Arms for the World


BERLIN (Own report) - German arms exports are leveling out at a new record high, as indicated by the Arms Export Report for 2016 and the first four months of 2017, published last Wednesday in Berlin. According to the report, the German government has approved €6.85 billion worth of military equipment sales in 2016 - one billion less than in 2015 but significantly more than the fluctuations around five billion in the overall value of arms exports since 2003. The main recipients of German deliveries include countries of the Arab Peninsula, particularly Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, with the aim of forming a military counterforce to Iran. For over two years, they have been waging war against Yemen - also using German weapons. Berlin has also approved the sale of patrol boats to Saudi Arabia, which can be used to escalate the famine blockade around Yemen. Algeria and Egypt are receiving German warships. A closer cooperation with the navies of these two countries would enable Berlin and Brussels to complete their control over the EU's southern flank. German arms recipients include several countries around the Pacific basin, prone to become Western partners in the event of a conflict with the People's Republic of China.

At a Higher Level

German arms exports are leveling out at a new record high, as was confirmed by the 2016 Arms Export Report, presented last Wednesday by the German government.[1] According to its data, German companies acquired government approval for the export of €6.85 billion worth of military equipment. Even though this is one billion less than the previous year, it is considerably more than the average of the past decade. From 1999 on, when the first official arms exports report was published, arms exports have annually been around three billion euros. Following 2003, they have fluctuated at around five billion euros. Since 2015 the level has been rising, as again shown by the approval of military equipment worth €2.4 billion in the first four months of this year, also included in the report presented by the government on Wednesday.[2] This is a high international level. In 2015, Germany had the third largest arms export worldwide preceded only by the USA and Russia.[3]

Small Arms Export

Last year the number of small arms export licenses rose significantly. For years, small arms exports have been under heavy criticism, because they account for "more victims than any other kind of weapon," as the German foreign ministry's webpage admits.[4] In 2016, the German government approved small arms exports worth €46.9 million - almost 50 percent more than the previous year. In the first four months of 2017, already more than €22 million in licenses were accorded for theses weapons. Last year the number of licenses for exports of small arms ammunition increased significantly, from nearly €31 million in 2015 to €328 million in 2016. The hike in the small arms exports is due in part to the deliveries to the Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga for their war against IS, explains the German government. This example demonstrates once again that the exporter of military equipment cannot control its use. It has been reported that soon after the Peshmerga began its combat against IS, it began also to expel non Kurdish-speaking members of the Iraqi population from the regions it had recaptured.[5] In addition, the Kurdish Regional government in Erbil has announced a referendum on the secession of its territory from Iraq for September 25. If this happens, armed conflicts - also with German weapons - between the Peshmerga and the Iraqi government forces cannot be ruled out.

The Famine Blockade

For years, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have been among Germany's most important customers for war materials. Germany has been systematically arming them as a counterforce to Iran. In the current Arms Export Report, both figured among the top ten customers for 2016 and the first four months of 2017. Both have been waging war in Yemen for over two years, resulting in more than 10,000 civilians dead. Saudi Arabia has also imposed a maritime blockade around Yemen, which has halted the entry of food and medicine into the country, causing a famine. According to the 2016 Arms Exports Report, in spite of this war, the German government has approved the delivery of more than half a billion euros in arms to Saudi Arabia, including helicopters as well as spare parts for combat jets. According to reports, the Saudi Air Force had - at least temporarily - used German planes for its raids on enemy positions in Yemen.[6] The Arms Exports Report shows that during the first four months of 2017, the German government had even approved the delivery of patrol boats to the Saudi military. They are also designed and capable of perpetuating the maritime blockade around Yemen, and therefore further escalate the famine in that country.[7]

Control of the Southern Flank

Both Arms Exports Reports register the sale of two frigates to Algeria and a submarine to Egypt. The Algerian sale had been concluded back in 2008 and assured by the German government's Hermes export credit guarantee (ECG) of €2.13 billion. It was also "supported by the instruction and training of the Algerian crew at a German naval base," according to the 2016 Arms Exports Report.[8] According to German naval circles, the fact that the Algerian government has chosen to purchase a German frigate, is an indication that Algiers is considering "cooperation with European Mediterranean navies."[9] Berlin and Brussels would find ties to the Algerian Navy very helpful for taking as much control as possible over the EU's southern flank. NATO drew formally closer, when Algeria joined the "Mediterranean Dialogue" back in 2000. Strengthening ties to Egypt must also have played a role in Germany's sale of four submarines to that country. The first of the four ships was delivered last December. The 2016 Arms Exports Report had again made note of the sale's approval.[10] Egypt's Navy is very important for controlling the sea route from the Mediterranean through the Suez Canal and Red Sea on to the Indian Ocean.

Against China

Alongside the Arab customers of Germany's arms manufacturers, both Arms Exports Reports list three Pacific region countries accommodating US military bases among the top clients. They could be considered allies in the US power struggle with China. From January 2016 to April 2017, Germany had approved permits for almost one-third of a billion euros in arms deliveries to South Korea, Australian nearly €230 million, while Singapore received permits for more than €160 million during the same period. The fact that these permits were accorded, indicate that Berlin is still holding onto the option of supporting the eventual creation of a military counterforce to China. This assumption is corroborated by the Arms Exports Reports over the past few years, where occasional major deliveries to other Southeast Asian countries, such as Indonesia and Brunei Darussalam had been recorded. ( reported.[11]) In addition, this year's report (January 2016 to April 2017) includes deliveries worth €124 million to India, considered China's traditional Asian rival.

[1] Bericht der Bundesregierung über ihre Exportpolitik für konventionelle Rüstungsgüter im Jahre 2016. Berlin, Juni 2017.
[2] Zwischenbericht der Bundesregierung über ihre Exportpolitik für konventionelle Rüstungsgüter in den ersten vier Monaten des Jahres 2017. Berlin, Juni 2017.
[3] Deutschland ist weltweit drittgrößter Waffenexporteur. 13.06.2016.
[4] Kleinwaffen und leichte Waffen.
[5] See In the Wake of the War and With German Weapons against Yazidis.
[6] See In Flames (II) and Ignored Wars (I).
[7] See Assisting Famine.
[8] Bericht der Bundesregierung über ihre Exportpolitik für konventionelle Rüstungsgüter im Jahre 2016. Berlin, Juni 2017.
[9] Klaus Mommsen: Die algerische Marine - Die operativen Aufgaben bleiben vor der eigenen Küste. MarineForum 12/2015. See Flüchtlingsabwehr in Nordafrika (I).
[10] See Flüchtlingsabwehr in Nordafrika (II).
[11] See Der Zweck der Rüstungsexporte and Die Rüstungsoffensive des Westens.