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Top Four Arms Exporters: USA, Russia, Germany and France

Observing Hermann has posted a revealing article that references the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s (SIPRI) most recent survey on global arms transfers (HT: Joe Noory):
The survey says that the USA, Russia and Germany are the world’s leading weapons exporters, with Germany’s latest weapons export piece of the pie profits coming in at around $3.395 billion. Damn, just think of all the ploughshares you could buy with that.
Taking a look at the numbers more closely reveals some interesting facts:

ObamaIn 2007:
• The USA, Russia, and Germany held 31, 19, and 14 percent of global exports respectively

• France was the fourth largest arms exporter, with 11% of the global market

From 2006 to 2007:
Russia’s market share dropped 25% to 19%

Germany’s market share rose 11% to 14%

France’s market share rose 6% to 11%

The chart above shows Germany's global arms exports have increased steadily over the past few years. This is interesting considering Germany's resistance to take on an active combat role in Afghanistan, instead preferring to focus on reconstruction projects.  As Observing Hermann wryly states:

All I can say is that it’s good to know that all of these German weapons are being used for goodness and niceness and purely defensive purposes (did you know that Wehrmacht meant defensive force?), not like some other countries’ weapons out there, if you know what I’m sayin’. Otherwise a whole lot of people in this country wouldn’t be able to sleep well at night.
Related posts on Atlantic Review:
•    Afghanistan: Merkel has “No Time” for Burden Sharing Proposals
•    Afghanistan: NATO Crisis Gets Worse
•    War for Dummies: Step 1, Fighting is Necessary
•    Afghanistan: Fighting is Not Most Important

Empower the People of Myanmar to Help Themselves

My sister Daphne Wolf studied Burmese music in Yangon. Her music school is organizing relief aid. Daphne wrote this guest blog post:

Small and local aid agencies are best equipped to help the victims of cyclone Nargis because they are already operating on the ground. Donations to these agencies are more effective since big aid organizations are still struggling to access the affected areas.
Local relief groups such as the Music School Gitameit, are providing the most urgently needed first-aid supplies.

For two years I lived in Yangon, studying Burmese traditional music and teaching classical flute at the Gitameit Music Center, a private school founded by the American pianist Kit Young in 2003. I returned to Berlin in December 2007 to finish my masters in Musicology and Southeast Asian Studies.

My friends, former colleagues, and students all tell me that Yangon, the old capital, is widely devastated and that the fertile delta of the Irrawaddy River is still flooded:

Continue reading "Empower the People of Myanmar to Help Themselves"

German NSC Sparks Controversy

This is a guest blog post by our long-time reader and commenter Pat Patterson:

The blog Coming Anarchy has a balanced piece concerning the recent proposal by Chancellor Merkel and the CDU to create a German National Security Council that argues, "It is for these reasons that a seemingly innocuous and in fact logical step like creating a national security council has again sparked debate among citizens and politicians alike." And that, "Over the past few years though with the changes in both the domestic and international security situation, debate has been ongoing about whether Germany needs a National Security Council based more on the American model for example."

Something similar was argued by the SPD in 1998 but very little in the way of change was made to the Bundessicherheitsrat (Federal Security Council) other than advising on the domestic state of affairs of the countries that were purchasing arms from Germany. But the current proposal goes much farther and states:

"In order to guarantee coherent and effective interagency work combining domestic and foreign security, a national security council is necessary as a center for political analysis."

But the immediate opposition came from the SPD's Frank Walter-Steinmeier, the German Foreign Minister, mainly because the new proposal was similar to the US's National Security Council and thus, "This cannot be the model for us." (Deutsche Welle)

A longer description of the proposal and the introduction of the idea that this new body would also be not only carrying out the instructions of the Chancellory but advising on the ".national interests" of Germany. The International Herald Tribune also mentions that the creation of this body would essentially bypass the Foreign Ministry which obviously would weaken the SPD presence in the government. As well as a quote from Karl-Heinz Kamp of the NATO college,

The fact that the conservatives decided to do without their coalition partners,.is impressive because it would have been watered down. The basic idea is not bad at all.

Georgia Conflict: Should NATO Marry the Small Kid on the Playground?

Tiny Georgia has become the front line in West-Russia tensions for the past month.  It began at the NATO Bucharest Summit in early April, when NATO members rebuked immediate progress toward full NATO membership for Georgia, due largely to protests from Russia – while nonetheless promising future membership.

In the month since Bucharest, Russia-Georgia relations have spiraled quickly.  Multiple Georgian unmanned aircraft are claimed to have been shot down over the breakaway region of Abkhazia, though disinformation (i.e. – blatant lies) coming from Russia, Georgia, Abkhazia, or all three, have blurred the facts.  Russia has also deepened ties with Georgia’s separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and increased its number of “peace-keepers” there despite protests from the EU and NATO.  At the same time, Russia is accusing Georgia of preparing an invasion into Abkhazia, and Georgia has pulled out of an air-defense treaty with Russia.

While both Russia and Georgia are contributing to escalating tensions, Russia undoubtedly initiated the latest downturn as a response to Georgia's bid for NATO membership. 
Continue reading "Georgia Conflict: Should NATO Marry the Small Kid on the Playground?"

NATO Burden Sharing

In an op-ed written for the Strategic Studies Institute, LTC Raymond A. Millen analyses the historical and recent development of commitments to common defense in NATO (thanks to Pamela for the submission):
    Few recall the contentious deliberations at the beginning of the Cold War between the United States and its European allies regarding military contributions to the Alliance. The Truman administration expected the European powers to reconstitute their armies once they had recovered economically. But, having little faith in the American security guarantee, European statesmen refused to raise sufficient forces for defense without a tangible commitment from the United States. With no movement on the matter, the United States relented, deploying several divisions to NATO in 1949. Yet, the European reciprocal pledge did not materialize.
    With security assured through collective defense and the U.S. nuclear umbrella, European states progressively invested in social welfare programs that demanded a greater portion of gross domestic products (GDP). And social welfare states are voraciously self-indulgent. During this transformation, an interesting pattern of behavior manifested. Rather than share collective defense equitably, member states attempted to shift security burdens subtly to other members. Other than voicing annoyance, the United States, as a global superpower in a bipolar world, accepted this behavior because the larger goal of peace in Europe remained intact.
A quick review of historic defense expenditure shows that the picture Millen gives of free-riding Europeans was at least delayed. The UK and France spent a larger percentage of their GDP on defense in 1950 than the USA, and their share of defense expenditure only really started to decline between 1960 and 1970. Continue reading "NATO Burden Sharing"

Europe Lacks a Risk Culture


London may be eclipsing Wall Street as the world financial capital, and the euro is trouncing the dollar, but Europe has yet to prove the equal of the United States in technological innovation.

Author and engineer Hervé Lebret thinks he knows why. "There is a risk culture that's missing. We don't have an environment to be more ambitious and risk-taking." His book, Start-Up: What We Can Learn from Silicon Valley, argues that Europeans need to recognize the value of risk -- and failure. "In the U.S. it's not that people like failure, but it's seen as a way to learn," he says. "In Europe, if you fail you aren't given a second chance to try again. So it's viewed very differently."

Sounds familar. See "Germany's Innovation Dilemma" on Atlantic Community.

Has Sarkozy Met US Expectations?

When Nicolas Sarkozy was elected president one year ago today, the US media was full of praise for him and expected a big improvement in transatlantic relations.

Sarkozy's pro-American rhetoric was very much appreciated, because it was a big contrast to Gerhard Schroeder's US critical election campaigns. With Schroeder replaced by Angela Merkel and Chirac now replaced by Sarkozy, many Americans were looking forward to a new era in transatlantic relations led by a younger generation of pro-American leaders in Europe.

I did not buy all this hype, but have been very critical of Sarkozy (and to a lesser extent of Merkel) and concluded in November that we are witnessing Better Transatlantic Relations in Style, but not in Substance. Kyle has been frustrated by Sarkozy as well: Sarkozy Makes Premature, Unnecessary, Familiar Statement on Kosovo.

In the last few months, however, President Sarkozy announced some policy changes that indicate more support for US interests, so perhaps I should reconsider my position on Sarko. Gaelle Fisher has written a very balanced analysis on the question "Has Sarkozy truly improved the state of transatlantic relations and earned his reputation as the most pro-American president France has ever had?" She presents three arguments in favor and three against in a pro & con feature on Atlantic Community: Sarkozy l' Américain? Here is a snippet:

Sarkozy has agreed to increase France's contribution to the war effort in Afghanistan by adding 1500 to 1700 to the existing French contingent of 1600, sending combat troops to the East, and providing military arsenal. Yet the main new element of French military cooperation with the United States is Sarkozy's commitment to reintegrating France into NATO's military wing.

Or is that Trojan horse?

On Sarko's first anniversary in power, the French are very critical of his domestic policies (and his style), but I wonder what Americans think of his foreign policy. Has he met your expectations? Has he repaired the damage in transatlantic relations as expected by many in the US media? Whether you are an American or not, I appreciate your comments here and on Atlantic Community.

German Banks and the US Mortgage Crisis

Deutsche Bank got a lot of negative press coverage in the United States. David Vickrey, who used to work on corporate finance transactions at Deutsche Bank Securiites and Barclays Capital, has written extensively in his blog Dialog International about the involvement of German banks in the US mortgage crisis. Here are a couple of posts in chronological order (latest on top):

Karma and Bad Times for Deutsche Bank in America (April 27, 2008)

Greed and Fear: US Subprime Crisis Takes Its Toll in Germany (April 9, 2008)

The Subprime Crisis Leads to Mad Mergers in Germany (April 1, 2008)

German Government: Please Sue Deutsche Bank (March 10, 2008)

Deutsche Bank: America's Foreclosure King (January 24, 2008)