Trustworthy Partners


BERLIN (Own report) - The German government's recent Arms Export Report - like its predecessors - discloses the key global front lines of Berlin's foreign policy. If intervention to "maintain peace throughout the world" is not possible, "trustworthy partners" must be "supported" in doing this, declared the German chancellor recently in reference to engaging foreign countries to advance German global policy. This is explicitly also referring to "arming" allies. The most important recipients of German weaponry include the dictatorships at the Arabian Gulf - which are to be pitted against Iran - and several Southeast Asian countries - being armed in confrontation to China. The Sultanate Brunei Darussalam is leading the list of those receiving a special kind of arms, formally classified as "weapons of war" in the official statistics. Brunei and China are in a dispute over islands in the South China Sea. The "Arms Export Report 2011" again demonstrates that allies will be supplied arms, even if they brutally suppress domestic protests, such as Bahrain or Berlin's partner Saudi Arabia.

Almost Doubled

The latest Arms Export Report, published by the German government in the middle of this week - as usual with great delay - lists individual export authorizations for military hardware worth 5.4 billion Euros. This is a significant increase over 2010, when Berlin approved arms exports valued at 4.8 billion Euros. This is second only to the arms exports in 2008, when the Federal Security Council approved licenses for exports worth nearly 5.8 billion Euros. This means that German arms exports have nearly doubled since the end of the 1990s, when they fluctuated between two and three billion Euros.[1] German arms manufacturers succeeded in pushing the Federal Republic of Germany to third place in global arms exports - following the United States and Russia, but ahead of its West European rivals, France and Great Britain. From 2007 to 2011, Germany accounted for nine percent of global arms exports - not including arms produced under German license in third countries - from Spain to Saudi Arabia.

Arming Proxies

Last October, in her speech to some 250 civilian and military leaders at this years' Bundeswehr conference in Strausberg (Brandenburg), the German chancellor explained the booming arms export's political function. "All available instruments" must be networked for Berlin's global policy, Merkel said: "economic policy, development policy, diplomatic, police, and military measures must proceed hand in hand."[2] Potentials of allies must also be used - not only those of NATO and the EU allies, but also those of "other actors," who should be "encouraged" to enhance their engagement for "security and liberty." And she promised support: "Whoever feels committed to maintaining peace" - like Germany - "but cannot play an active role throughout the world," should now be "called upon to help trustworthy partners" so that they can "assume corresponding responsibilities." This includes support in military training and the supply of the necessary military hardware.

Against Iran

Angela Merkel explicitly considers the Arab League to be one of those "trustworthy partners," worthy of support. The Arab League is currently predominated by the Islamist Arab Gulf dictatorships, closely cooperating with the West and supported by Islamist regimes in North Africa. Berlin would like to bring the Arab League into a "strategic partnership" with the EU ( reported [3]). This must be seen in the context of Germany's efforts to pit the Gulf dictatorships against Iran, to prevent Teheran from rising as a regional power.[4] For years, several countries on the Arabian Peninsula have been among Germany's leading customers of war materials.[5] This year, the United Arab Emirates have taken third place with authorized arms delivery licenses valued at 357 million Euros - following closely behind Germany's NATO allies, the Netherlands and the USA. With imports of 140 million Euros, Saudi Arabia, again, is number twelve. The Egyptian military, which, under the leadership of the Islamist President Muhammad Mursi, is part of the Arab Front against Iran, is 18th with weaponry purchases worth 74 million Euros. The GCC member, Kuwait, was sold arms worth 34 million Euros. Algeria, which stands out in the list, is in eighth place (217 million Euros). Algeria, ruled by a traditional military regime, often refuses to follow the line imposed by the Gulf dictatorships on the Arab League. But, Algeria is considered a significant ally for the control of Africa's Northwest desert region, for example, northern Mali. German companies would also like to initiate licensed production of their weapons in Algeria to circumvent bothersome export controls, when exporting to other Arab countries. ( reported.[6])

Against China

Alongside power struggles in the Middle East zone of tension, the new Arms Exports Report also reflects the intensification of conflicts in East and Southeast Asia. The intensification of the conflicts has recently been growing, above all, over several groups of islands claimed by China and other countries. The West is supporting its allies, ranging from Japan, the Philippines, to Brunei Darussalam. (The latter lays claim to some of the Spratly Islands, whose territorial affiliation is strongly contested because of its deposits of natural resources as well as its geostrategically important location along a significant maritime trade route. The West is supporting its allies in East and Southeast Asia in a long-term perspective directed against Beijing. In Berlin, one speaks of a "ring of fire around China."[7] Brunei Darussalam holds first place among the customers of what are formally classified as "weapons of war." The complete list of all military-capable exports ranks Singapore fourth (344 million Euros worth of licensed exports) and South Korea ninth (199 million Euros).


It has already become clear that the confrontations in the Middle East and in Asia will have an effect on the next Arms Exports Report. For example, the planned deliveries of up to 800 Leopard 2A7+ battle tanks to Saudi Arabia, as well as the up to 200 more to Qatar are not even included in the document. Saudi purchasing plans, alone, are estimated at up to a record ten billion Euros. Also absent in the current Arms Export Report is mention of the delivery of 100 Leopard battle tanks and 50 Marder armored infantry fighting vehicles to the Indonesian army by Düsseldorf's Rheinmetall. A corresponding declaration of intent was signed last week in Jakarta. It is improbable that the German government will refuse delivery. The brutality with which Indonesia's forces of repression suppressed revolts in the resources-rich Papua Province had represented no grounds for hindering the delivery to Jakarta of the, 2011 licensed, military-capable communications material and off-road vehicles (with a total value of more than six million Euros). Exports to Saudi Arabia and Bahrain had also been accorded, in spite of the fact that the protests in those countries had been brutally repressed. Since early 2011, according to official announcements, approximately 50 protesters have been killed in Bahrain. Observers give significantly higher estimates. The new Arms Exports Report has confirmed that Berlin had authorized the delivery of firearms to that Gulf dictatorship after the protests had begun.

For additional background information concerning the Arms Exports Report see The Purpose of Arms Exports.

[1] Schwankungen in den Rüstungsexportberichten ergeben sich oft aus Einzelgenehmigungen für besonders teures Militärgerät wie etwa Kriegsschiffe; für die Beurteilung der Lage muss daher die Gesamttendenz über mehrere Jahre berücksichtigt werden.
[2] Rede von Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel anlässlich der Tagung des zivilen und militärischen Spitzenpersonals der Bundeswehr in der Akademie der Bundeswehr für Information und Kommunikation am 22. Oktober 2012
[3] see also Not the More Liberal Order
[4] see also Fragile Use of the Gulf Dictatorships and Der Feind meines Feindes
[5] see also Militärpartner am Golf and Stabile Conditions
[6] see also Hoflieferant autoritärer Regime
[7] see also A Ring of Fire around China