The Club of Drone-Using Countries

(Own report) – The German government is promoting the production of combat drones by the European arms industries. This week, seven EU countries – including Germany – decided to accelerate development and production by companies from EU member countries of these highly controversial weapons systems. The production is scheduled to begin by 2020. The SPD can therefore announce that the next government, in which it will participate, will not formally purchase combat drones. The decision to waive the purchase of US-American and Israeli drones shows that Berlin aims at the EU securing its own independent arms industrial base – the prerequisite also for an independent global military policy. Germany is increasing its arms exports to countries outside of the EU and NATO, to counterbalance cuts in the European and North American military budgets and to secure its national defense industrial base. This increase has been documented by the recent government’s Arms Exports Report.
All-Purpose Drones
At last Tuesday’s meeting of the European Defense Agency (EDA) in Brussels, seven EU member countries agreed to accelerate production of combat drones by European defense industries. The objective is to produce “Medium Altitude Long Endurance” (Male) drones – i.e. at medium altitude but longer range – for various purposes: for warding off migrants in the Mediterranean Sea and for military strikes. This project is to be discussed further at the next EU defense summit in December. Germany is one of the seven countries in this group, which French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian calls a “club of drone-using countries.”[1] Drone production is scheduled to begin by 2020. The SPD Party can, therefore, announce that drones will not be “procured” – i.e. formally purchased – during the coming legislature. The group of countries includes not only France, the Netherlands and Poland, but also crisis ridden Spain, Italy and Greece, whose populations are suffering draconian austerity measures.
Independent Power
The decision to embark on an independent European production of drones shows more than merely that Germany is planning the deployment of combat drones. Major General Jörg Vollmer, the commander of German troops in northern Afghanistan, just recently pushed for the Bundeswehr’s deployment of combat drones. An “unarmed drone” can be used for surveillance, but – when appropriate – not for intervention; an “armed drone” however can be used for “immediate reaction.”[2] Berlin is renouncing the purchase of US-American or Israeli combat drones, in favor of a projected EU model, also because it aims to secure an independent arms industrial base for future European wars – independent of the USA. This is fully in line with a European global policy as it is currently discussed in German circles of foreign policy specialists. ( reported.[3])
Beyond this decision, the competition between various European consortia for contracts of drone production also demonstrates the current power rivalries within the EU. France’s Dassault Group is testing a stealth combat drone (“Neuron”), in whose development Spanish, Italian, Greek, Swedish and Swiss companies are also involved. Dassault and the British BAE Systems are also working on the joint development of a stealth drone (“Telemos”) ready for deployment by 2018, a project Berlin is observing with apprehension. In November 2010, France and the UK initiated a far reaching military and armaments cooperation, which would enable them to conduct military operations without German approval, thereby overcoming German predominance over the EU – at least in the military field. German government advisors are already speaking of a new “Entente Cordiale.”[4] In the field of drone production, Germany is countering the British-French “Telemos” project with – at the core – a German French program: Last summer, EADS officially presented the “FEMALE” drone program (“Future European Medium Altitude Long Endurance”), with EADS, Dassault and Italy’s Finmeccanica participating. The “Bavarian International Campus Aerospace and Security” (BICAS), located on the premises of EADS in Ottobrunn, near Munich, is said to play a significant role in the EADS combat drone development. ( reported.[5])
Increasing Arms Exports to Third Countries
Germany’s effort to stabilize its national arms industrial base for an independent global policy is not only evident in the European combat drone projects, but through also the increase of German arms exports to non-EU and NATO countries. Because defense budgets in Europe and North America are stagnating or shrinking, increasing arms exports is considered necessary for the maintenance of the national defense industry. Exports of military hardware to Middle Eastern Arab countries and the Asia-Pacific region have significantly increased, not only at the level of individual companies.[6] This has also been documented by the government’s recently published Arms Exports Report for 2012, which indicates that arms deliveries to non-EU and NATO countries and to their closest allies have increased from 42 percent in 2011 to 55 percent in 2012 of total German arms exports.
Constellation of Alliances
Arms export interests are – as always – connected to political alliance constellations. On the one hand, Germany approves arms deliveries to Iran’s Arab rivals, with which it cooperates also on other levels to keep Teheran in check. Saudi Arabia, for example, ranks first place among the recipient countries documented in the arms export report 2012 – far ahead of the USA. The United Arab Emirates ranks tenth, and Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and Bahrain received licenses for arms deliveries valued at times in the double-digit millions. Algeria ranks third, following the USA, where German companies are building a factory for armored personnel carriers, which are intended also for sale to other Arab countries.[7]
Fault Lines of Global Conflict
The German government is also increasingly approving arms exports to countries considered to be Western allies in the power struggle with the People’s Republic of China. According to 2012 licenses, South Korea and Singapore rank eighth and ninth on the list of German arms deliveries. Export licenses valued in the double-digit millions were provided to Malaysia, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand and Taiwan. The recent Arms Exports Report not only indicates that Berlin is ready to deliver arms to countries that completely ignore human rights, such as Saudi Arabia, it also clearly documents the main current and future fault lines of global conflicts.
[1] Seven EU states create military drone ‘club’; 20.11.2013
[2] Deutscher General in Afghanistan will bewaffnete Drohnen; 23.10.2013
[3] see also The Re-Evaluation of German Foreign PolicyAuf Augenhöhe mit den USA and Bereit zur globalen Ordnungspolitik
[4] see also The New Entente Cordiale
[5] see also Traditionsreiche Hochtechnologie
[6] see also Dilemmata der Rüstungsindustrie
[7] see also Hoflieferant autoritärer Regime

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