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German weapons exports on course to hit new record

June 30, 2024

Russia's war in Ukraine and increased sales to Saudi Arabia helped German arms exports to reach €7.48 billion in the first half of the year.

A demonstration of the German Leopard 2 battle tank delivered to the Czech Republic, on July 24, 2020
Germany's Leopard 2 battle tankImage: Csaba Krizsan/dpa/picture alliance

Arms exports from Germany rose 30% in the first six months of 2024 compared to the same period a year earlier, Economy Ministry data published Sunday showed.

Between January 1 and June 18, the government approved total weapons exports worth at least €7.48 billion ($8.01 billion).

By June 18, exports had already reached 60% of 2023's total, the ministry data showed. If the trend continues for the remainder of the year, the total value of arms sales is set to reach a new record.

Germany's weapons exports for the whole of last year hit an all time high of €12.2 billion, mostly due to commitments to Ukraine to defend against Russia's full-scale invasion.

Some €6.44 billion of the export licenses awarded last year were for war weapons and €5.76 billion for other military equipment, including armored vehicles.

The surge in exports comes despite the governing coalition of Chancellor Olaf Scholz promising to curb arms deliveries when it took office in December 2021, especially to non-European Union and NATO members.

The three parties that make up the coalition, the Social Democrats, the environmentally-friendly Greens Party and the business-friendly FDP, planned to introduce legislation to aid the controls.

Months after Scholz's government took power, Russia's tanks rolled into Ukraine and the plans were shelved.

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Most German arms exports sent to Ukraine

Nearly two-thirds of the exports in the first half of the year were destined for Ukraine, the data showed. Total German arms exports to the war-torn country reached a record high of €4.88 billion in the first half of the year.

During the first year of the conflict, Berlin approved arms deliveries to Kyiv worth €2.24 billion, including air defense systems and heavy artillery.

Last year, export permits to Ukraine rose to €4.4 billion, with the commitment to deliver Leopard 2 battle tanks.

Germany is the second-largest arms supplier to Ukraine after the United States.

Since the war began in February 2022, Germany has committed €10.2 billion in military aid to Kyiv, according to the Ukraine Support Tracker from the Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW Kiel), although not all of it is in the form of weapons exports.

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Weapons exports to Saudi Arabia restarted

The other four Top 5 nations to receive German weapons were Singapore (€1.21 billion), India (€153.75 million), Saudi Arabia (€132.48 million) and Qatar (€100 million), the data showed.

Riyadh returned to the Top 5 after Berlin eased restrictions on weapons exports to the Gulf Kingdom in July last year.

Germany halted arms sales to the oil-rich state over the 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was brutally killed by a hit squad inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Another reason cited for the export curbs was Saudi Arabia's involvement in the civil war raging in Yemen. Riyadh has since eased hostilities with its neighbor.

The ministry stressed that approvals to the Kingdom were linked to joint projects with other NATO or EU partners.

Leftist parties denounce exports as 'irresponsible'

The ministry data was made public following a request from German lawmaker Sevim Dagdelen from the left-wing populist Sahra Wagenknecht Alliance, which was founded in January by the firebrand ex-Left Party politician of the same name. The findings were published by Germany's DPA news agency.

Dagdelen denounced the increased arms exports to "war and crisis zones" as "irresponsible" and accused Scholz's coalition of breaking its election promises.

Wagenknecht last week warned Germany's lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, that the coalition's weapons exports policy could "lead us, step by step, into a major European war."

With material from DPA news agency.

Edited by: Kieran Burke

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