A few weeks earlier, Poland also announced the signing of a contract with the United States to equip itself with fighter planes and rocket launchers for 4.7 billion dollars. “We are learning lessons from what is happening in Ukraine (…). We cannot wait. We must arm the Polish army,” said Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak. Warsaw will allocate 3% of its GDP to its Defence, one of the highest rates in Europe. “The Poles are going to have the largest land army in Europe in terms of capacity,” says Léo Péria-Peigné.

“A leading responsibility for the security of our continent”

Europe is therefore embarking on a frenzied arms race while Vladimir Putin has just annexed four regions of Ukraine. “But this is not something totally new, these dynamics have been there since 2014 with the annexation of Crimea”, assures the researcher at Ifri. The invasion of the peninsula by Vladimir Putin’s army had already made Europeans react at the time. This is notably the case of Greece and Poland.

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Germany’s reaction was later. In mid-September, through its chancellor, Olaf Scholz, Berlin broke the taboo on the rearmament of its soldiers, wishing to make its army “the best equipped in Europe”. “We are showing clearly and credibly that Germany is ready to assume leading responsibility for the security of our continent,” said Angela Merkel’s successor. He announced in the process that Germany will devote 2% of its GDP – following the recommendations of NATO – to Defense in the coming years, and the creation of a fund of 100 billion euros to equip the army. .

With these statements from international leaders, and companies that sell weapons, Léo Péria-Peigné points to the existence of a “windfall effect” on the market. The media coverage of combat instruments, such as the Caesar cannon recently, when France decided to send about fifteen of them to the Ukrainian front, “gives visibility”. “If demand is strong and delivery times are long, companies may have to create new production lines in arms factories,” he predicts. “It’s a jewelry industry”, tempers Frédéric Mauro. “The military industry is having problems in supply chains and cannot produce massively at once.”

An announcement effect?

It remains to be seen whether the companies will be able to deliver these new weapons in time. Because the authorities are announcing these new contracts right now, but the delivery often takes several years. And contracts can be renegotiated on the sly. “There may be an announcement effect”, assures Frédéric Mauro. “Poland, for example, is really scared and is rearming quickly, but does it have the funding?”

“The question is also to know what is the production capacity of Europe. The Poles have ordered from the Americans and the Koreans”, recalls Léo Péria-Peigné. For its part, France announced at the end of July that it was ordering 18 new Caesar guns to replace those sent to Ukraine, which are produced in Roanne in the Loire.

Another issue on the table is the question of recruitment. If the armies are equipped with tanks and cannons, it is also a question of training soldiers and recruiting contractors. “The German army has problems with maintaining its equipment and encounters problems with human resources”, says Léo Péria-Peigné in particular. As for Poland, when the PiS party came to power in 2015, more than 80% of the army staff had resigned.


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