We now have the Merkel-Schulz coalition deal, which calls for a halt to the sale of weapons to those countries involved in the war in Yemen. However, the current government, run by the same CDU-SPD “grand coalition,” was forced Wednesday by die Linke to formally acknowledge that it has approved weapons exports worth a record-breaking €25 billion during the last four years, including to the bad actors: Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt.
Even more, the embargo on weapons sales to the Erdogan regime, always brought up as a talking point by the Socialists and Christian-Democrats, has proven to be a sham. Now we have video evidence of Germany’s complicity in warmongering, coming from the current Turkish offensive against the Kurds: the Leopard-2 tanks they are using are none other than those decommissioned by the Bundeswehr and turned over to “the Sultan” and his troops.
These two scandals are making trouble for Chancellor Merkel as she tries to put together her fourth government. But they are also a political sore point for Martin Schulz’s Social-Democrats: the one responsible for approving arms sales is the current Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Social-Democrat Sigmar Gabriel, whose term will end in March. This is all in stark contradiction with the pacifism that imbues the 28-page coalition deal signed on Jan. 12. It is especially bad publicity for the leaders of the SPD, who now have the task of convincing party members (who will vote on this matter in a party-wide referendum in February) of the appropriateness of continuing to govern together with Mutti until 2021.
Between 2014 and 2017, the SPD-CDU government has sold military products worth €17.8 billion to countries outside the E.U. and NATO, 47 percent more than during Merkel’s second term as Chancellor. On the long list of orders, the €1.3 billion from Algeria are eye-catching, but one cannot fail to notice the huge volume of business done with Riyadh, Cairo and Dubai.
The “discovery” of these facts is the merit of Stefan Liebich, a deputy from die Linke who took apart the official report of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. “Four years ago, the SPD promised to abandon the weapons export policy based on purely economic considerations,” but instead “the gates have been opened even further,” concluded Liebich in an interview on the ARD TV channel.
Furthermore, the hypocrisy regarding Turkey is now on full display: in the videos of the military operation against the Kurds in Syria, it is easy to recognize the orderly columns of Leopard-2 tanks, especially by someone who has served on a tank before (like yours truly). Commanders, drivers, gunners and loaders are now receiving the baptism of fire in the tanks produced by Krauss-Maffei, as the Kurdish fighters, who have destroyed fifteen of them so far, can testify. That is why Erdogan’s generals also bought upgrades to the A-6 version of the tank from Berlin, with added protection against landmines and anti-tank weapons.
Chancellor Merkel will have to answer for this deal as well: “In the coming weeks, she will have to explain to the Bundestag what her responsibility is in the escalation of violence in Syria,” Jan Korte from die Linke pointed out.
Meanwhile, we are waiting for Gabriel to justify himself: the sale to the Turks of hundreds of old (and some new) armored vehicles that had been previously used by the German army has only gone through with his approval. Accordingly, the spokesperson on disarmament and arms control of the Greens, Agnieszka Brugger, is asking SPD and CDU to “clearly state their position on the war against the Kurds.”
But after all, there is little more to say: in September, Gabriel already admitted before a parliamentary committee that just in the first eight months of 2017, he had approved arms purchases by Ankara worth €25 million. This was much less than the €69 million for the previous year, but still a sizable war supply, to be put to use in the same operations theater where everyone now wants peace.
Ten days ago, the grand coalition partners included in their agreement “an immediate stop to the delivery of weapons to the countries involved in the conflict in Yemen,” and spokesman Steffen Seibert gave assurances that Germany “is not making any decisions which don’t agree with the outcome of the negotiations.” This was before the evidence for the arms deals was brought forward by die Linke.
In the end, the only direction which Berlin’s weapons sales policy is going to take will be that of the interests of German manufacturing: from MTU in Munich, which is making engines for the Eurofighter, to Diehl in Nuremberg, building rockets for the American F-16s, and from the “Italian” submarines built by ThyssenKrupp to the armor-piercing ammunition made by Rheinmetall, not to mention the military division of Airbus in the EADS consortium. And including the already announced partnership to build “weapons for European defense” together with France.