Foreign Policy
December 29, 2022

Proposed U.S. arms sales to NATO almost doubled this past year as Russia’s aggression….

The United States nearly doubled the number and price tag of approved arms sales to NATO allies in 2022 compared with 2021, as alliance members scramble to stock up on high-end weapons in the wake of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

In 2021, the U.S. government approved 14 possible major arms sales to NATO allies worth around $15.5 billion. In 2022, that jumped up to 24 possible major arms sales worth around $28 billion, including $1.24 billion worth of arms sales to expected future NATO member Finland, according to a Foreign Policy analysis of two years of data from the U.S. Defense Department’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency.


Some of the approved U.S. arms sales in 2022 were years in the making, such as Germany’s plan to purchase F-35 fighter jets in a deal worth around $8.4 billion. But many other major arms sales were rushed after the war broke out in Ukraine, as European countries on NATO’s eastern flank dashed to bulk up their own military capabilities in an effort to backfill the equipment they shipped to Ukraine….

In early December, for example, the State Department cleared a possible sale of 116 M1 Abrams battle tanks to Poland, after an initial proposed plan to sell Poland 250 of such battle tanks was announced in April. The three Baltic countries on NATO’s…eastern flank – Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia – all pursued plans to procure the types of U.S. long-range rocket and missile systems that helped Ukraine turn the tide of the war against Russia in recent months. The State Department approved a plan to sell up to six HIMARS rocket launchers to Estonia in July under its foreign military sales program, in a deal worth around $500 million. It approved a similar sale to Lithuania in November. A U.S. deal to sell HIMARS to Latvia is expected to be announced in early 2023, according to several U.S. and European officials familiar with the matter.

…Defense officials and experts say Europe’s defense industrial base is struggling to rapidly expand its capacities to keep pace with the new demand.


…Ukraine is firing some 4,000 to 7,000 rounds of artillery a day, rapidly using up munitions delivered by the West shortly after they arrive. The United States has sent some 806,000 155 mm artillery rounds to Ukraine….In November, the British government notified one of the country’s top defense industry firms to expand its production of artillery shells.


In 2014, just four NATO allies – the United States, United Kingdom, Estonia, and Greece – met the alliance’s benchmark of spending 2 percent of GDP on defense. By 2022, 10 of NATO’s 30 members are slated to spend at least 2 percent of GDP on defense. Some countries are going even further: Estonia pledged to boost its annual defense budget by 42 percent in 2023 and committed to spending 3 percent of its GDP on defense.

Finland and Sweden, which declared their intent to join NATO this year…have also announced plans to increase their defense spending. Finland already spends around 2 percent of GDP on defense, while the Swedish government has unveiled plans to increase defense spending to 2 percent of GDP by 2023. The two Nordic countries’ accession to NATO has been delayed by Turkey, but U.S. and NATO defense officials say they expect Turkey to approve their membership by next year.