• The German “cold base” in Niger

    The Bundeswehr can maintain its military presence in Niger for the present. Berlin hopes for a permanent deal with the ruling junta on operations in the Sahel – not least to counter Russia in a geostrategic struggle with Moscow.

    BERLIN/ROME/NIAMEY (own report) - The German armed forces are now, for the time being at least, able to maintain a military presence in Niger. Berlin now hopes for a more permanent agreement on the stationing of its forces at the airport outside the capital Niamey. The provisional arrangement has resulted from secret negotiations conducted by Germany’s Defence Ministry over recent months. Going forward, the aim is to operate a “manned cold base”, a kind of small-scale facility run by a low double-digit number of soldiers that will have periods of inactivity but can be used when necessary for military operations, such as evacuations on the African continent. The primary interest for Berlin, however, is that such a base would, to some extent, offer a counterweight to Moscow in Niger. Russia has been deploying military personnel to Niger and the region, gradually establishing itself as the leading military cooperation partner for states in the central Sahel and beyond. France and the United States have had to withdraw their troops from the region or been told to do so. Apart from Germany, Italy is the only Western country that still has a military presence in Niger. Read more

  • Over Dead Bodies for a Profit

    According to a recently published inquiry report, between 1970 and 1998, 3,000 people have died in the United Kingdom from virus-contaminated blood products. The Bayer Group was one of the largest manufacturers.

    BERLIN/LONDON (own report) – According to an inquiry report published last week, contaminated blood plasma products from the Bayer Group in Germany, and others, caused the deaths of around 3,000 people. 30,000 people – mainly hemophiliacs who are dependent on blood clotting products – were infected with HIV or Hepatitis C. The report speaks in terms of avoidable deaths and raises serious accusations of the health system and politicians in authority. On the other hand, it refrains from criticising the pharmceutical industry. That Bayer and other companies had had detailed information about the risks of transmission, is apparent from company internal documents. In addition, for a prolonged period, they had refused to adopt virus inactivation methods to preserve their profits. When the USA and a growing number of European countries were making heat treatment of blood products a condition for certification, the companies exported their old stockpiles to Asia and Latin America. Victims are demanding an official apology. Initiatives critical of the company are demanding that the company assume a share of the compensation payments of around eleven billion euros promised by London. Read more

  • Colonies in the 21st century (I)

    New Caledonia: Violent unrest shakes a remaining colony as clamor for independence grows. Germany also benefits from France’s hold over the archipelago.

    PARIS/NOUMÉA/BERLIN (own report) - Violent unrest has sent shockwaves through New Caledonia, one of the remaining colonial territories of the 21st century, which is still controlled by France. On the archipelago, located east of Australia in the southwest Pacific Ocean, sections of the indigenous population are in revolt after the French government decided to introduce a revised electoral law that disadvantages those communities. The reform would ensure a stable majority for the inhabitants who have moved there from France and tend to be politically aligned with Paris. It effectively downgrades the indigenous population to the status of a minority in their own country and, above all, worsens their prospects of decolonisation. New Caledonia is one of those places classified by the United Nations as “non-self-governing territories”, while Paris regards the archipelo as French soil. Under UN policy, a NSGT should move towards decolonisation without delay, but Paris refuses to budge. The islands have considerable geostrategic importance, enabling France to maintain a permanent military presence in the Pacific. The German armed forces have also benefited from the French military presence. If France were to release the colony, China could gain in influence there – a scenario that runs directly counter to Berlin’s strategic interests. Read more

  • Review: Le choix de la défaite

    Annie Lacroix-Riz analyses the portentous orientation of influential sections of the French elites towards Germany in the 1930s and the fluid transition to collaboration.

    “The day will come,” wrote the French historian Marc Bloch in April 1944, “and perhaps quite soon, when it will be possible to shed light on the machinations that took place in our country from 1933 to 1939 in support of the Berlin-Rome axis so that it could rule over Europe.” Shortly beforehand, on 8 March, Bloch, who had joined the Resistance to fight against the German occupation regime, had been arrested, imprisoned and severely tortured by the Gestapo in Lyon. Facing death, he was gripped by a question that he had already addressed back in the summer of 1940, shortly after the German Reich’s rapid military conquest of France. In his essay L'étrange défaite (Strange Defeat), he concluded that the French elites – military leaders, politicians, journalists, and above all industrialists – were prepared to “single-handedly destroy the entire edifice of our alliances and our partnerships” and enter into open collaboration with the Germans. Bloch, too, like so many others, fell victim to that collaboration: the Nazis murdered him on 16 June 1944. Read more

  • Rheinmetall, a “global player”

    German weapons manufacturer Rheinmetall aims to become a “global player” in the arms sector. Group CEO Papperger envisages a “European systems house” eventually joining the ranks of the big three US defence industry giants.

    DÜSSELDORF (own report) - Ahead of this year’s annual general meeting, on 14 May, the Rheinmetall military technology group announced its intention to become a “global player” in the arms industry. Its ambitious plans are rooted in a rapid increase in the demand for weapons and ammunition triggered by the war in Ukraine. The upward spiral in military spending has seen the sales and profits of the Düsseldorf-headquartered arms manufacturer skyrocket. Its weapons and ammunition division was able to boost turnover to 5.69 billion euros last year, generating a profit of 828 million euros – a significant increase on the 2021 figure (491 million euros). With a backlog of orders-in-hand that could reach 60 billion euros by the end of this year, the business appears to be very secure for years to come. A part of the upcoming orders is attributable the German government’s 100 billion euro “special fund” to upgrade the Bundeswehr. For around a third of this military expenditure is likely to flow into Rheinmetall. Group CEO Armin Papperger has wider ambitions for Europe-wide mergers. He is now advocating the creation of “a European systems house” capable of generating annual sales of 30 to 35 billion euros. Rheinmetall could then catch up with US defence industry giants, above all Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and Lockheed Martin. This rapid expansion is driving the growing importance of the arms sector for policymaking and in the wider society. Read more

  • An EU defence force for Ukraine

    EU: growing pressure to deploy soldiers on Ukrainian soil. Berlin so far preferring an intervention scenario with air defence systems stationed in Poland and Romania.

    BERLIN/KIEV (own report) – As Russia’s current offensive gains momentum in Ukraine, politicians in Berlin are debating the merits of deploying European soldiers on Ukrainian territory. Last week, Lithuania announced that it was ready to send military trainers to the war zone without delay and was only waiting for a request from Kiev. Estonia has said that it is prepared to demonstrate military presence of its own on Ukrainian territory as part of a hoped-for “coalition of the willing”. Its focus would be on air defence capabilities. In Germany, the direct deployment of German troops is, with the exception of a few hardliners in Berlin, not publicly advocated. This is partly due to the important state elections upcoming next autumn. However, politicians from the CDU, FDP and Greens are backing intervention proposals that envisage the stationing of air defence systems on Polish and Romanian territory that can shoot down Russian offensive weapons over Ukraine. Warnings that this step would be tantamount to entering the war are being played down. At the same time, discussions are taking place on post-ceasefire scenarios, which might see the deployment of EU or NATO troops in Ukraine. Read more

  • It’s the economy, stupid

    Study: Germany and EU falling massively behind China in foreign trade with the Global South, so political influence in decline. Scholz’s political focus on the South has so far been a failure.

    BEIJING/BERLIN (own report) – Germany and the EU are fast losing economic clout in their trading relations with countries of the Global South. They should “not be surprised” by their parallel loss of political influence. This is the key finding of a recent analysis by the Cologne-based German Economic Institute (IW). The report shows how Germany’s share of trade with relatively strong economies in Asia, Africa and Latin America is stagnating. The EU’s share is declining even more markedly. Meanwhile, China’s share has been rising rapidly and now eclipses that of both the European Union and the United States. This trend is central to understanding why Germany’s “geopolitical weight in the Global South is also in decline,” explains the IW study. It takes Brazil as a case in point: under President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva this important country and BRIC member “is adopting a stance on the Ukraine war and the Middle East conflict that is contrary to the West’s position”, due not least to “the economic importance of China and Russia for Brazil”. The IW argues for decisive measures by Berlin to promote foreign trade with the Global South. Read more

  • Germany’s Pacific ambitions (III)

    Following foreign and military policy talks with New Zealand, Baerbock goes to Fiji, a hotspot of the power struggle with China. The West is leveraging colonial possessions and structures in the Pacific.

    BERLIN/AUCKLAND/SUVA (own report) - Following talks in New Zealand on joint foreign and military policy steps against China, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock arrived in Fiji yesterday, Sunday. Baerbock had previously met with her counterpart in New Zealand and with the country’s Defence Minister. They exchanged views on, not least, the AUKUS pact. This arrangement provides for extremely close arms industry cooperation between the US, the UK and Australia to counter the rise of China in the region. New Zealand has recently elected an ultra-conservative government that is pushing for partial accession to the AUKUS pact, excluding the nuclear component of that alliance. Baerbock indicated her support for this move. The day before, she had already endorsed the pact in Australia. Germany itself will soon be sending warships and fighter jets to the region for wide-ranging war exercises. In Fiji, which has now become a focus of the increasingly tense power struggle between the West and China, Baerbock seeks to help block Chinese advances. The mainstream media in Germany have glossed over this dangerous power struggle and its military dimension, preferring photo ops of Baerbock returning objects once stolen from indigenous Australians and reports of German climate projects in the Pacific. Read more