First Saudi Arabia, then Angola and Indonesia, now Qatar. Once again, a possible German arms deal is causing criticism. In an interview, Jan Grebe, an expert on arms ies at the Bonn-based International Center for Conversion (BICC), warns against fundamental changes in foreign and security policy. The German government is pursuing a "high-risk strategy".
CBA: Mr. Grebe, in recent months numerous controversial arms deals have come to light. Is this due to a growing transparency or is the number of arms deals increasing?
Jan Grebe: Transparency in the arms trade has certainly not grown. Such transactions take place under strict secrecy. Instead, there are increasing calls from industry for more arms exports – on the grounds that domestic demand has fallen in the wake of Bundeswehr reform. In this way, the arms lobby is putting the federal government under a lot of prere.
CBA: What is the importance of the arms industry to the economy?
Grebe: It is difficult to make reliable statements about actual jobs and turnover. It is suspected that about 80.000 people are employed in the arms industry. Total arms exports account for about 0.5 percent of total foreign trade, war arms exports even only about 0.2 percent. Proponents, on the other hand, always point to the importance of a well-positioned arms industry in terms of security policy and see jobs in danger. Irrespective of the prere from the arms lobby, there are also signs of a fundamental change in foreign and security policy.
CBA: What is changing?
Grebe: It seems that the German government is increasingly focusing on equipping semi-stable states in crisis regions with weapons in the hope that they will contribute to stability in the region. It is also possible that this is intended to prevent Germany itself from having to participate in military missions with the Bundeswehr.
CBA: How do you assess this strategy?
Grebe: I think it's high-risk. It is a fallacy to believe that you can create stability by rearmament. The states in the Arab world in particular are heavily militarized and have a high military potential. Arms deals can intensify the arms race there and, in the worst case, escalate it.
CBA: Do you also see this as a danger for Germany?
Grebe: Of course. A tank is a durable armament and lasts at least 10, 15, 20 years. And it is completely uncertain what will happen to the tanks then. There is a theoretical danger that there will be an upheaval in the countries we are now supplying with weapons, and that our tanks will then fall into other hands as well. Ultimately, the German government has no control at all over the use of weapons.
CBA: How can such arms deals be reconciled with Germany's commitment to respect human rights??
Grebe: Against the background of the human rights situation in the countries concerned, the exports are questionable. The guidelines of the Federal Republic of Germany and the European Union stipulate that no weapons may be supplied to areas of crisis and conflict. However, these guidelines apparently no longer have the significance they had in the past. This is another sign of policy changes aimed at favoring exports.
CBA: Will there be such guidelines at all in the future? What development do you expect?
Grebe: It would be important for the regulations created at the European level to be made more restrictive and binding, and for all EU states to adhere to them. Lack of transparency in the arms trade is still one of the biggest problems. The Federal Republic reports far too late on its deals and discloses little information. Parliament and the public are not informed enough. This has to change, the government has to lift the veil of secrecy, then such deals could also be better evaluated. This is not possible without reliable information – we still do not know whether last year's controversial deal with Saudi Arabia was approved.
The interview was conducted by Inga Kilian.
According to "Spiegel", 200 Leopard II tanks are to be exported to Qatar, at a price of around two billion euros. Deputy government spokesman Georg Streiter said only that the government knew Qatar had expressed interest. In addition, according to the "Financial Times Deutschland", the German government wants to soften the strict rules for arms exports and align them within NATO. According to the report, beneficiaries would include the six authoritarian-ruled states of the Gulf Cooperation Council, including Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Saudi Arabia is also interested in buying at least 270 German tanks.
Archbishop Schick of Bamberg said to our site that Germany would also supply weapons to countries where there is a threat of war and where people are oppressed in civil wars. Also in Qatar it is not sure whether German weapons are not used against people instead of only for the defense of the own nation. It must be prevented that German weapons are misused and become killing weapons. At the same time, Schick regretted the failure of negotiations at the UN level to regulate international arms deliveries.
Gertrud Casel of Justitia et Pax spoke of a blatant violation of German arms export criteria. Weapons deliveries to Qatar or Saudi Arabia would intensify the arms race in a crisis region, Casel criticized to this site on Tuesday.de. In addition, Qatar is not a democracy, human rights violations are the order of the day. If the export were to take place, it would be a further step in a fatal development of German export policy.
The spokesman for the Federal Committee Peace Council, Peter Strutynski, said, "There is no parliament, nor are political parties or trade unions permitted."In Qatar, the Islamic legal system Sharia rules, and the human rights situation is classified as particularly problematic by Amnesty International," he said.
Strutynski pointed out that the majority of the German population opposes arms exports to such states. On behalf of the peace movement, he called for an initiative to stop the export deal. The Federal Security Council, which meets in secret and cannot be controlled by parliament, must also be dissolved. Council decides on admissibility of arms exports.Strutynski announced protest actions at some Krauss-Maffei Wegmann sites on this year's Anti-War Day, for example on 31 December. August in Kassel.
The Left Party condemned the export as "tantamount to beatifying dictators and torturers" and warned against further arms exports to the Arab world. "The free flooding of German weapons to the Gulf region must finally stop," said Jan van Aken, deputy party leader and foreign policy spokesman for the Bundestag parliamentary group. "This would be the final moral declaration of bankruptcy by Angela Merkel."In the longer term, such exports are highly dangerous, because regimes change, but the weapons remain. Iran, for example, still produces G3 assault rifles in a factory that was once given to the Shah. And the Taliban in Afghanistan fought with weapons once supplied to fight the Soviet Union.
The foreign business with tanks, weapons, aircraft and other armaments is controversial, but at the same time an important economic factor. According to the German government's latest arms export report, export licenses for military goods worth 4.7 billion euros were ied in 2010.
The SPD complained that the political guidelines forbid the delivery of weapons of war to areas of tension. The deputy chairman of the SPD parliamentary group, Gernot Erler, said: "The same thing that is objectionable about Leopard tanks for Saudi Arabia applies to Qatar: the political guidelines prohibit the supply of weapons of war to areas of tension. No particular German security interest can be identified in either of the two recipient countries."The German government must immediately explain to the Bundestag what role it actually wants to play in the Middle East peace process and what function the extensive tank deliveries are supposed to have in this process."