It was shocking pictures that were shown live from Turkey on July 15, 2016 on German television: tanks were rolling through the Istanbul district and outside the Ataturk Airport. Similarly shocking the pictures that came to the media from the north Syrian city of Afrin on 18 March 2018: tanks pushed through narrow streets to the city’s town hall. Both times the battle tanks belonged to the Turkish army and both times they were of type “Leopard 2”. 347 of these tanks were sold to Turkey from 2006 to 2013 from old stock of the Bundeswehr. The German tank builders “Krauss-Maffei Wegmann” and “Rheinmetall” are the producers of the weapons – the “120mm smooth tube cannon"built in the tank comes from the latter.
The Turkish “Leopard” tanks show an example of the Unweakeable consequences of arms exports: because while the tanks that the German armed forces had sold to the Turkish army were deployed against the Turkish President Erdoğan under the control of the coupists in 2016, the same were in service of the authoritarian president himself in 2018 by African-rolling tanks. You can never say for, and against which people the mighty weapons are used. The Düsseldorf-based “Rheinmetall"Group does not care about this. Time and again, the company is caught up in unscrupulous business practices and scandals:
“Rheinmetall” wanted to sell a military training centre to Russia in 2014: 30,000 soldiers were to be trained annually. After the capture of the Crimea by Russia, the Federal government’s ban on the business – and “Rheinmetall” threatened the Federal government with a lawsuit over 120 million euros for the cancelled business. Through the subsidiary company “Rheinmetall Denel munitions” produced on the Italian Mediterranean island of Sardinia, the company “Mark 83"exports bombs to Saudi Arabia, which are deployed by the kingdom against Yemen.
The bomb deliveries continue despite the export ban on German weapons, which was issued by Saudi agents at the end of 2018 for the murder of journalist Jamal Kashoggi, as they are handled through Italy. As other “Rheinmetall” transactions with Saudi Arabia, which were supposed to run across Germany, were banned due to the export freeze, the German government’s Armament Group has once again threatened with a claim for damages.
In Turkey, the Düsseldorf-based company has long been planning to build the successor to the Turkish “Altay"combat tank-even after the Invasion of northern Syria by “Leopard"tanks, which is contrary to international law. In the autumn of 2016, the “Rheinmetall” Group entered into an additional Joint Venture with the Turkish weapons manufacturer BMC. The political situation, however, led to the fact that “Rheinmetall” officially states that the business is no longer being pursued today. However, the group has not yet pulled out of the Joint Venture.
At the end of 2014, the company had to pay 37 million euros for bribes of Greek officials. However, five former employees of the Armament Group were prosecuted. And the next scandal is already foreseeable: On 18. December 2018, drove a new “Lynx KF41”-with protecting tanks from “Rheinmetall” in the annual military parade in Doha, the capital of Qatar – an advertising campaign to sell the tank soon to the Qatari Regime. Qatar is suspected of supporting Islamist terrorist organizations like the “Islamic state” and the “Taliban”. Freedom of expression and assembly is massively restricted in the country. In addition, Qatar has been in conflict with the neighbouring state of Saudi Arabia for several years-a war between the highly equipped States is also possible. “Rheinmetall” weapons would then be in use on both sides.
“Rheinmetall” sold to everyone. However, the company’s unscrupulous business activities also lead to criticism – both in the media and in peace activists. For many years now, the Annual General Meeting of the stock corporation in Berlin has been accompanied by protests. While hundreds of people out there are often noisy and Creative-two years ago even a real “Leopard” tank was involved in the protest actions-their opinion is made public, questions are raised by critical shareholders and thus New, important information is collected.
The critical issues are becoming more and more important at the annual general meeting. The last annual general meeting took place on 8 May 1945, the anniversary of the liberation from Hitler fascism. This was the occasion for some protesters to unroll in a Transparent with the inscription “8 May 1945: then as now-was starts here, let’s stop it here”. However, they were prevented from doing so by a massive police operation and detained for a short time. Two of the activists were then threatened with an absurdly high fine of 15,000 euros for “resistance to enforcement officers”. On 18 March 2019, the court hearing on this case took place before the Amtsgericht Berlin-Tiergarten. The proceedings against the two war opponents were terminated against payment of a fine.
The activists cannot be intimidated. Thus, there are always direct actions: at the Kassel site, where “Rheinmetall” produces, among other things, the armored vehicle “Puma” for the Bundeswehr and will probably also produce the “Lynx KF41” in the future, there were several hours of seat blockades in front of the entrance gates in September 2018 – the operation was disrupted. In the city there are direct protest actions, both against “Rheinmetall” and against “Krauss-Maffei Wegmann”, who build tanks and other weapons in several places in Kassel. Every year, the company headquarters in Düsseldorf is also the target of protests – often even several times.
In 2018 there was for the first time in Unterlüß a “Rheinmetall disarm"Camp, the last one took place in September 2019. In the 3,500 inhabitants village Rheinmetall produces ammunition and operates the largest private shooting range in Europe. During the camp there were several blockades of the entrances and a Demo with over 400 participants – especially the Kurdish spectrum was there and is generally well represented in the protests against “Rheinmetall”.
In other countries upset against the German weapons of peasant resistance. Due to the bombing of Sardinia to Saudi Arabia, an alliance of human rights activists from Germany, Italy and Yemen filed a criminal complaint against “Rheinmetall” in Rome in 2018. The investigation is under way. And since 2016 there have always been blockades and demonstrations in front of the “Rheinmetall” factory in Sardinia, the Protest against the company is international.
“Rheinmetall” feels the headwind. The blockages affect production, and the protests at the annual general meeting even meet the board of Directors of the Joint Stock Company. A counter – strategy to avoid political influences from Germany – is the already-operated processing of orders abroad: In the case of the “Mark 83"bombs of “Rheinmetall Denel munitions” works this way currently about Italy. In South Africa, too, the German group has weapons and ammunition produced in order to benefit from the comparatively looser arms export guidelines.
This strategy could also be one of the many reasons why “Rheinmetall” trying to take over the family business, organized the second major German Tank manufacturer “Krauss-Maffei Wegmann” (KMW): in 2015, the Munich-based company entered into a Joint Venture with the state-owned French defence operation “Nexter Systems”.
The joint undertaking, known as KNDS, is based in Amsterdam and is to build the successor to the Leopard 2 and the French combat tank Leclerc, an order which will probably also result in numerous exports to other countries and which could run through the Netherlands or France. This arouses desires at “Rheinmetall”.
To this end, the federal government recently granted France comprehensive freedom to sell to third countries in joint arms projects. In the contract with the title “Franco-German industrial cooperation in the defence sector – the common understanding and principles of sales”, a supplementary agreement in January 2019, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President of Emmanuel Macron has signed, “the Treaty of Aachen”, States: “The parties will not be against a Transfer or Export to third countries”, for “Rheinmetall” means that, to Orient themselves increasingly to France, in order to fall under the more favourable French arms export law.
In addition to exports to other countries, the domestic locations have not yet been abandoned despite protests and increasingly tight arms export guidelines and attempts to influence German government policy: with former minister of Defence Franz Josef Jung, An experienced politician with good contacts was brought to the supervisory board in 2017. The former FDP development aid minister Dirk Niebel “Rheinmetall” has been chief lobbyist since 2015. At least the export situation in Germany could not improve the lobbyists.
Due to his unscrupulous business practices, criticism of “Rheinmetall” arms exports and plans for this are repeatedly criticised and scandalized by the media. The protests also repeatedly raise media attention and put politics under pressure – without it, it would probably not have come to an export stop to Saudi Arabia after the Kashoggi murder. The Dodge abroad is also a small sign for the success of the peace and anti - militarist movement.
Nevertheless, it is doing well for “Rheinmetall” economically at the moment: the profit of the company increases, the order situation is very good. And yet the strategy of evasion to work abroad. For the movement against arms exports, it must be to internationalize: this could happen with the network “Global Net - Stop the Arms Trade” founded in 2018. In addition, individual active organisations are already well connected internationally, as the procedure in Italy shows. It is important to remain persistent and to take creative action against “Rheinmetall” everywhere.