IN DECEMBER America’s Congressional Research Service (CRS) published its annual study on arms sales worldwide. Deals with developing countries have accounted for about four-fifths of all “arms-transfer agreements” for many years. In 2015 such transactions made up $65bn of the $80bn arms deals done globally. America remained the world’s biggest supplier, though French contracts soared to $15.3bn from $5.7bn in 2014, surpassing Russia to become the second-biggest exporter. Saudi Arabia has been the biggest customer in the developing world for Western weapons, though its involvement in the war in Yemen—and the civilian casualties there—has prompted some soul-searching in the United States. A spokesman for the National Security Council recently warned the kingdom that American security co-operation was “not a blank cheque”. Other countries are having similar concerns about supplying arms to conflict areas, none more so than Germany.
Indeed, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute produces an alternative measure on the transfer of military resources (rather than the value of deals). Its “trend-indicator value” of weapons sales takes into consideration the worth of refurbished second-hand arms, among other things, and ranks Germany third in the world in the decade to 2015. Last summer a senior member of the left-wing Die Linke party called for a ban on German arms exports to all countries in conflict, saying it was “scandalous” that Germany should send weapons abroad and then wonder why so many refugees end up on its doorstep.
Just before Christmas Germany’s Catholic and Protestant churches commissioned a report on the country’s defence exports. It found that they had surged to an “exorbitantly high” level in 2015 and the first half of 2016. Qatar, a member of the Saudi coalition in Yemen, was the main recipient of German weapons, and also topped the latest year in the CRS’s report as the biggest purchaser. Many Germans are steadfast in maintaining the pacifist stance the country has held since the second world war, and are alarmed at the rise in German weapon exports. The terrorist attack on the Christmas market in Berlin, and previous terror attacks in France, could strengthen such sentiments.
Source: The Economist