Germany sells arms to members of Saudi-led...
Germany continues to rank fourth among the world's most important suppliers of arms, making it one of the five countries whose exports account for more than three-quarters of global trade in military equipment. Despite this, the German government likes to say it pursues a "restrictive" arms export policy.
Citing new figures from the Economic Affairs Ministry that show that sales are up, Left party disarmament specialist Sevim Dagdelen told DW that promises that Germany would be highly selective about weapons exports to avoid complicity in atrocities in Yemen are "nothing but hot air." Since early 2019, German arms manufacturers exported over €1 billion ($1.1 billion) worth of weapons to Egypt, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and other countries as part of the Saudi-led alliance.
In 2019, Germany's government gave the go-ahead for arms exports to the UAE worth more than €257 million. Dagdelen said this had exacerbated the war in Yemen, which has been raging for five years now. "The UAE and Saudi Arabia are to blame for the biggest humanitarian catastrophe of our times," she said. Dagdelen has called for Germany to immediately halt weapons exports to the UAE.
Egypt also remains a major buyer of German military and naval equipment. The country, which dispatched war ships to join the Saudi-led naval blockade of Yemen, recently purchased a frigate and submarine from Germany's ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems. And, in 2019, Germany's government approved arms exports worth over €800 million to the country. Bahrain, Jordan and Kuwait, which have all participated in airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition, are also customers of German arms manufacturers.
Marius Bales, an arms expert with the Bonn International Center for Conversion (BICC), said the latest figures made clear that "Germany's arms exports are driven largely by economic considerations and are not at all selective." Demand in Middle Eastern countries for German military equipment has always been high, in part because national arms industries are not as advanced as Germany's.
In addition to the increase in German arms exports, BICC expert Mutschler was struck by something else: NATO-member Germany is also supplying significant quantities of arms to non-NATO countries, or so-called third countries. "In my opinion, it's extremely euphamistic to describe this as 'restrictive,'" he adds.
For EU member states, a decision about arms sales to Saudi Arabia should be about complying with an EU Common Position adopted in 2008, which states that there should be no arms exports if there is a "clear risk" that such weapons will be used to commit "serious violations of international humanitarian law." Human Rights Watch has documented dozens of Saudi and Emirati-led coalition attacks in Yemen in violation of the laws of war, many of which amount to war crimes. Scores of indiscriminate and disproportionate airstrikes have killed and wounded thousands of civilians, including many children, and hit civilian areas, including markets, homes, schools and hospitals. The armed conflict has taken a terrible toll on Yemen’s civilian population and serious laws-of-war violations by the parties to the conflict have exacerbated what the United Nations has called the world’s largest humanitarian catastrophe. Millions of Yemenis face starvation, millions are displaced.
Following the killing of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018, Germany adopted a moratorium on arms exports to the Gulf monarchy that November. The government recently extended the ban on sales through December 31, 2020. The figures from the Economic Affairs Ministry show that armored all-terrain vehicles were exported to Saudi Arabia nonetheless. The Left's Dagdelen deems this a "blatant violation" of the ban. She also wishes to see the "export moratorium applied to all countries who are part of the coalition fighting in Yemen."