German Mideast Arms Exports: Full Freeze or Geopolitical Game?

Germany’s recently decided to freeze arms exports to Turkey as well as to the countries involved in the War on Yemen.

This latest step was taken in response to “Operation Olive Branch” while the earlier one was due to the rising grassroots pressure on Berlin to distance itself from the Saudis’ disastrous military campaign. The Central European country has long been leveraging its arms export industry in order to expand its influence in the Mideast, but it’s nowadays coming at the cost of the country’s soft power due to the Western public’s disapproval of the Saudi and Turkish operations. Germany is making an effort to show that it’s responding to this criticism, though it’s unclear as of now whether it’s only paying superficial lip service to its citizens or if it truly intends to reevaluate its military relationship with these two Muslim Great Powers.

The reason for such suspicion is because the Yemeni announcement is very vague and leaves open the possibility that exports to so-called “transfer countries” such as the UK and France will still occur, thus maintaining a workaround to enable Germany to indirectly sell its wares to Saudi Arabia and others. Furthermore, there’s no confirmation yet as to whether this will affect existing contracts that are currently being implemented or will only pertain to future ones. As for Turkey, the decision is a lot more clear-cut because Berlin announced that it’s suspending talks for upgrading the country’s German-made tanks, thus dealing yet another blow to the already fractured German-Turkish relationship.

Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel also indicated that the sale of weapons to conflict regions is becoming a highly sensitive issue in the drawn-out coalition talks that have been going on for months already, apparently trying to attribute some blame for the impasse on Berlin’s arms exports to the Mideast. This is probably a “politically convenient” deflection from Merkel’s unwillingness to moderate her EuroLiberal agenda in order to form a new government, but it nonetheless suggests that the issue is becoming contentious enough to warrant a public response of some sort. Even so, it’s unlikely that Germany will cede its position as one of the world’s largest arms exporters just to satisfy the same EuroLiberal base that it ironically helped cultivate.

For as liberal as Germany is on the domestic and continental front, its leadership embraces ruthless realism when it comes to non-European affairs in Africa and the Mideast, and its “military diplomacy” is part and parcel of the EU leader’s interactions with its civilizationally dissimilar geopolitical periphery. In the case of Africa, Berlin is promoting multilateral military deployments in Niger and elsewhere in order to stem illegal migration, while its engagement with the Mideast sees it sell arms to Great Powers in order to strengthen state-to-state partnerships, to say nothing of Germany’s open support of regime change in Syria. Altogether, the lesson is that even hyper-liberal countries shrewdly utilize a set of Neo-Realist policy options on the international stage, no matter how much this may contradict their stated values.

By Andrew Korybko
Source: Oriental Review

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