Germany has taken a hardline stance on rule of law issues after it assumed the rotating presidency of the European Council in 2020, but in the same year, the German government approved €1.16 billion in arms exports to countries involved in the Yemeni and Libyan conflicts that have killed hundreds of thousands of people. Germany, known for its strong arms export industry, has sent arms to repressive autocratic regimes throughout the Middle East for decades. In fact, Germany is one of the five largest arms exporters in the world, along with the United States, Russia, France and China. Together, the five countries account for 76 percent of the world’s arms exports.
Last December, the country signed a €752 million permit to export arms and military equipment to the autocratic regime in Egypt, which has been accused of a plethora of human rights abuses , including mass torture, that would presumably have a country like Hungary immediately expelled from the European Union. German arms companies have also been approved for additional exports to the region totaling more than €305.1 million to Qatar, more than €51 million to the United Arab Emirates, €23.4 million to Kuwait, and about €22.9 million to Turkey. The amount spent in Jordan for the same purpose was €1.7 million, while in Bahrain it was €1.5 million. AP Photo/Mohammed el-Shaiky, File A man loyal to the Libyan armed forces sits in a tank during clashes with Islamic State group militants west of Benghazi, Libya. All of these countries are involved in either the Yemeni war or the long-running conflict in Libya, and some states are involved in both. Many of these countries have in place repressive regimes that lack democracy, restrict women’s rights, still have rampant slavery , and are actively suppressing minority populations . Yet, Germany has remarkably been able to present its own country as a nation that upholds democratic ideals and human rights while actively supporting these same Middle Eastern regimes. German politicians more likely to attack Hungary and Poland than autocrats in the Middle East Despite propping up dictators in the Middle East, the German government has turned its sights against democratically elected leaders in neighboring countries, such as Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.
German Federal Minister of State for European Affairs at the German Foreign Office, Michael Roth, is a leading figure in the German government and an ally of George Soros who has denounced Orbán on multiple occasions for allegedly failing to uphold European values and has even asserted that anti-Semitism is rampant in Hungary, a fact disproved by data that show Jews are far more likely to face anti-Semitism in Germany than Hungary. Leading German politician, Katerina Barley, even called for Hungary and Poland to be ” starved ” by cutting off EU funding earlier in the year, a charge that sparked outrage in the two countries, a remark that was eerily reminiscent of Germany’s actions as they pertained to Polish civilians during World War II. Speaking about a new rule-of-law mechanism which could EU funding to Poland and Hungary, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, said , “Finally, we will have a mechanism that is going to be very painful for Hungary and Poland.” AP Photo/Hani Mohammed A girl is treated for a suspected cholera infection at a hospital in Sanaa, Yemen, Monday, Sept. 9, 2019. The World Health Organization and UNICEF launched a diphtheria vaccination campaign this month in war-torn Yemen targeting over 2.8 million children between the ages of six weeks and 15 years. Yet, officials such as Maas have made no such push to condemn actual autocrats in the Middle East. In fact, his foreign ministry has been actively rewarding them with state-of-the-art German weapons that are being put to use in the region. Germany’s arms industry helps fuels war and the migrant crisis Germany’s arms industry, which is supported by the German government, has real consequences on countries that have no democracy whatsoever, but also on those countries that are in the midst of active conflicts. In Yemen, on the southwestern edge of the Arabian Peninsula, a Saudi-led alliance has been fighting on the side of the government against Iranian-backed Houthi insurgents since late 2014.
The alliance aligned against Iran also includes the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Kuwait, Jordan and Bahrain, all countries which receive German weapons. The United Nations (UN) Office for Humanitarian Affairs estimates the number of people killed in the six-year war at about 233,000. This includes the 131,000 people who died for indirect reasons due to a lack of food, health services or infrastructure. Libya in North Africa has also been experiencing a civil war since 2014, in which thousands lost their lives, and which has helped fuel the migration crisis — the same one which has prompted Germany to claim Hungary and Poland have not accepted their fair share of migrants. AP Photo/Hani Mohammed Rescue workers recover bodies from under the rubble of a Houthi detention center destroyed by Saudi-led airstrikes, that killed at least 60 people and wounding several dozen according to officials and the rebels’ health ministry, in Dhamar province, southwestern Yemen, Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019. Earlier last year, Deutsche Welle reported that €350 million in German arms exports had made their way to countries involved in the Libyan war despite a UN-backed arms embargo. Many of those German-made weapons have made their way directly into the conflict in Libya , particularly through Turkey, which has included armored vehicles and munitions. Qatar and Turkey intervened in the fight alongside the internationally recognized Government of National Consensus (GNA), led by the Prime Minister of Fajez es-Saraj. Rival General Halifa Haftar, who is backed by the UAE and Egypt. There is currently a ceasefire in the country, which gives hope for the end of the war. The United States and its European allies account for about three-quarters of total arms exports to the Middle East and North Africa, according to a report by the Washington-based International Political Center (CIP), which examined the period between 2015 and 2019. Experts say arms exports to the region are fueling conflicts and human rights abuses, and despite criticism from peace activists and an assortment of politicians in Germany, there is little reason to believe the flow of weapons from Germany will end any time soon.
Title image: A man takes a photograph of a Krauss-Maffei Wegmann Leopard tank at the International Defense Exhibition and Conference, known by the acronym IDEX, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, Feb. 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Jon Gambrell)