Foreign Policy Blogs

Germany’s Arms Sales On The Rise

When one reads the words ‘arms sales’ or ‘weapon systems sold’, one does not usually expect to see the word ‘Germany’ close by. Though it may be quiet global arms dealer, for the past several years (2007-2011) Germany has been the world’s third largest arms exporter. Though Berlin 9% of the total exports trails the United States and Russia by a wide margin, I would think this third place finish comes as a surprise to most. According to the latest Arms Export Report, this has been trend that started at the end of the 90s:

The latest Arms Export Report, published by the German government in
the middle of this week – as usual with great delay – lists individual
export authorizations for military hardware worth 5.4 billion Euros.
This is a significant increase over 2010, when Berlin approved arms
exports valued at 4.8 billion Euros. This is second only to the arms
exports in 2008, when the Federal Security Council approved licenses
for exports worth nearly 5.8 billion Euros. This means that German
arms exports have nearly doubled since the end of the 1990s, when they
fluctuated between two and three billion Euros.[1] German arms
manufacturers succeeded in pushing the Federal Republic of Germany to
third place in global arms exports – following the United States and
Russia, but ahead of its West European rivals, France and Great
Britain. From 2007 to 2011, Germany accounted for nine percent of
global arms exports – not including arms produced under German license
in third countries – from Spain to Saudi Arabia.

This should not really come as such a surprise. Germany’s pacifist constitution and modern culture are prevalent, but that has not curtailed the country from taking advantage of many of its greatest attributes; a skilled workforce, large manufacturing companies, and excellent science and technology sectors. Simply speaking, the Germans have the means to produce high tech weaponry that customers around the globe would like to purchase. Speaking even more simply; money, money, money!

Financial considerations are not the only reason Germany may be increasing their arms sales overseas. Providing allies with valuable weapon systems is an easy way to bolster their deterrent, defensive, and offensive capabilities. According to the German Foreign Policy website, many of Germany’s (and the United State’s) allies were recipients of German-made arms in 2011. The Middle East and North Africa appear prominently on the list of those receiving German produced arms: Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Egypt, Algeria. East and South Asia are also prevalent among those purchasing German weapons: Singapore, South Korea, Indonesia. There is no doubt that the containment of the Iranian threat and emerging Chinese power are key motivators for these target nations.

The militaristic culture of Germany’s Prussian roots may have faded, but Berlin still has interests around the world and the means to make an impact in foreign affairs with its defense industry.

  • teepee77

    I was actually surprised to learn of this not because I can’t imagine having Germany be the third largest arms seller, but because you just don’t hear about it. Not once, in listening to the news or reading about Syria, or the Middle East in general, has Germany been mentioned. Perhaps there is no reason to, but such news comes as a shock to me.
    It makes sense that the Germans should be pursuing some sort of influence abroad, and should be making quite a hefty profit of it. What with their involvement in Greece and the stabilization of its economy, it makes sense that Germany should pursue its economic interests around the world. I wonder if the United States would be as accepting of Germany’s arms proliferation if they were selling to different recipients. I imagine that tensions would be high and there would be an attempt to stop such endeavors. However, that is not happening, and I hope that Germany does not wish to expand so much that it begins selling arms to countries like Somalia and Iran, because then that would surely change the dynamic of U.S.-German relations.

  • AnnMarieC

    I found this to be interesting because, it;’s a topic is important, and like Toni said, one that isn’t really discussed in today’s media. These days we focus more on areas like the Middle East and North Korea. We don’t usually take the time to consider other countries that used to be touchy subjects, like Germany.

    The fact that Germany’s Arm Sales are on the rise is quite intriguing. I didn’t expect it considering amount of distrust we had towards them after World War II. However, I think that it’s great how hard Germany has worked to become prosperous once more. Now that there domestic situation has been figured out for the most part, there is no reason for them to not expand internationally. They are taking advantage of their opportunity and that is great for them economically.

    • Charles_Dilkes

      C’mon, it’s dubious to say the least. Nuclear submarines to Israel & Pakistan, attack boats to Egypt? Their arms exports are reckless and inconsistent. The Germans are flooding the middle east with German made kit, especially the Leopard 2 battle tank. Unlike Britain, who primarily exports to countries like the USA, India or South Africa, the Germans seem reckless in who they supply arms to. Germany itself has a huge stockpile of tanks, it’s just secured another few orders in the middle east for 600 or so Leopard 2.

  • Charles_Dilkes

    Great technology and highly skilled workforce? Not so much ‘money money money’ as ‘cheap, cheap, cheap’. It’s no secret that Germany benefits enormously from the EMU with a deflated currency. Why didn’t anyone buy Britain’s Challenger 2? Why did everyone – from Chile, Turkey to Spain – buy Germany’s Leopard 2? A tank that, unlike Britain’s, isn’t tested in battle? The answer is that it’s cheaper. That’s all. Germany’s leveraging of the Eurozone for its own benefit is no secret.


Patrick Frost
Patrick Frost

Patrick Frost recently graduated from New York University's Masters Program in Political Science - International Relations. His MA thesis analyzed the capabilities and objectives of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Central Asia and beyond and explored how these affected U.S. interests and policy.

Areas of Focus:
Eurasia, American Foreign Policy, Ideology, SCO