Germany’s Post-Merkel Middle East Policy: What to Expect | Military News
On September 26, Germany’s parliamentary elections will mark the end of Angela Merkel’s 16-year reign as head of government.
Merkel’s legacy in the Middle East can be seen as a dual purpose, often noble, in conflict with reality. After Merkel, we should not expect Berlin to change course significantly in the Middle East.
However, Merkel’s successor, whether Annalena Baerbock (Greens), Armin Laschet (CDU) or Olaf Scholz (SPD), will have to answer questions relating to Germany’s position. on arms sales, Israel-Palestine and refugees in the Middle East.
On the one hand, Germany has been a harbinger of peace in the region, a promoter of democracy, the rule of law, defending arms control and human rights while offering a refuge for people in danger.
On the other hand, however, the Merkel years were also synonymous with significant German arms sales to the region.
It was not motivated by grand strategy or a strict foreign policy doctrine, but mainly by economic interests, with the Middle East home to the countries with the highest global demand for military equipment, Thomas Jaeger, professor of international policy and foreign policy at University of Cologne, told Al Jazeera.
Germany is one of the largest arms-exporting countries in the world, Pieter D Wezeman, senior researcher at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), told Al Jazeera.
“In 200116-2020, SIPRI estimates that Germany accounted for 5.5% of world arms exports, in the world and 3.9% of arms imports in the Middle East, making it the fourth largest exporter “, did he declare.
This explains why actors such as Egypt or Saudi Arabia – despite widespread accusations that both commit serious rights violations – have long been championed as valuable trading partners.
This dichotomy of business interests and humanitarianism under Merkel is quite common in international relations, Jaeger noted.
“States, especially successful states, always base their foreign policy on a solid double standard. Idealism and realism go hand in hand.
“Germany pursues the objective of not supplying international conflicts and of not supplying states which pursue foreign policy objectives by military means. However, the latter apparently does not apply to actors in the Middle East, and yet weapons are sold to these states – and on a large scale. “
In 2020, the Merkel government approved arms exports worth 1.16 billion euros ($ 1.36 billion) to countries involved in conflicts in Yemen or Libya.
The aggregate value of licenses to export German military equipment to Saudi Arabia has amounted to 3.3 billion euros ($ 3.87 billion) over the past nine years, as assessed the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP) in 2020 – even as exports to the kingdom stopped in 2018 following the assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Israel is also benefiting. Merkel has repeatedly underlined Berlin’s unconditional support for Israel by declaring its security to be “Staatsraeson,” or raison d’être.
Israel received military materiel from Berlin, especially during the Merkel years. To date, Germany remains the second largest arms exporter to Israel, accounting for 24% of Israeli imports between 2009 and 2020.
These include Dolphin submarines, weapon components and technology used for Israeli tanks, speedboats and helicopters.
Some of this technology has already been used directly in conflicts. Israeli tanks with German engines were used in Gaza, and Saudi Typhoon planes were used in Yemen, Wezeman noted.
“In general, countries like Germany that have a foreign policy that strives to support peace, development and human rights should carefully and regularly review whether their arms export policies are truly integrated. in these foreign policies – or expanding economic motivations or assumptions about the role of arms supplies in building relationships and influence in Middle Eastern states may have been a priority, ”Wezeman said. .
Merkel’s government has never felt the need to genuinely reconsider its policy, as the subject is not a national controversy.
“This is not a major problem in Germany and for the public of minor interest. However, this is a highly political point of contention, a clear right-left pattern, with the right supporting the policy for economic and political reasons and the left opposing it, ”Jaeger said.
However, with the vote coming up, a paradigm shift could emerge in the form of a left-wing government.
“It will be exciting to see if a new left-wing federal government really changes arms export policy. In opposition, they – the Greens, who will almost certainly be part of the new government – certainly speak this way, ”Jaeger said.
During the election campaign, foreign policy issues were limited to promises to maintain Germany’s alliances and commitments around the world.
Moreover, given that the new government will likely be composed of a tripartite coalition, it is difficult to guess the direction that such a coalition will ultimately take – with one exception: Israel.
As for Germany’s Israeli policy, any notable changes to its strong support for the state are extremely unlikely, Christian Hacke, professor emeritus at the Institute of Political Science and Sociology of Germany, told Al Jazeera. University of Bonn.
“A strong and close relationship with Israel as a continuum will remain part of the German Staatsraeson.”
Neither candidate will change Germany’s status quo in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
Even if one was inclined to do so, the options are rather limited.
“Germany has little influence over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the struggle itself is not among the competing interests in the European context,” Hacke said.
In general, it is fair to assume that the Middle East will not become the center of German politics, even after Merkel.
However, the refugee problem, “created by the West over 20 years of unsuccessful humanitarian interventions,” will require more commitment and assistance, Hacke said.
Here, the three candidates could make a mark as Merkel’s successor, and have moreover already committed to doing so.