Not Only Against Russia

BERLIN |

BERLIN (Own report) - Bundeswehr circles are calling for German military activities to be extended in the Indian Ocean. According to an analysis by three political scientists at the Bundeswehr University in Munich, the ocean linking Eastern Africa, Southeast Asia and Australia is the most important sea for global trade. It will replace the Atlantic, to become the most important "Ocean of the 21st Century." Germany, therefore, must become more active - militarily as well, beginning, for example, with joint maneuvers with the bordering countries. Until now, Germany only has a permanent presence in Djibouti, in the western Indian Ocean, which is seen as insufficient. This plea for opening a parallel theater of conflict alongside the power struggle with Russia, dovetails with existing German activities, for example, the reinforced arms buildup of the East and Southeast Asian rivals of the People's Republic of China. As has now been confirmed in the new Arms Exports Report, published in the middle of this week, Germany's arms export policies have already begun to focus on East and Southeast Asia. Four countries from these regions are among the top ten customers of German military hardware, but only two NATO member countries.

Fluctuations in the Arab World

The Arms Exports Report 2014, published this week by the German government, indicates a regional reorientation of several priorities. Most notably, for example, arms exports to the Arab world have decreased. Algeria, which last year topped the customer list, importing more than 825 million Euros, is, with imports this year of nearly 164 million Euros, seventh. Qatar, with purchases of more than 673 million Euros, was second last year, and is this year, with purchases of only 15.5 million, far down the list. On the other hand, Iraq, due to the war against the Islamic State (IS), has bought military hardware valued at 86 million Euros, bringing it from one of the lower ranks (with nearly 21.5 million Euros) to 14th on the scale. The decline of sales to some of the Arab countries has been due to customary business fluctuations of the industry, rather than to a more restrictive policy of sales permits, as the German government is claiming. In 2014, Saudi Arabia, one of Germany's most controversial customers, has been granted permits for 209 million Euros worth of purchases - bringing it down from fourth to sixth place on the scale. A serious restrictive policy would look different.

Growth in East Europe

At the same time, it is already becoming apparent that - thanks to the new cold war against Russia - the German arms industry is opening new export markets in several East European countries. Poland, for example, whose arms purchases in Germany in 2013 were at 42.8 million Euros, has now risen to number 20 on the scale, with a 30 percent increase - to more than 55.7 million Euros worth of purchases. Already in the first quarter of 2015, the German government has accorded permits for the sales of 23 million Euros worth of military hardware to Poland (including missile warheads and munitions). Poland would also like to buy German Leopard 2 battle tanks and is considering the purchase of up to 50 Caracal H225M helicopters produced by Airbus, at a total cost of around 3.1 billion Euros. Finally, Poland is contemplating, together with Norway, and the Netherlands, ordering a number of A330 MRTT (Multi-Role tanker transporter) aircrafts.[1] These sales will be supplemented by the Baltic countries' new arms-buildup plans and supplying military hardware to Ukraine. Whereas Berlin is still refusing to sell combat weapons to Kiev, other NATO member countries are at least partially filling this gap. Nevertheless, German companies have earned 8.4 million Euros on the delivery of 40,000 helmets and 15.5 million on the sale of 40,000 protective vests, with accessories, to the Ukrainian Army.[2]

Four Out of Ten in Asia

Currently however, four of the top ten German war material customers, are East and Southeast Asian countries, alongside only two NATO members (the USA and Great Britain). Singapore - a minute, but strategically, a very important city-state (german-foreign-policy.com reported [3]) - is third in the list with 329 million Euros worth of combat hardware purchases, followed by Korea (254 million Euros) in fourth place. Indonesia has fallen from fifth to ninth (108 million Euros), while the tiny sultanate Brunei has advanced to tenth place (105 million Euros). Brunei is of particular interest because of its controversy with the People's Republic of China over the sovereignty of islands, which has granted importance to Brunei's purchase of German warships. The EU and NATO have cooperation treaties with South Korea. The "Framework Participation Agreement," signed in 2014 by Seoul and Brussels, permits the EU to call on South Korean military for help in EU military missions.[4]

China's Periphery

This strong accent on exporting war material to East and Southeast Asia, is but one more confirmation that Germany is paying a growing amount of attention - not just economically but also in terms of its arms and military policy - to the Asian periphery of the People's Republic of China. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[5]) Circles within the Bundeswehr are calling on Germany to intensify further its military policy in the region - particularly in the Indian Ocean - in spite of the escalation of the power struggle with Russia. This is currently a demand raised by Carlo Masala, Professor for International politics at the Bundeswehr University in Munich, in a paper he wrote with two of his assistants - Konstantinos Tsetos and Tim Tepel - for the CDU-affiliated Konrad Adenauer Foundation. From 2004 - 2007, Masala had worked at the NATO Defense College in Rome and, since 2009, has been a member of the Academic Advisory Council of the German Ministry of Education and Research, for the social science related aspects of security research.

Arms Race

As Masasla and his co-authors write, the Indian Ocean is currently becoming immensely important. An enormous portion of global trade - including for example, a large portion of China's trade with Europe and Africa, the raw materials from Africa and the Middle East imported to the nations of East and Southeast Asia, and nearly all of India's foreign trade - crosses this ocean. Several of the world's most sensitive maritime trade routes border on the Indian Ocean, such as the straits near Djibouti (Bab el Mandab), permitting access to the Red Sea, the Suez Canal and the Mediterranean, or the Straits of Malacca, at which, alongside Malaysia, two of the bordering countries - Singapore and Indonesia - are among Germany's top ten arms customers. As the authors note, an arms race - parallel to that now taking place between the West and Russia - is threatening throughout the Indian Ocean. In fact, rivalries over military bases - or at least ports that could take on military significance - are already evident. As the paper points out, the USA maintains bases not only in the west of the Indian Ocean - on the Arabian Peninsular (Bahrain, Oman, Saudi Arabia) and in Djibouti - but also in the south (Diego Garcia) as well as in the east of the ocean (Thailand and the Philippines).[6] China has also built ports in Sri Lanka (Hambantota) and in Pakistan (Gwadar), which primarily serve for trade, but can allegedly also be used for military purposes - to secure Chinese maritime trade. The authors also take note of Russia's presence - for example in joint maneuvers with India's Navy. Great Britain and France have a few smaller bases.

Permanent Presence

It is "in Germany's interest," continues Masala and his co-authors, "to contribute to securing the maritime routes, to minimize its own dependence on and vulnerability of open maritime communication, as well as its access to resources and markets."[7] The Bundeswehr's prevalent activities are insufficient. Since 2002, it has had a permanent presence, at least, in the western region of the Indian Ocean, with the "German Liaison and Support Group Djibouti," to support incoming German battle ships. In addition, the EU is building up maritime capacities in East African countries with its operation Atalanta and EUCAP Nestor. But these are not enough. Germany has to "increase significantly" its activities in the Indian Ocean, the authors insist. It has to have a "permanent presence in the region," "close bilateral partnerships with key countries" as well as "joint maneuvers," which could also "help standardize operational cooperation" - to prepare future joint military interventions.

Interventions not Ruled Out

Currently, military activities would "be understood rather as complementary within the framework of a holistic German foreign policy approach," the authors conclude, however, they "should not be ruled out."[8] The authors, therefore, open the perspective of additional Bundeswehr interventions in Asia, on the periphery of China - at a time, when Germany, together with other western powers, has entered an increasingly threatening arms race with Russia.

[1] Hauke Friederichs: Goldene Zeiten für deutsche Waffenbauer. www.zeit.de 24.06.2015.
[2] Antwort der Bundesregierung auf eine Kleine Anfrage der Abgeordneten Jan van Aken, Christine Buchholz, Sevim Dagdelen und der Fraktion Die Linke; Berlin 09.06.2015.
[3] See Auf dem Weg zu neuen Konflikten.
[4], [5] See Asiens Münchner Sicherheitskonferenz.
[6], [7], [8] Carlo Masala, Konstantinos Tsetos, Tim Tepel: Maritime Sicherheit im Indischen Ozean. Mehr deutsches Engagement im Ozean des 21. Jahrhunderts. Analysen und Argumente, Ausgabe 172, Juni 2015.