Dirk Niebel (59) was Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development from 2009 to 2013. He repeatedly caused offense with his positions, and the reserve captain received a lot of criticism when it was announced that he would be working as an adviser on international issues and global government contacts at the German armaments group Rheinmetall from 2015.
In an interview with the Tagesspiegel, he talks about the chancellor’s hesitation, the changed image of the industry as a result of Russia’s war, the advantages of the Marder tank, inflatable tank troops in war and the use of the Green Party for heavy arms deliveries, which he often criticizes.
The security technology industry here in the country has the task of protecting Germany and ensuring that our security forces have the best possible equipment so that they come home healthy from every deployment. Of course, the increased demand also means increased sales and profits. But that is the case in every industry.
The industry has a different perception because many people realize that there is no bright future without security. Incidentally, we also saw this during the evacuation of people from Kabul. And that’s why you have to invest more in your own defence, in your own security and also in the collective security of the European Union, so that you can minimize dependencies and act in your own well-understood political interest. Because the military is nothing more than support for the international policies of the respective government.
We hope that this will finally be decided now. Without having an export permit, Rheinmetall has already started repairing the vehicles at its own risk so that they can be delivered in the shortest possible time. Of course, staff training can only begin once you know who the buyer is. And as long as there is no export permit, there is no buyer. Therefore, it is a question of the time factor here. What more time do you want to lose? That costs even more human lives, you have to give the Ukrainians the support they need in their struggle for existence.
The first vehicles could be delivered in three weeks at the latest, more likely in two weeks, with sufficient ammunition supplies to ensure combat capability. The marten as a tactical system is much less complex than the cheetah. It is an armored personnel carrier, i.e. a secured vehicle for transporting personnel. And someone who has ever driven a tank in the Ukrainian army can drive this vehicle in no time.
And someone who has ever operated a cannon in an armored personnel carrier in the Ukrainian army can operate the 20 millimeter cannon himself in a very short time and whoever jumps out from the back does exactly the same thing that he did in the Ukrainian infantry fighting vehicle. He just needs to know how to open and close the door.
When the Ukraine buys from us, the Ukraine is the customer and also the appropriate contact for us. I suspect, if we are talking about these 100 martens, that it will be around 100 million euros. But I don’t negotiate prices.
We need to put this in order. A few weeks ago, at the same time as the federal party conference of the FDP, the news came from Switzerland that Switzerland would ban ammunition exports, so the Ukraine could not be offered martens. That was a classic newspaper duck, because it was about the ammunition for the Gepard tanks, which were produced in Switzerland.
The Marder ammunition is produced in Germany and many other countries and is almost infinitely available. So the conclusion that because Switzerland does not issue ammunition for the cheetah, we cannot supply martens is simply wrong.
I can not judge over this. The fact is that the Swiss administration has changed its export policy. It used to be that all products with less than 50 percent Swiss content could be exported. That has now changed for Ukraine. What has a production share in Switzerland is not delivered to the Ukraine at all.
Yes, because of Switzerland’s neutrality. Malicious tongues claim, also because of the money from Russia stored in Switzerland. The Bundestag rightly decided that Ukraine could buy in Germany. This is basically possible, would not and is not a problem at all to buy directly from the industry. The industry is ready for this. As I said, we paid in advance at our own risk, but we need a decision from the federal government.
The problem is that the system has been retired and the vehicles have been sold with the remaining ammunition present. To Brazil to protect the 2014 World Cup, to Qatar to protect the upcoming World Cup. And some vehicles were still with the manufacturer Krauss-Maffei-Wegmann. Since, to the best of my knowledge, Rheinmetall-Oerlikon is the only company that has produced this ammunition, namely in Switzerland, I assume that this ban on passing it on also applies to all ammunition stocks that have already been produced. The whole thing shows that you always have to think about storage for the ammunition.
If this 100 billion program for the Bundeswehr were to be decided and actually only went into equipping the armed forces – as the Union demands as a prerequisite for its approval – then roughly 20 billion would have to be used to increase the ammunition stocks to ensure the Bundeswehr’s resilience even in wartime situations.
So a combat vehicle that cannot fight is of little use in a war.
It is an excellent combat vehicle with its twin 35mm guns. A rate of fire of 1100 shots per minute is possible, bringing enormous firepower to the target. However, radar technology is at least ten years old. And those old radar systems are a lot easier to detect than modern systems, so as an anti-aircraft combat vehicle, it’s more likely to draw fire than support. But in ground combat it’s a brilliant weapon.
So an arms dealer drives a Toyota under a motorway bridge at night, opens the trunk and sells Kalashnikovs to whoever wants them. We are a safety technology industry and therefore a partner of the government. We don’t have any private customers either. Our customers are always government customers and everything that has been produced or developed in Germany is only distributed under German law with the consent of the federal government, including NATO partners. If we deliver a machine gun to Lithuania, then we need an export license from the federal government for it.
And that’s right, and by the way, that applies to all other countries as well. Wherever the patents are located, the export regime corresponds to the national law of the country where the patent was registered. And that also means that sometimes several countries have to be involved.
Yes, then there are old NVA vehicles that were once delivered to Scandinavia, were delivered from Scandinavia to the Baltic States and are now to be given away to the Ukraine. The fact that this required the consent of the Federal Republic of Germany before this donation could take place took a long time before the decision was made to release these vehicles and these cannons. But whenever there is a patent and an end-use regulation is included in the purchase contract, it remains valid for the life of this product.
I can’t say anything about that in detail. As a company and as part of the industry, at the request of the federal government, we announced at short notice which products we could deliver quickly for the Ukraine or the Bundeswehr and which we could deliver in the medium term. The Ukraine has given lists of requirements to the federal government accordingly. A comparison was made in the federal government, which could also be gathered from the media.
And otherwise we hope that we will get the appropriate export permits for the things that are needed and that people would like to buy from us, as the German Bundestag decided with an overwhelming majority in its arms supply application.
Because I take care of international relations, contact with the ambassadors here in Germany is an essential part of my job. We have no hidden agenda and we thrive on needing government approvals.
Moment. We’ve seen it before, when the Yazidis’ heads were cut off and the principles of German export policy from decades ago were thrown overboard under completely different conditions. Quite rightly, by the way, real weapons of war were then delivered in a real war to the irregular armed forces of a non-existent state, namely the Kurds.
We are now delivering weapons to a state war party for the first time, because the Kurds have no state. This is a war of aggression against a sovereign state that violates international law. A member of the United Nations where, according to the United Nations Charter, there is not only the right to self-defense, but also the right of all other members of the United Nations to support the attacked state in its self-defense by any means necessary.
Employees now feel that they are much more valued for their technical know-how and ability to design and produce excellent products to protect our own soldiers or police forces. That they can get out of the perceived dingy corner into which they have sometimes been pushed. To where they belong; to the center of society. To protect our security interests.
Rheinmetall AG has introduced a completely strict compliance system. After our CEO was appointed CEO in 2013, he tried to work through all the legacy issues himself with forensic law firms and to support the public prosecutor’s office. The result was that there was no organizational failure on the part of the company, but that it was individual employees, mostly from other companies, who were involved. And this compliance system works. This is very important for a MDAX-listed company in order not to be excluded from the award of contracts.
Yes, because the threat to China in the South Pacific is of course enormous. It’s also about securing trade routes. There we built up a completely new Australian industry of our own at great expense. With the qualification of medium-sized companies as suppliers, which help ensure that the Australian tax money that is spent there also creates great added value in Australia.
And that’s actually the trend that can be seen. No country that invests taxpayers’ money in its security will accept a contract where local investments are not made. For example, we now have a factory in Hungary that has been rebuilt and is scheduled to start producing armored personnel carriers at the end of the year.
Yes, I was accused of the networked security approach as Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development of militarization. This means using whatever skills you have to ensure stability and security. It doesn’t just have to be military, but ideally it can also be civilian, in that the creation of perspectives, of social security, and with the help of an expanded concept of security can also minimize certain political risks.
I agree. In Afghanistan, we tried at the same time with the Bundeswehr to remove the breeding ground for terrorism. I said I expect my development experts to stay in contact with the armed forces and other public players and to coordinate.
This proposal was not enforceable in the coalition negotiations. The Chancellor did not appreciate this initiative at the time. She literally said: I’m not going to mess with two and a half thousand NGOs and all the churches. So a decision had to be made between keeping it up or doing it better yourself. I hadn’t expected that this would bring me the maximum media penalty.
However, with the merger of the state development organizations to form GIZ, I managed the largest structural reform in 50 years of German development policy, which three previous governments had failed to achieve.
Yes, I think that people have now woken up and are clearly recognizing and naming the equipment and skill gaps. And as long as that is the case, then it has an educational value that has a positive effect on the future and that what needs to be done now cannot be done in a year or two. That’s why I think the Chancellor’s approach is absolutely correct, that he is launching an emergency program with the 100 billion program. The Chancellor has also pledged to spend at least 2 percent of gross national income on defense each year.
And if you decide that the 100 billion special program for equipment has to be used, then you have more aircraft, armored vehicles, weapon systems and ammunition. But then you also need more staff, equipment and more repairs, i.e. spare parts. That costs money in a normal household, otherwise it remains a flash in the pan.
I can only tell you what I heard on February 27th when I watched the Chancellor’s speech live. I suspect that it will be exactly the same in the minutes of the German Bundestag session.
I don’t see the danger at all. It is of course clear that we do not want any participation in the war and must do everything possible to ensure that this does not happen. That assumes that we are not fighting with German troops in Ukraine. That we don’t train in Ukraine and then go into combat with the trained soldiers, as was done in Afghanistan. Then these German soldiers would be combatants, a legitimate military target that could be attacked.
Yes, although it was a bit different because we didn’t have a state opponent in Afghanistan, but irregular armed forces. terrorists. Although I can only see the difference to Mr. Putin very little. But he represents a state that is a member of the United Nations. Legally, this is all very clear. But why is Putin interested in international law?
If Putin thinks we’re a war party, then we’re a war party. If I were to use gender language in this interview with you today and Putin, with his testosterone-controlled politics, thinks that gender is an attack on his personality, then he makes me a war party at that moment. And then I can stamp my feet and say I’m right. But that doesn’t matter. Let’s not let Putin fool us.
If the Russians can do one thing for decades, then they can play with the fears of their counterparts. You can use them with a really deep psychological effect. Nuclear weapons have not been used for 77 years, they have always been used psychologically. Luckily none were ignited.
And of course there will also be a political regulation in this case at some point. I don’t think he’s using nuclear weapons. I believe this threat should be taken as it is, as a threat that should actually be interpreted as weakness. Because he sees what he cannot achieve in the conventional battlefield.
I don’t know that. Rail transport will probably be used. Roads will be used. You might use country lanes. You may also use distraction methods. I remember that in the Second World War, before the invasion of Normandy, various inflatable tank troops were sighted on English territory, which led to the reconnaissance of the Germans, both as regards the potential attackers and the location of the attack, in the have been misled. I hope that all technical possibilities will be used to make this transport as safe as possible.
I wouldn’t have expected it to be like this. On the other hand, I don’t think it’s completely out of the question that this development is taking place. Because there is also the responsibility to protect. And we experienced what was in Srebrenica.
We have seen what happened in Rwanda and we do not want to see another genocide in Ukraine. Therefore, it is only logical that one massively enters here. The international community failed in Srebrenica and Rwanda. That’s at least one too many. This must not happen to us a third time.