After peaking in 2023, export permits for German military equipment continued to rise at the beginning of this year due to increasing arms deliveries to Ukraine. From January 1st to March 27th, the federal government allowed the export of military goods worth at least 4.89 billion euros, almost as much as the total of 5.22 billion euros in the entire first half of 2023.

Almost three quarters of this (72 percent or 3.54 billion euros) are intended for Ukraine, which is supported by Germany in its defensive campaign against Russia. This emerges from a response from the Ministry of Economics to a request from Bundestag member Sevim Dagdelen from the Sahra Wagenknecht Alliance, which was submitted to the German Press Agency.

The most important recipient country after Ukraine was Singapore with 583.9 million euros. This is followed by India (143.3 million euros), Saudi Arabia (126.4 million euros) and Qatar (97 million euros). In 2018, the Union and SPD government largely stopped arms deliveries to Saudi Arabia because of the kingdom’s involvement in the Yemen war and because of the brutal murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the consulate general in Istanbul. Last year, however, the restrictions were relaxed by the traffic light coalition due to the cessation of hostilities in Yemen. The Ministry of Economic Affairs points out that the approved exports for Saudi Arabia “almost exclusively” relate to joint projects with EU and NATO partners.

Last year, approvals for German arms exports rose to a record 12.2 billion euros – including 4.4 billion euros for Ukraine. “The traffic light government is driving German arms exports to new heights,” said foreign policy expert Dagdelen, commenting on the ongoing increase this year. “The excessive arms deliveries to countries at war like Ukraine and dictatorships like Saudi Arabia are a moral and political revelation.”

U-turn in arms policy

In their coalition negotiations, the SPD, Greens and FDP had actually planned to curb arms exports and to introduce a control law for this purpose. Then came the U-turn in arms policy with the Ukraine war. The self-imposed ban on arms deliveries to an ongoing war was overturned by Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) in his “turning point” speech on February 27, 2022.

In the first year of the war, 2022, arms deliveries worth 2.24 billion euros were approved for Ukraine, including anti-aircraft systems and heavy artillery. In 2023, Leopard 2 main battle tanks were added, which the federal government made available after much hesitation. Export permits for Ukraine rose to 4.4 billion euros. This year, after three months, the export volume is now 3.54 billion euros.