Germany increases its market share as a weapons exporter
Interview with Otfried Nassauer
(Translated by Agatha Haun)
Iranian Radio: The Deutsche Welle [German
radio] reported yesterday, with reference to the Stockholm International
Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), that Germany's weapons exporters are
already among the largest in the world. In the period between 2003 and
2008 Germany increased its market share from 7% to 10%. I would like to
hear your analysis of this.
Nassauer: In fact, in recent years, weapons exports have again greatly
increased, world-wide, especially in those years that you mentioned. The
German share in these weapons exports has also grown larger. In SIPRI's
reports, Germany definitely appears far in the lead with weapons exports,
because SIPRI attaches a relatively high value to the export of used weapons,
since they assume the residual value of these weapons and not the "scrap
value" assumed by the German government, for example. And if one
looks for the reasons why Germany has exported so many armaments goods
in the last five years, for one thing, it has to do with the fact that
many of the Bundeswehr's [German military] used weapons have been exported,
which are no longer needed because the Bundeswehr has been reduced in
size; and secondly, that a very expensive weapons system, namely submarines,
is being sold to many countries.
Iranian Radio: Thus different evaluation procedures
lead to different statements about the share of the German weapons exports.
Can you perhaps clarify that with an example?
Nassauer: There are several reasons for this difference: For one thing,
as a rule, the German government gives information about which authorizations
it has issued, but not about the real volume of armaments exports. That
is the one major reason for this difference.
The second reason is that the German government counts all the armaments
goods, whereas SIPRI lists essentially large weapons systems and relatively
large components, which turn up in the international armaments press and
whose export is described there. That means that the database is already
a difference. The rest I've already mentioned. The German government puts
a much lower value than SIPRI does on the used weapons that are sold because
they are no longer needed by the Bundeswehr. SIPRI estimates so to speak
a residual value, the German government – to put it simply - a scrap value.
And there is also a third reason why the assessed value is so different:
it is in fact the case that at SIPRI, very long time periods are analyzed
according to which they attempt to develop a standard that can be used
to report about all countries equally. The German government concentrates
its reports only on the German system and employs a completely different
Iranian Radio: What kinds of weapons are involved there?
Nassauer: The armoured vehicles and submarines or warships make up a
large part of the SIPRI lists. That can be seen very clearly in the years
2003 to 2008, that are taken into account in the new SIPRI figures: the
emphases are, on the one hand, armored vehicles such as the Dingo - that's
a kind of Unimog [multi-purpose, 4-wheel drive, medium truck, produced
by Mercedes-Benz = universal-motor-geraet (machine) -- Wikipedia] with
an armoured body - armoured howitzers and used tanks of the Bundeswehr.
Just in 2007 alone, the Bundeswehr sold more than 400 used tanks. These
tanks went, among other places, to Chile, to Brazil, to Greece, to Singapore,
and to Turkey. That's a tremendous amount. These numbers result from that.
The second area that I mentioned are submarines. The new submarine 214,
produced by the Thyssen Group, HDW's mother company, is a very modern
conventional submarine, whose drive is attractive for many countries because
it's independent of the outside air and functions on the basis of a fuel
cell. A whole series of these submarines were exported in the last few
years: to Greece, to South Korea, to Turkey, with which a contract is
soon to be concluded. And since submarines are very expensive, one can
clearly see that through their sales, naturally armaments exports significantly
Iranian Radio: What guidelines must be adhered to in
that process? Assuming that a weapons firm wants to export armaments,
what must it pay attention to?
Nassauer: In Germany there is a series of limitations that regulate the
export of armaments goods: For one, at the national level, that includes
the Law for the Control of Weapons of War [Kriegswaffenkontrollgesetz].
All genuine weapons of war fall under that. And it is actually the case
that here everything is prohibited that the German government has not
explicitly permitted. That means that for every weapon of war, if I want
to export it, I must actually submit an application to the German government.
It has to be approved. But then there are also other armaments goods,
for example armaments that can have a dual use, meaning is civilian and
military, for which another law applies. That is the Foreign Trade Law
[Aussenwirtschaftsgesetz] with the Foreign Trade Decree [Aussenwirtschaftsverordnung]
attached. And there the opposite legal regulation applies. Actually, everything
is allowed that isn't prohibited. Nevertheless, here an application must
be submitted to the Federal Export Bureau [Bundesausfuhramt] for many
goods that stand on a corresponding list. And if it is approved, only
then may the company make a delivery. Otherwise, it commits an export
crime. And finally, in addition to these lists, there are the international
agreements, for example, about the restrictions on the trade in materials
that can be used for the nuclear industry, that can be used for building
missiles, that can be used for chemical and biological weapons and several
more. There too the German government put into effect what has been agreed
on at the international level, and it does do that. And also for each
item there it is necessary to obtain the authorization, or to ask whether
an authorization is required.
Iranian Radio: Which countries receive German weapons?
You've already named some of them, but certainly other countries also
import weapons from Germany.
Nassauer: In the last five years the two largest importers have been
Greece and Turkey; they're both countries that have been supplied by Germany
over many years, and where one could say ironically that the German armaments
deliveries are fuel cells for the regional arms race between the two countries.
Besides these two countries, very different states appear repeatedly.
For example, Israel is always an important recipient when it acquires
submarines from Germany, since submarines are so expensive, but the number
of items is still quite small. Other countries are relatively high up
in the statistics just when they acquire used Bundeswehr weapons, for
example. Thus that would be the case, for example, with Chile with used
Leopard tanks, or with Brazil. And finally there are countries with which
major projects are carried out. Therefore, in the latest German government
statistics, Pakistan was suddenly one of the countries that stood relatively
high up among the recipients, because here a series of projects were in
the authorization phase and therefore: although these deliveries have
thus far not taken place, they will appear relatively high up in the statistics.
Iranian Radio: As a weapons importer, what position
does the Middle East occupy in the German government's statistics, and
Nassauer: The Middle East doesn't play a conspicuous role as a recipient
of German weapons. There it's actually more a matter of its being a midfield
area. The Middle East really is exciting in the SIPRI numbers. After the
years when armaments exports there decreased in importance, in the last
five years it has again become an important recipient of armaments goods.
SIPRI calculates a 38% rate of increase for the entire Middle East, in
which naturally the chief suppliers are the USA, Great Britain, and Russia.
But the Middle East is described, so to speak, as a region that again
is of greater importance as a market for the major armaments producers.
For that reason, some of the Middle East states in fact appear again very
high up in the hit list, "Who is the largest recipient?" What
is astonishing, though, is that some data constitute what, let's just
say, is a major apparent contradiction to the international point of view.
For example, interestingly Iran, whose armaments imports are extensively
reported in the newspapers, only appears in place 27 as a major recipient
in SIPRI's reports. Therefore: it is a comparatively small recipient,
which on the other hand has to do with the fact that first of all, there
were speculative reports about many armaments deliveries to Iran and especially
about the goods which come from Russia; it is often speculated that deliveries
are made when the contracts have not yet been concluded and therefore
Iran is a larger armaments importer than it actually appears to be in
the SIPRI statistics.
Iranian Radio: You mentioned two countries, namely
Israel and Pakistan, that are in crisis regions. With reference to this,
aren't there any restrictions imposed by law?
Nassauer: In principle, there should be absolutely no deliveries to regions
where there is a danger of that military violence could break out. The
German political guidelines for armaments export provide for that, but
they can be interpreted. They aren't a legal basis, they're political
self-commitments. Therefore they're circumvented relatively often and
many weapons that are delivered by the German government turn up in regions
where later then a war may be fought. Tha's a problem, when they export
armaments goods: they have a life expectancy of 20, 30, 40 years and the
political situation in the recipient countries cannot be foreseen everywhere
for this period of time. However, it is to be observed with these figures
now published by SIPRI, that the German weapons exports have increased
to countries of the European Union in much greater proportion. Thus the
increase is not 70% but rather 123%. That shows that Germany constantly
contributes more components to the armaments exports of other countries.
Thus, for example, heavy motors, drives, and similar items. Those are
actually developments about which one must say that "Made in Germany"
is written inside a weapons system and not outside, on the exterior surface.
Iranian Radio: What is the outlook for the weapons
Nassauer: The trend for German armaments exports can
be readily foreseen only in certain sectors, for example, with the submarines.
There it's clear that through the introduction of a new generation of
export vessels in the next few years, the German armaments industry will
be relatively well off, assuming that the financial crisis doesn't again
wreck some of the planned transactions. For example, that could be the
case in Pakistan, because at the same time, Pakistan must also meet conditions
within the framework of receiving financial assistance from the IMF and
is supposed to reduce its armaments expenditures. However, it's practically
impossible to make a general prediction about how the German armaments
exports will develop in the next five or ten years. Thus there are no
data there and also no reasonable possibilities for making a prediction,
especially as you yourself probably know very well, armaments exports
for many recipients are connected to politicians receiving money, middlemen
receiving money, corruption is related to that, and therefore decisions
are not always made according to rational points of view.
||The interview was conducted
by Seyed Hedayatollah Shahrokny
is a free-lance journalist and director of the Berlin Information Centre for Transatlantic Security
- Berliner Informationszentrum für Transatlantische Sicherheit - BITS