If the cooperation between Azerbaijan and “Rheinmetall” materializes, German produced arms might be used against Armenians both in Artsakh and the Republic of Armenia. Tessa Hofmann

10:28 • 03.07.18



German scholar of Armenian studies and sociology Tessa Hofmann presents his observations about the possible cooperation between Azerbaijan and “Rheinmetall PLC”.

The text is below.

Germany’s economy is highly (and unhealthily) export orientated. Among the key branches of exported goods are arms. In 2017, the total amount of the German arms export was 1.653 billion USD according to estimates by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI); the peak year was 2007 with 3.31 billion armament exports.

“Rheinmetall PLC” is Germany’s largest producer and exporter of arms. Although the German regulations for the export of weapons and armaments count among the most restrictive, exporters know ways and tricks to undermine these regulations in order to sell their products into waring and/or fragile states, adding to the instability of countries and regions. In this way, “Rheinmetall” was blamed some months ago in the German TV documentary to have sold bombs and even wholesale arms factories to Saudi Arabia and Egypt, among others with the help of “Rheinmetall’s” Sardinia based daughter “RWM Italia”. Early in 2018, the plant on the holiday island of Sardinia received a major order worth 411 million euros. Evidence points to Saudi Arabia as a buyer. However, “Rheinmetall's” press office does not want to confirm this. In Yemen, the Saudis and their allies are fighting the Huthi rebels - a war with massive violations of international law on both sides and thousands of civilian casualties.

The Federal Government is not formally responsible for exports of German companies from abroad. But it would certainly be possible to change the legal situation, provided that there is such intent. The scientific service of the Bundestag has recently stated that a new law could stipulate that German authorities must give their consent if Germans help to develop or produce military equipment abroad. This would at least make such business more difficult. But this would probably not be possible for a majority in the Bundestag at present. In other words: The lack of intent prevents the prevention of German arms production and sale.

The largest buyers of German armaments so far are the USA, Algeria, Egypt and Saudi-Arabia. Although export figures declined last year, Germany continues to supply goods even in crisis regions, criticizes the political parliamentary opposition. The Federal Government rejects such criticism. The decisions on arms exports would always be made in accordance with foreign and security policy, emphasized Martin Schäfer, spokesman in the Federal Foreign Office. Rankings and export figures are second or even third ranked, he added. Last year, the German government approved arms exports worth 6.85 billion euros - significantly less than in the record year before, but nevertheless, it is still the second highest value.

In the first four months of 2018, the total number of approvals decreased further. Compared with the same period last year by just under one billion euros to 2.4 billion euros. At the same time there was a significant increase in the controversial sale of small arms. These weapons are responsible for a particularly large number of victims in armed conflicts.

Against such background, I cannot but agree with the opinion of the British author and journalist Andrew Feinstein, an expert on international arms trade. He said: "Germany plays a role in arms exports, especially to unstable regions where conflicts exist or oppression prevail, primarily of course the Middle East. In this way, Germany is helping to ensure that these conflicts are extremely bloody."

If the cooperation between Azerbaijan and “Rheinmetall” materializes, Germany produced arms might be used against Armenians both in Artsakh and the Republic of Armenia. There is more than one reason for the Federal Government to interfere, most of all taking into account the historic responsibility of Germany towards Armenians.

However, I am not optimistic about the awareness of the German ‘democratic society’, also for several reasons. At present, public awareness in Germany is attracted by a multitude of domestic and foreign political and economic concerns: the evolving trade war between the EU and the USA, the increasing instability of the EU, which might result in its collapse meaninglessness as an political entity, the increase of national egoism (in the name of national interests), a profound conflict in the ruling governmental coalition, etc. etc. On the other hand, arms sale is a very profitable business, even for small investors and the ‘average man from the street’: The “Rheinmetall” share recorded record growth of 70 percent last year! Many small investors who have invested in Deka funds of the German savings banks, for example, benefit from this. Moral and profit orientation are seldom compatible.

Hripsime Hovhannisyan





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