Wednesday, October 13, 2004

No troops, but arms galore

On top of the Germans moving in to sell its surplus tanks to Turkey on the back of the EU commission agreeing to recommend opening accession negotiations with Turkey, it appears that Herr Schröder has been busy elsewhere in his role of premier arms salesman, propelling Germany into fourth place in the world league of arms exporters, displacing Britain.

Thus runs a report in The Times today, based on figures released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

Of course, now that the British government has decided to buy its military trucks from Germany, that will further improve Germany’s position as - in abandoning our domestic market - we will have opted out of the export market as well.

As to the German activity, The Times finds rather odd, given that the Schröder’s Social Democrats are in coalition with the pacifist Green Party.

Nevertheless, despite a German law that bars the sale of weapons to so-called "areas of tension", the SDP and the peace-loving Greens stood by while Schröder this month discussed the supply of submarines to India, and the government supplied 20 Fuchs armoured transporters to Iraq, even though the German military are kept well clear.

Schröder is also sniffing round Libya to see whether he can pick up some trade there, in the wake of the embargo being lifted there and, alongside Chirac, he is a keen proponent of lifting the arms ban on China.

Nevertheless, the bulk of German arms exports has gone to Nato countries, led by the United States, which has bought €685 million (£472 million) of guns in the past three years. Spain spent €232 million on tanks and anti-tank mortars, and Greece bought €266 million of mortars. Smaller sales have also been agreed with India and South Korea. Germany has also supplied Israel and, just to be even-handed, the United Arab Emirates.

One wonders, though, what the Greeks, as recipients of German arms, must be thinking of Schröder's enthusiasm for dealing with Turkey, when the Greek English-language newspaper Kathimerini recently reported that six formations of Turkish fighter jets entered the Athens Flight Information Region (FIR) seven times, with the twelve jets chased off by as many Greek aircraft after “simulated” dogfights, endangering – so it is claimed – civilian air traffic.

They may be less than pleased to learn that Germany, in addition to flogging tanks to the Turks, is also pushing hard for the airforce to buy up some Eurofighters. Could be interesting if the Greeks and Turks go to war again.

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