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Monday, 4 June 2012

Self-imposed blindness – German weapons for sale

It is nothing new that Germany is providing Israel with arms, especially with its newest submarine type. However, everyone who has a critical point of view on the German arm sales to Israel accuse Germany to be completely blind in the view of the full scale of the arm sales.

In its most recent issue, the German weekly news magazine “Spiegel” disclosed reports in which these German class- 214 submarines (code name: “Dolphin” for Israel have been equipped with transport and launching system for nuclear weapons. Three of these submarines have already been transferred to Israel, three more are to follow by 2017.

For arm producers, it doesn’t matter who buys weapons, as long as they pay the price. And if their products (in this case submarines) have a reputation for being highly reliable, state of the art, and capable for any combat situation, then the customers’ list is long. On the clients’ list for German submarines you will also find Pakistan, a country that proofed itself to be an unreliable ally to the western community, and a country which does not recognize Israel. It is evident that this possible deal would lead to a potential destabilization of the unstable and highly vulnerable relations between Pakistan and India, since both countries are in the middle of a new arms race.

What does it mean for Germany, that arms trade has no sense for political implications of geopolitical relevance? Is it a matter of strategic policy implication through arm sales, by saying: “We’re selling submarines to you (Israel), so that you can modernize your forces, under the condition not to use them in a real armed conflict”?

This is certainly a naïve assumption, but on the other hand, German foreign policy has been rather naïve in terms of geopolitical strategy and hard politics. In terms of Israel, the story is long and needs no further explanations. Whenever Jerusalem is calling, Germany instantly falls on its knees, to quote Jakob Augstein in his comment on ( To repeat what former chancellor Gerhard Schröder used to say back in 2002, that “Israel gets what it needs to guarantee its own security”, would be an utter understatement. The reality is: whatever Israel wants from Germany, it gets it, without any further conditions.

The matter of fact is that Germany has been supplying Israel with arms since 1957. A moral question remains, is it reasonable to supply Israel, a nuclear power and the only nuclear power in the Middle East with submarines? For Germany, it is more of a moral concern to support Israel out of its historical responsibility, rather than the moral question about selling arms or not. From an Israeli perspective, Germany is one of two main allies in the western world, after the USA, also because it is rather easy for them to gain Germany’s backup. That is the statement that President Joachim Gauck has recently stated during his official visit to Israel last week

The question remains: in which way was the Merkel administration aware of the fact that Israel will use Dolphin-class submarines as carriers for nuclear weapons? It is highly doubtful that a weapons sale contract would have been signed, if Germany had known about these technical adjustments in the production and assembly process.

But on the other hand, in terms of arms sales, it has never ever been a question of moral or collective responsibility, but always about money. Ironically, the estimated “official” costs for the production, which are partly paid by Germany, are around 135 million Euros per submarine. As a result of this, Germany not only pays one third of the entire costs, but agreed to postpone its payment demands from Israel until 2015.

Germany is caught between its historic responsibility towards Israel, and its international obligations to reduce arms sales and to prevent an escalation in the Middle East conflict. Like this, Germany is indirectly enforcing the arms race in the region. And Germany is looking the other way.

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