Weapons trade booms as Eastern Europe arms Ukraine

STORY: The war in Ukraine has taken a toll on Europe’s economy.

But one sector is quietly humming.

Arms makers in Eastern Europe are churning out weapons and ammunition at a pace not seen since the Cold War.

Many governments in the region are still wary of their old Soviet master Russia, and keen to help Kyiv resist.

Arms firms are seizing the opportunity.

Poland’s state-owned PGZ makes everything from drones to armored vehicles.

Boss Sebastian Chwalek says it’s almost doubling its investment plans over the next decade:

"We are developing, expanding our abilities. We are preparing for increased deliveries not only to the Polish market, and we are aware of that. We are in many discussions with potential customers from third countries who would like to equip their armies with Polish equipment.”

PGZ says it has delivered all sorts of gear to Ukraine, including mortars, small arms and ammunition.

It expects 2022 revenues to beat a pre-war target of almost $1.5 billion.

There’s a similar story in the Czech Republic.

The country has supplied about $2.1 billion of weapons to Ukraine, and arms exports are on track to hit their highest since 1989.

That’s according to deputy defense minister Tomas Kopecny.

"For the Czech defence industry, the conflict in Ukraine, and the assistance the industry provides to the defenders, is clearly a boost that we have not seen in the last 30 years. It is not only that this year will be an absolute record in the export of military materiel, but it is also about quality. It's about the fact that historically we can get access to technology, to a partnership with one of the world's largest arms industries, and that's a huge opportunity.”

Eastern Europe’s arms industry first boomed under Communism, churning out weapons for the Soviet bloc.

War in Ukraine has the factories busy again, but no longer in service to the Kremlin.