By Nathalia Meden – Strategic Culture Foundation
The 2010 German government’s annual Defense Exports Report reaffirmed the trend to extention that had already been confirmed by Stockholm International Peace Institute (SIPRI).
As SIPRI review says Germany’s world market arms sales share increased from 7% to 11% in 2006-2010. Today Germany is the third leading weapons exporter in the world. The USA is the leader with 30% of world armaments sales followed by the Russian Federation with 23%. France (7%) and Great Britain (4%) are among the leading arms suppliers.
The 2010 figures shows for the first time German companies arms sales income exceeding € two billion. It means the growth is 60% in comparison with 2009 and almost three times more as to the end of 1990s.
The Germans primary concern is exports growth, they care little about how the weapons are going to be used. Take Bahrain for instance, France, Spain, Great Britain, Belgium and the Netherlands banned arms sales to this country, but not Germany. This policy comes under criticism from the opposition. Only this year it has introduced 16 interpellations demanding to stop arms exports to Bahrain as well as Egypt, Libya, Syria, Algiers, Tunisia, Oman, Yemen, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Lebanon, Kuwait, Jordan and Qatar. As parliament voting results show the opposition fraction is left alone here; only 66 members supported the move, over 300 said no, about 200 abstained (1).
The Social Democrats stepped out against the planned liberalization of the issuance of permits for the supply of weapons regulations. But the move was dismissed by the parliament, 60% abstained, over 300 members failed the request (2). The government tries to loosen restrictions on weapons sales. In particular it tries to make the European Commission simplify control of duel use goods exports. The standing German regulations say a special permit is to be obtained by producers in case of exporting weapons systems destined to be directly used in combat (fire arms or tanks, for instance). In the 1990s an annual arms sales permits were equal to € 2-3 billion, in 2010 he figure was € 4.75 billion.
In summer 2011 a scandal broke down in parliament over a permit for 270 Leopard-2 tanks sale to Saudi Arabia. Back then the tanks got high praise from military, especially from the Canadians who tested the Leopard – 2A7 in Afghanistan. This last upgrade version was designed by Krauss-Maffei Wegmann and Rheinmetall for urban warfare. The demand goes beyond the Middle East. In November 2011 Krauss-Maffei Wegmann signed a Leopard 1A5 € multi million five year maintenance contract with Brazil. 100 Leopard 2A6 tanks were supplied to Indonesia in 2010. Take note tanks supplies to China are under EU embargo. The Saudi Arabia tank deal the ban vote was turned down as a result of the Greens and Social-Democrats abstention. The vote result shows the political elite’s disregard for the people: as the polls show 73% of population say yes to the Saudi Arabia tank deal ban; only 22% of the questioned say no. As party affiliation votes confirm 86% of Greens supporters say no, as well as 77% in case of Social-Democrats and 76% among the Left supporters. Even the majority of those who support the ruling coalition speak out against; 69% as it goes for Liberals and 59% of the CDU/CSU adherents. Totally 78% of Germany’s population speaks out against arms exports.
The Greens are not as radical as the Liberals on the issue. But they deem it necessary to ban exports to the countries that are notorious for significant human rights violations. Besides, the Greens want tightening of legislative control: they want the planned deals to go through a substantiation process in Parliament. That’s what a corresponding Bundestag interpellation says, the one that got together the whole opposition. Still the demands were declined by the 309 against 265 votes majority ruling with one MP abstained (4). The Left party thinks arms sales should be banned to Israel too because of Arab minority discrimination.
It’s the geography of German arms exports that catches an eye. The two directions are becoming more and more distinct: first – the Persian Gulf, second – South, South-East Asia. Those who in theory could join anti-Iran or anti-China coalition…
The Persian Gulf shift has become evident since 2007. As the 2010 figures say the main German arms receivers in the region were: UAE (€ 262,5 million), Saudi Arabia (152,5), Kuwait and Oman (20 each), Bahrain (16,5) and Qatar (4). Saudi Arabia imports aerial intelligence systems, the Emirates bring Germany in to build a combat training facility. Situated at the distance of 250 km from Iran (through the Strait) Al Dhafra air base is used for regular exercises. The facility construction was a joint project with the USA, Great Britain and France back in 2003. Initially the US and Britain’s air forces took part in the drills. France, Saudi Arabia and Qatar joined later. Since 2010 Germany joined the team too.
Talking about the second direction, India’s German military equipment imports in 2010 were €100 million, by and large the same figure goes for Pakistan. The South Korea’s permits are equal to € 271 million, Singapore -54, Malaysia – 40, Thailand – 13. South Korea was the biggest German arms receiver in 2008 with naval vessels as priority on the list. Those who have sea disputes with Beijing are also German weapons buyers. For instance Brunei paid € half a million for patrol craft in 2009. The Sultanate and China dispute a group of South China Sea islands. Thus Germany shows a long term arms exports extension trend. Its geography displays a wide gap between Berlin’s human rights rhetoric and its security policy. At he same time there is a obvious mismatch between Germany’s ruling circles military exports growth policy and the public opinion that rejects it.
(1) Exact figures source – the Bundestag website http://www.bundestag.de/dokumente/protokolle/amtlicheprotokolle/2011/ap17133.html