German Weapons Exports on the Rise as Merkel Doctrine Takes Hold
Germany used to be extremely careful about where it exported its weapons. In recent years, however, Chancellor Angela Merkel has shown a preference for sending high-tech armaments abroad rather than German soldiers — even if that means doing business with questionable regimes. By SPIEGEL Staff
It is unclear what, exactly, impresses the Arabs most about the new “Leopard 2” battle tank. Is it its reliable 120-millimeter smoothbore cannon, which remains stubbornly fixed on its target, even when the 68-ton behemoth is traveling at high speeds through the desert? Is it the “increased power-rated additional power generators for check-point missions” touted by the Munich-based manufacturer, Krauss-Maffei Wegmann? Or the “communication interface on the exterior of the vehicle for dismounted forces?”
Surely the arms experts in Saudi Arabia and Qatar appreciate the fact that the new Leopard is equipped with an improved air conditioning system. After all, who wants to see their soldiers being roasted in an armor-plated oven in the desert, where summer temperatures can be as high as 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit)?
In the first week of July, Krauss-Maffei shipped one of its new miracle weapons to the Saudi desert to test the Leopard 2 under extreme heat conditions. The Defense Ministry in Berlin sent along an officer with the German Armed Forces, the Bundeswehr, to ensure safety during test firing of the tank’s guns.
The successful desert test didn’t go unnoticed by the region’s sheikhs. The government of Qatar has already shown interest in buying up to 200 tanks, a deal that, should it come to fruition, could be worth up to €2 billion ($2.6 billion).
The Saudis, for their part, have already become loyal customers. Last summer, the German government responded positively to their request to buy up to 270 of the Leopard 2 tanks. But now Riyadh wants more. In a new request, the sheikhs have petitioned the German government for its approval of the purchase of a few hundred “Boxer” armed transport vehicles. Germany’s Federal Security Council, which meets in secret, addressed the request last week. The government hasn’t issued a decision yet on the deal, which would likewise be worth billions.
German high-tech weapons are a hot commodity among Arab potentates and other autocrats. They haven’t failed to notice that the coalition government of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP) has steadily relaxed Germany’s otherwise restrictive arms export policy.