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European states doubled arms imports in past five years, SIPRI says

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - European states imported almost double the amount of arms in 2019 to 2023 compared to 2014 to 2018, a leading conflict think-tank said on Monday, as Ukraine emerged as the largest European arms importer after the invasion by Russia in 2022.

European imports grew by 94% between 2019 and 2023 compared to 2014 to 2018, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said in a statement. Ukraine was the fourth largest importer in the world between 2019 to 2023, after at least 30 states supplied military aid to Ukraine from February 2022.

The U.S. increased its arms exports by 17% in 2019 to 2023, compared to 2014 to 2018, while Russia's arms exports halved.

"The USA has increased its global role as an arms supplier—an important aspect of its foreign policy - exporting more arms to more countries than it has ever done in the past," SIPRI said in the statement.

Russia's arms exports fell by 53% between 2019 to 2023 compared to 2014 to 2018. The decline intensified during the period and was 52% lower in 2023 than in 2022.

"The low volume of pending deliveries of major arms from Russia suggests that Russian arms exports are likely to remain well below the level reached in 2014–18, for at least the short term," SIPRI said.

The global transfer volume of international major arms, which include aircrafts, major warships, artillery, surface-to-air missiles and tanks, fell slightly by 3.3% between 2014 to 2018 and 2019 to 2023.

Russia's declining exports led to France overtaking them as the world's second biggest arms exporter behind the U.S. for the first time since records began in 1950.

(Reporting by Johan Ahlander; Editing by Josie Kao)