Does America have enough weapons to support its allies? (The Economist – November 8, 2023)

It could face wars in the Middle East, Ukraine and Taiwan

When america provided Ukraine with weapons to resist Russia’s invasion in 2022, many people asked whether it would also have the means to deter a Chinese assault on Taiwan. That question is all the more relevant now that Israel, another ally, is at war with Hamas.

President Joe Biden has insisted that America will help its allies defend themselves, acting once again as the world’s “arsenal of democracy”, as President Franklin Roosevelt promised the country would be in 1940. Does Mr Biden have the weapons he needs to keep his word?

In general America sends different weapons to Israel, Taiwan and Ukraine, but when demands overlap they put pressure on the availability of some weapons (see table). Take air-defence missiles. All three allies have stocks of the Patriot, an expensive but effective missile system, for use against incoming missiles and aircraft.

They also have the Stinger, a shoulder-fired missile capable of taking down low-flying aircraft. (The Avenger is a vehicle-mounted version of the Stinger.) All these battle-proven weapons are, however, in limited supply. In a recent assessment Mark Cancian of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (csis), an American think-tank, deemed the Patriot to be “available but with some limits”, while stocks of Stingers and Avengers were “extremely limited”, because demand for them is high and spare parts are hard to find.

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