The Merkel era is coming to an end. The arms export policy of the last 16 years is devastating: Angela Merkel sold weapons worth over 92 billion euros to 165 countries of the world (out of 193 recognized). These countries represent over 98 percent of the world's population. Half of all permits went to so-called third countries, to which sales should actually be taboo; including many countries that are subject to arms embargoes. Even the heaviest war equipment such as tanks, submarines and fighter jets was distributed to countries on every continent. The rearmament of the world is the catastrophic legacy of the Merkel years.
"Merkel - the end of an era" – essays with this or similar titles will probably be presented in abundance in German editorials in the coming weeks. Despite critical tones, these will, in the basic tenor, I suspect, be more appreciation than reckoning. I have no interest in blanket Merkel-bashing, I see quite good pragmatic decisions in your chancellorship – which as a whole was characterized by opportunism instead of conviction, by attention instead of visions for a future worth living – and in addition a large number of catastrophic, devastating policies. This analysis will focus on one of these devastations: the Chancellor's arms export policy, the rearmament of the world.
In (almost) every country
Every year in June, the Federal Government submits its arms export report; in accordance with the requirements of the EU Treaties, each Member State is obliged to provide "information on its exports of military technology and military goods". The document – written in typical "German" meticulousness - by the Federal Ministry of Economics contains a wealth of information on the sale of weapons made in Germany. I analyzed the 15 reports of the Merkel years - the result can be summarized in the following graph.
In 16 years under Angela Merkel as Chancellor, arms exports worth 92,166,460,000 euros to 165 countries were approved, over 92 billion. Since it is only partially expedient in the retrospective of a sixteen-year period to simply sum up the respective monetary values, all the figures were adjusted for inflation (which explains the discrepancy of this figure, for example, to reports at Zeit Online, ZDF or the Handelsblatt, which in turn have written off from dpa). So Chancellor Angela Merkel has sold weapons to 165 of the 193 states of the world currently recognized by the UN. In addition, there are sales to 17 territories that are (partially) autonomous or whose status is unclear or disputed under international law and which are therefore listed separately in the reports of the federal government; these include Kosovo, Taiwan, Western Sahara, Greenland, Hong Kong, the Caymans or Northern Cyprus, which is only recognized by Turkey.
Comparing values for individual annual figures is often of little use, since rarer wholesale sales are particularly important in a specific year and long-term trends are not immediately recognizable at first glance.
On a statistical average, sales are clearly up from 2006 to 2020. The calculated trend line shows that over the period of the Merkel era, weapons worth more than 100 million euros were exported statistically every year. (In absolute terms, without adjusting for inflation, this value would still be significantly higher.) Approved arms sales to so-called third countries are statistically increasing by 120 million euros per year (trend line not shown). These countries do not belong to the EU or NATO, nor are they, like Switzerland, Japan or Australia, equal to NATO members. The share of sales to these third countries was over 60 percent in several years and amounts to 49 percent on average over the Merkel years - every second weapon was sold to countries that were supposed to be taboo and to which it is allowed to sell only in exceptional cases. Deliveries to these countries are subject to the strictest conditions under German and EU law, as the government also explains in detail in each report. Thus, it is not allowed to sell to countries that support terrorism, use the weapons to suppress their own population, if there are armed conflicts in this country or if there is even "the risk" that the weapons will be used "for the purpose of aggression against another country". A fresh look at the map makes maximum mockery of all these rules.
Particularly noteworthy in this spirit of lawbreaking are the eight countries of the Saudi-Emirate coalition waging war against Yemen (all of which received permits in every year of the war), the Philippines under the insane despot Duterte (who compared himself to Hitler), several civil war countries and disintegrating states in Africa, Hungary under the far-right Orban (who even topped the recipient charts in the last two years) or the USA waging war on half the globe.
Heavy military equipment for the world
In contrast to rifles or armored vehicles, for example, exports of heavy weapons systems such as tanks, warships and fighter jets must also be reported annually to the UN Weapons Register and are therefore shown separately in the arms export reports. In the Merkel years, well over three thousand such exports fall, two thirds of them tanks. The box office hit here is the Leopard main battle tank, of which Merkel has sold over 1,700. Most of them went to Greece, followed by Turkey – which with these later illegally invaded the autonomous Kurdish areas in northern Syria several times and committed serious war crimes. But Berlin, as is well known, also supplied the Kurdish peshmerga in neighboring Iraq with Milan anti-tank missiles, so that German tanks were finally destroyed by German missiles in Rojava: a macabre joke of history, which probably only the greedy shareholders of German armourers should laugh at.
After the USA and Turkey, Greece is enjoying the largest tank fleet among all NATO countries. The majority of the more than 1,300 tanks of the Hellenic Forces come from German production and the country owes billions of euros for this. While in the course of the so-called "Greek crisis" the German-dominated Troika forced Greece to decimate its health and social systems almost to the level of a developing country and to sell its public infrastructure – including islands – to foreign investors, the German armored bills still have to be paid in "hellas" and pennies. The Leopard is built by the corrupt tank forge Krauss-Maffei Wegmann. in 2014, it came to light that KMW had paid 26 million euros in bribes to bribing bureaucrats in Athens for the Greece sales alone - which makes Merkel, at least unknowingly, a collaborator in this corruption affair.
It was also reported to the UN Weapons Register that, in addition to thousands of tanks, the Chancellor sold over 300 howitzers (the majority again to Greece), 17 fighter jets, 14 submarines (including to Israel, Egypt and Colombia), over 500 cruise missiles (most to South Korea), artillery systems (to France), several warships and 35 attack helicopters (most to Iraq), distributing heavy military equipment throughout the globe.
Each export report also lists all those countries that are subject to international arms embargoes during the reporting period. As is well known, Russia has been subject to an arms embargo since 2014, but this did not stop the Chancellor from approving hundreds of applications for rifles, pistols and satellite technology. The same applies to Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, China, Iraq, Congo, Lebanon, Rwanda, Sierra Leone or Uzbekistan. All of them were subject to arms embargoes at the time of the permits – every single sale thus becomes a case for The Hague.
The farce of the "restrictive arms export policy"
If German weapons want to be sold to the world, the decision is made by the Federal Security Council – a secretly meeting body without control by the Bundestag or even accountability to Parliament, chaired by the Chancellor, with the ministers of eight relevant houses (Chancellery, Foreign Affairs, Defense, Finance, Home Affairs, Justice, Economy and Development) and four advisory members.
In addition to the 165 countries to which the Security Council has sent arms requests worth over 92 billion euros since 2006, the four Merkel cabinets did not sell weapons to only 28 countries in the world. Although some of these countries (including Myanmar, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Suriname) applied for German military equipment several times, they became "victims" of the "restrictive arms export policy" – as the federal government emphasizes eloquently and supposedly fact–based in each of its reports: those handful of applications that are then rejected for face protection. Every year, these are a few dozen requests with a total value of small, often single-digit million amounts, which are confronted with thousands of approved applications in the billions. In her 16 years, the Chancellor approved a staggering 210,505 applications and rejected a meager 1,321. The approved armaments worth a total of 92 billion euros are only opposed by a little more than 400 million rejectors – an approval rate of over 99.3 percent: so every time the government fancies a "restrictive arms export policy", it lies to us.
In addition to Guinea, Cuba, Malawi, Myanmar, North Korea and Zimbabwe, the countries to which Merkel did not sell weapons include Pacific island states such as Nauru, Micronesia or Tuvalu, Caribbean states such as St. Lucia, Grenada or Dominica, as well as the Gambia, Suriname and Monaco. These 28 countries are inhabited by a total of 145 million people and represent less than two percent of the world's population. In reverse, this means that Angela Merkel has sold weapons to countries that account for more than 98 percent of the world's population.
This is the catastrophic armaments policy legacy of the Merkel era: the flooding of the earth with military equipment, the rearmament of the world, German weapons in every conceivable conflict on the globe.