Germany: from Bones of Contention to Stumbling Blocks?
(Source:; posted Dec. 22, 2021)

By Alistair Davidson
For the next six years, the previous governing coalition of Angela Merkel had decided to continue increasing the defense budget before beginning a decline. What the new coalition will decide is still very much in question.
PARIS --- Following up closely onto the first steps of the Germany’s new Ampel-Koalition, three major trends can be identified which could be the markers of the policies for the four next years.

Questioning the contract: during the exceptional congress of the SPD this week-end, the left wing of the Party has called into question the issue of arming UAVs. Despite a clear statement in the coalition contract (see our article on this sensitive issue), parts of the SPD have decided to re-open the bone of contention. Led by Mr. Sebastian Roloff, this move comes from…Bavaria, one of the key bases of the German Defence industry.

No doubt he will be followed by Mr. Mützenich, a long-standing opponent to the weaponization of the drones and, of course, by most of the battalions from the Greens whose opposition to nuclear, whether military or civilian, is well-anchored in their DNA.

Despite a clear warning from Mr. Scholz (“we expect you will support the coalition”), the new co-chairman of the Party, the young Lars Klingbeil (initially mooted as a possible defence minister) has not closed the door to the opponents of the party’s line on this matter, leaving on the contrary it wide open to “further internal debate”.

Going beyond the contract: the new ministerial teams have given a quick overview of what could happen on the issue of arms exports.

The economy ministry is led by Mr. Habeck, former co-chairman of the Greens and seconded by Sven Giegold, former European MP, member of the EKD (the Reformed Church of Germany, founding member of ATTAC-Germany, who was recently appointed as a Parliamentary undersecretary: this is the minister who which studies export license applications from the defence industry…(In Germany, this function is traditionally reserved to close advisers to the minister, who therefore represent the minister in his/her absence in Germany (Bundestag/Bundesrat…) or abroad, in the position of Undersecretary, the highest level of civil servant.)

At the Foreign Affairs Department, along with Mrs. Baerbock (the second co-chairman of the party with Mr. Habeck), two new Parliamentary undersecretaries have been appointed, both strong opponents to arms exports: Katja Keul, a well-known activist of the Green Party and Tobias Lindner, a former defence speaker of the Party in the Bundestag. Along with Mr. Jürgen Trittin, Mrs Keul has promoted the idea of a Law to curb arms exports, and has been a staunch opponent to arms deliveries to authoritarian regimes (Indonesia, Algeria, Egypt among others.).

With the new undersecretaries in strategic places, it is highly likely that the provisions of the coalition contract may be exceeded to include the control over the foreign investments of the defence industry, or human transfers from Germany to banned countries (such as KSA), the end of the Euler-Hermès guarantees for arms export (even in the Naval domain) or a collective-action option which could open the door for NGOs to sue any defence industrialist in case of human rights violations.

These perspectives are nothing but the provisions contained in the Drucksache 19/1849: “Ein Rüstungsexportkontrollgesetz endlich vorlegen”, submitted by the Greens (Trittin & Keul) in April, 2018…

Taking advantage of the ambiguities of the coalition contract: key-issues are wrapped into ambiguous wording to delay or not to deal with sensitive issues.

The nuclear mission of the Luftwaffe on behalf of NATO could offer a good example of this attempt not to decide, based on the ambiguous wording of the coalition contract provisions. The coalition platform contains four mentions of the (military) nuclear issue:

Participation in debates and strategic planning within NATO: “As long as nuclear weapons play a role in NATO's strategic concept, Germany has an interest in participating in strategic discussions and planning objectives "(" Solange Kernwaffen im Strategischen Konzept der NATO eine Rolle spielen, hat Deutschland ein Interesse daran, an den strategischen Diskussionen und Planungsprozessen teilzuhaben ", page 145);

The objective is indeed disarmament and a Germany free of nuclear weapons: “Our objective remains a world free of nuclear weapons (Global Zero) and therefore a Germany free of nuclear weapons” (“Unser Ziel bleibt eine atomwaffenfreieWelt (Global Zero) und damit einhergehend ein Deutschland frei von Atomwaffen” (page 145, passage after the first passage cited above);

The replacement of the Tornados: “At the start of the legislature, we will obtain the successor to the Tornado” (“Wir werden zu Beginn der 20. Legislaturperiode ein Nachfolgesystem für das Kampfflugzeug Tornado beschaffen”, page 149);

Certification for the nuclear mission of the successor to the Tornado: “We will support the acquisition and certification process with a view to Germany's nuclear participation in an objective and conscientious manner” (“Den Beschaffungs- und Zertifizierungsprozess mit Blick auf die nukleare Teilhabe Deutschlands werden wir sachlich und gewissenhaft begleiten”, page 149, line after the one on the replacement of Tornados).

No European or American aircraft (apart from the F-35 which was rejected by the old coalition) being certified from the conception for this mission, it will be necessary either to pay for the process on an F / A-18 E / F or to request permission for the certification of EF-2000 -- the first branch of the alternative being by far the most obvious, the second posing both political and technical problems for both partners.

From these four main points, a clear-cut decision is not easy to draw…At the press conference at NATO headquarters on December 10th, when a German journalist (from the DPA) asked to the Chancellor his interpretation of the coalition platform on this issue, the latter encouraged the journalist to read the contract…

The same delaying process could be observed about the level of defence budget.

The coalition platform has been evasive about its exact amount: the target of 3% of the GDP dedicated to Defence, Diplomacy and Development (page 144) is a global figure and differs from the 3% of the GDP for each of these three domains promoted by Mrs. Zimmermann, the Defence expert from the F.D.P…During the press conference, quoted above, Mr. Scholz used an evasive term to describe what could be the defence effort of the new coalition: “in the frame of the budgetary possibilities” (“im Rahmen der Haushaltsmöglichkeiten »).

Defence obviously not being a priority of this coalition, the weight of Mr. Christian Lindner, the new Minister for Finance, and that of his predecessor, now Chancellor Scholz, will be the determining factor.


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