Opinion: Distant Dream of Peace | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 09.06.2005
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Opinion: Distant Dream of Peace

A recent report revealed that the global arms race has again reached Cold War proportions. DW's Peter Philipp says the world's arms exporting nations, including Germany, need to watch who they sell to.


The world at war: Young soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Fourteen years after the end of the Cold War, the hope of an era of peace has been exposed as nothing more than a beautiful yet empty dream. The wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, the former Yugoslavia, Kongo and Chechnya have been burned into the collective consciousness. They are but a handful of the armed conflicts which rage across the globe.

The difference is that the others are played out in private, failing to spark any kind of international interest. In its latest annual report, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, SIPRI, says the world has played host to 19 wars since the end of the Cold War, and many of them have been raging bloodily for several years.

Arabische Freiwillige gegen die USA

Armed conflict is a part of everyday life in Iraq

And that is not all. The "major wars" in Afghanistan and in Iraq have sent worldwide arms costs spiraling to such an extent that they easily equal those notched up during the East-West conflict. The world invests almost a trillion dollars in arms, and nearly half of that can be attributed to the US which spearheads the war against terrorism.

Whatever opinion one might have of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, it is logical that they should have far-reaching implications for the US arms budget.

Germany fourth largest arms exporter

But what of the other figures published by SIPRI, such as those which claim an overall worldwide increase in arms exports with Germany in fourth place?

The same Germany, so glorious in its stoic and repeated rejection of the Iraq war, and with a government which campaigned on its pacifist principles in the 2002 federal elections. After all that, can Germany really be the fourth largest weapons exporter in the world, trailing only the indisputable market leaders, Russia, the US and Great Britain?

One could argue that the laws governing German arms distribution mean that for the most part, home-grown weapons are not used in flashpoint situations, and unlike those from other countries, are not used to flame armed conflicts.

Deutsche Soldaten in Kabul

German soldiers help keep the peace in Afghanistan

The German armed forces, the Bundeswehr, which has just celebrated 50 years of existence, now has a peace-keeping presence in various crisis regions across the world and its soldiers need weapons. But producing arms solely for personal use is an expensive business, a fact which Sweden as an adherent to the principle, knows only too well.

Although from a commercial viewpoint, arms export is simply common sense, the world should be aware that it has too lax an approach to the conflicts which color it.

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