Merkel’s Risky Weapons Sales Signal Change in German Foreign Policy
Drawing lessons from Afghanistan and Libya, German Chancellor Merkel has been making quiet changes to Berlin’s arms exports policy. Instead of intervening in conflicts, she wants to help arm certain countries to provide stability in crisis regions. But if history is any guide, the plan could backfire.
When it comes to global issues, German Chancellor Angela Merkel often strikes a high-minded tone. In a keynote speech she delivered at the 2011 Munich Security Conference, she spoke of the “obligation to pursue value-based foreign policy.” She also frequently says that no compromises can be made on human rights. And, in her view, the greatest thing to come out of the NATO summit held in Chicago this May was that Germany successfully pushed through passages related to nuclear disarmament in Europe.
That’s the official face of German foreign policy — but it’s not the only one. Despite what Merkel would have people believe, Berlin’s attention was on more than just disarmament in Chicago.
Although it escaped public notice, the German government was also trying within NATO to compile a list of non-member states with whom arms deals should be allowed for strategic reasons. Having NATO’s blessing would have made it possible for Berlin to justify even sensitive weapons-export deals to the domestic audience. But Germany’s alliance partners blocked the effort.
Still, Merkel doesn’t plan on giving up. Martin Erdmann, Germany’s ambassador to NATO, will reportedly make a second go at things in Brussels. Weapons sales have become a key element in her foreign-policy strategy, which means that reducing any related political hurdles is important to Merkel.