Leopard 2 A7. Image: AMB Brescia/CC BY-2.0
Orders worth billions in Cairo, rising demand for German military equipment in Riyadh and Abu Dhabi: the German government’s cozying up to the authoritarian regimes of the Middle East is primarily based on economic considerations
With energetic hand gestures, the minister follows up. Every now and then, Ursula von der Leyen sprinkles in a winning smile, only to frown thoughtfully when one of the dark-suited gentlemen asks a question. And again and again, she points with her hand to the four high-tech projectiles set up for public viewing at Diehl Defence’s booth: Iris-T, LaGS, and GILA are the accurately mounted guided missiles on metal pillars, and a specimen of the Air Force’s FPR flight profile recorder for manovers is also on display in the rough exhibitor hall.
The representatives of the management team of the long-established southern German company nod their heads in understanding as the German defense minister bends over to them. In the glow of the overhead lighting, bright splashes of color gleam on the modern killing machines.
It is a bright afternoon when the minister’s brief meeting with representatives of the Diehl Group, Germany’s fifth-largest arms manufacturer, takes place.1 A throng of photographers and reporters follows von der Leyen on her tour of the International Aerospace Exhibition (ILA), the Berlin Air Show. No step of the most powerful CDU politician after Chancellor Angela Merkel goes unobserved.
Laughing, von der Leyen praises the persistent work of the Bundeswehr in difficult times. In good spirits as she talks to soldiers and exhibitors. With "Life cycle solutions from a single source" and advertising slogans like "When it counts" suppliers vie for customers here, such as at the stand of RUAG, the rifle manufacturer from Wedel, Germany. "You can rely on our ammunition", he reads there and next to a display case of cartridges: "The Sniper’s Choice".
Only every two years, the civil-military fair takes place in Schonefeld, and next to the site of Berlin’s broken-down BER airport, of all places. The representatives of the security and defense technology industry, however, cannot complain about a lack of contracts. Individual licenses worth 6.88 billion euros were ied by the German government to German rustungs companies in 2016 – almost 3 billion more than two years earlier.
The number of collective exports had increased by almost 100 percent in 2015 to 4.9 billion euros: This meant that a total of almost 13 billion euros worth of rusted exports were approved. Not only to the delight of the Big Five of the German arms industry – Airbus Defence and Space, Rheinmetall, ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems, Krauss-Maffei Wegmann and Diehl Defence. Medium-sized companies such as Chemring Defence in Bremerhaven, Carl Walter GmbH in Wuppertal and Dynmaik Nobel Defence in the Siegerland region are also benefiting from the new record exports.
This text is an excerpt from the book Die Profiteure des Terrors (The Profiteers of Terror) by Markus Bickel, published today by Westend Verlag.
The business of war is booming
The fact that in 2015 almost two-thirds and in 2016 still more than half of the exports went to so-called third countries that do not belong to the EU or NATO or are on a par with their members shows how much the business with war is booming. With more than forty conflicts, the world is more violent than at any time since the end of the Cold War, especially in the Middle East. Worse still, the top ten recipient countries of German war and military equipment in recent years include three states directly involved in hostilities in the world’s most conflict-ridden region, next to Africa.
Commercial exports of war weapons to third countries from 2005 to 2015.
Qatar ranked first in 2015, Saudi Arabia third in 2016, followed by the United Arab States (UAE) in ninth place.Since 2015, the three German allies have been at the head of a military alliance that is bombing the poorhouse of the Arab world, Yemen, back into the Stone Age – frontline states in the religiously heated regional struggle for hegemony in the Persian Gulf. Thousands of attacks have been flown by Saudi pilots in the backbone of the German air force, the Eurofighter, there. 45 percent of the total Eurofighter system is made up of German equipment, which is also manufactured by British, Spanish and Italian companies at four final assembly facilities. A project worth billions.
The four gentlemen grouped around von der Leyen at the Diehl stand are also earning a lot of money from the wars and crises in the Arab world. At last count, Diehl Defence’s sales, which include the security and defense sectors, amounted to 405 million euros. In Abu Dhabi, the Group maintains an office in order to "to support the acquisition efforts in the United Arab Emirates and in the other Gulf states", as it says on the homepage of the Diehl Group. Despite declining gas and oil revenues, the resource-rich Persian Gulf states continue to build and transform their economies, with an ever-increasing focus on spah and surveillance technology and precision-guided weapons.
The family-owned company is also making increasing profits because it is not afraid to sell to hostile conflict parties: both Saudi Arabia and Israel are supplied with defense technology from Diehl. The regional upheaval spiral continues to drive this: In North Africa, military spending has more than doubled in the past decade; in the Middle East, it has increased by two-thirds. Roughly $190 billion in the budget from Egypt in the West, to Israel, to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, to Iran, to the United States, to the United States, to the United States, to the United States, to the United States, to the United States, to the United States, to the United States, to the United States.
A market that lures with powerful profits, especially since corruption and arms trade are closely related. Although it is often impossible to prove that bribes were paid, the numerous court cases against German rustic producers speak for themselves. Bribery to acquire political favors is a common practice, especially in emerging markets; Saudi Arabia was a pioneer in the 1980s, when billion-dollar deals with British arms giant BAE Systems took the international arms trade to new heights, beyond any democratic control. The credo of the industry could therefore also be: Too much publicity hurts business.