Europe goes on buying spree for US weapons amid Ukraine war

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A US Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drone sits in a hanger at Amari Air Base, Estonia, July 1, 2020. (Reuters File Photo)

Feeling increasingly unnerved by Russia’s military offensive in Ukraine, many European countries have turned to the United States with a bucket list of arms, including drones, missiles, and missile defenses.

According to a Reuters report, the developments in Eastern Europe where Moscow launched a massive military operation more than three weeks ago are driving fresh demand for US weaponry.

Germany, which is on the verge of closing the mega-deal for 35 Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 stealth warplanes, has elicited interest in placing the order for systems to defend against ballistic missiles.

Poland also urgently wants to purchase sophisticated Reaper drone systems from the United States, as a Polish government official said earlier this week.

There are also requests from other countries in Eastern Europe, especially for anti-aircraft Stinger missiles and anti-tank Javelin missiles which are used by Ukraine against Russian forces, the report states.

To expedite the US government’s approval for sales and transfer of arms produced by American military contractors, the Pentagon has reportedly re-instituted a team to address the surge in demand.

Mara Karlin, a Pentagon assistant secretary of defense, was quoted as saying that European countries were “doubling down” on their defense spending owing to what he called “Russian aggression that threatens the territorial integrity of Europe.”

Since the sale of arms by US military contractors requires government approval, the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Administration has been holding weekly meetings to review specific requests.

A senior official at the US Department of Defense told Reuters that the department was exploring options to support Ukraine's needs – “rapidly replenish US inventories and backfill depleted stocks of allies and partners”.

Pentagon is working with contractors on ways to “mitigate supply chain constraints and accelerate production timelines”, he informed.

The potential for a surge in sales of all types of weaponry since the conflict began on February 24 has lifted Lockheed stock 8.3 percent and Raytheon shares 3.9 percent, according to reports.

Any significant shift toward the United States as a supplier is likely to trigger a backlash from Europe's fragmented defense industry, experts warn.

Germany is also examining US-made missile defense systems like Terminal High Altitude Air Defense (THAAD), although that is not a frontrunner for purchase.

An opposition politician, reports said, has asked about the purchase of the short-range rocket interceptor called Iron Dome to protect Berlin. Decision-making on what to buy is in the early stages.

It comes as the ambitious deal for US F-35 fighter jets has been almost sealed.

Earlier this week, the German defense ministry told the country’s parliament that it was looking to buy a batch of US F-35 fighter jets to replace its aging Tornado fleet, introduced more than 40 years ago.

Armed with stealth technology, advanced sensors, weapons capacity, and range, the F-35 is the most lethal, survivable, and connected fighter aircraft ever built, according to the Lockheed Martin website.

The F-35 fighters are currently being deployed to Eastern Europe in the wake of Russia’s military operation in Ukraine, which has alarmingly escalated tensions between Moscow and the West.

Western countries, including the US, have decried Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine as unprovoked, but Moscow says the “special operation” aims to “demilitarize” and “denazify” the country after years of fighting between the Kiev government and separatists in the breakaway Donbas region.

US President Joe Biden on Wednesday announced $800 million in additional military aid for Ukraine.

"The world is united in our support of Ukraine and our determination to make Putin pay a very heavy price," Biden said at the White House.

The fresh aid package includes 800 anti-aircraft systems; longer-range anti-aircraft systems and ammunition for those systems; as well as 9,000 anti-armor systems; 7,000 small arms; 20 million rounds of ammunition, artillery, and mortars; and drones.

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