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Europe's Defense Industry Depends On Chinese Tungsten, Which Is Transported Through the Territory of russia

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The production process of the German Puma IFV at the facilities of the KMW concern / Illustrative photo
The production process of the German Puma IFV at the facilities of the KMW concern / Illustrative photo

If the tungsten transit is blocked, the delivery time will increase from 2 weeks to almost 2 months, which will become a critical delay

In one of the publications, Bloomberg stated such a paradox: almost the entire amount of rare earth materials needed by the European military industry transits from China through russia’s territory. Only in 9 months of 2022, the volume of such transshipment in physical volume doubled (up to 36.1 thousand tons, compared to the entire year of 2021). For comparison, in 2020, the volume of such transshipment was generally less than 10 thousand tons per year.

In terms of money, the volume of trade increased by 25% or up to 408 million dollars (377 million euros). Although in 2020 it was generally less than 50 million dollars.

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Europe's Defense Industry Depends On Chinese Tungsten, Which Is Transported Through the Territory of russia, Defense Express, war in Ukraine, Russian-Ukrainian war
A freight train heading from Wuhan to Duisburg / Credits: Bloomberg

The main route for such transshipment is the route from the Chinese city of Wuhan to the German city of Duisburg, along which trains run for an average of 16 days. On average, 15 wagons loaded with rare earth metals leave China for Europe every day.

China accounts for 90% of all imports of rare earth metals used by European industry. In particular, tungsten, which is critically important for such defense giants as Rheinmetall and Thales.

Europe's Defense Industry Depends On Chinese Tungsten, Which Is Transported Through the Territory of russia, Defense Express, war in Ukraine, Russian-Ukrainian war
The production facilities of the Rheinmetall concern / Illustrative photo from open sources

The situation is ambiguous. On the one hand, it turns out that now the West receives most of the critical materials through the territory of the country, which threatens the entire civilized world. On the other hand, attempts to establish alternative routes have now failed, and if transit through russia is blocked now, the delivery time will increase at least twice. This is why the transit flow of goods from China through the territory of russia has not yet come under Western sanctions.

Europe's Defense Industry Depends On Chinese Tungsten, Which Is Transported Through the Territory of russia, Defense Express, war in Ukraine, Russian-Ukrainian war
The production facilities of the Thales concern / Illustrative photo from open sources

On the other hand, one of the topics of the forum in Davos was the search for alternative sources of supply. In particular, one of the large corporations opened two large deposits of vanadium and titanium in Norway, the development of which could reduce the West's dependence on China and russia as a transitor for these metals.

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