On the Boxer deal with Saudi Arabia

Spiegel has stirred up a scandal by reporting about an apparently pending export of heavy wheeled APCs (MRAV, GTK, Boxer - choose a name) to Saudi Arabia,  and it should.

I remember an article about a Saudi motorised (= wheeled armoured vehicles) regiment written by a Saudi officer and published in if I remember correctly either Armor Magazine or Infantry Journal, official U.S.Army publications. I didn't archive it, didn't find it again in the former and honestly don't know where in the archive of the latter is hidden. It may be behind the stupid AKO account firewall which Armor Magazine and Infantry Journal editors opposed so very much when it was introduced during the early GWOT craze.

Anyway; said article was perfectly clear that such wheeled armour Saudi troops were first and foremost meant to defend the regime domestically, being able to deploy on road to any domestic trouble spot in short notice (unlike tracked forces would typically do, or so was the opinion of the 90's). Going to battle against another military came second.

The scandal is a scandal because of this potential, without the people talking about the scandal even knowing how very much focused said Saudi army troops were and certainly still are on the domestic suppression role.

We shouldn't do business with the Saudis, who come most close of all to meeting the generally wrong Muslim/Arab stereotype of being dark age people. Their state is -by European standards- a single huge abomination, and we should apply ours standards when doing business in the world.
Doing business with Saudis is generally a poor idea for another reason; their inherent corruption tends to taint the ones who do business with them, there's too often some bribing by or of Germans involved when we do such business.

S Ortmann

edit: Found the article. It's in Armor magazine March/April '96!

"The Saudi Arabian National Guard Motorized Brigades" 


  1. It is an abomination.
    But an abomination which gives oil in exchange of expensive useless toys ,in order to feed the western MIC, and just as useless treasury bonds in order to feed western budgets and financial system.
    So it is quite a useful abomination.
    A legitimate government there might be quite unfriendly and ask for assets not fake papers. A military intervention would be certain in order to install another abomination.

    All Saudi armed forces are for internal repression. For external ones they have the US and NATO armies.
    According to the thug gangs they employ relative strength the protection tax is dimensioned. Germany has little strength and little political influence so its share is accordingly extremely small. Probably such a small tax is taken into consideration jst to keep a connection open. Saudis have to be very careful. They are very weak and live in a world of greedy powerful beasts. Who knows what might happen tomorrow?
    That is how things are in the real world.

    1. I disagree. Saudi Air Force fighters are not meant for internal repression; they're meant to give princes and others far up in the Saudi patronage system a fun job.

  2. I didn't understand the "exploiting a great power" bit (sorry).

    I agree with you that we shouldn't deal with this regime in the first place, but from my point of view we created these people. The Hachemites where much better people, but unfortunately they weren't going to do what we deemed necessary for ourselves.

    The "we" I am refering to is the western economic & political system. - As a Frenchman (from german origins) I consider Europeans to be, at best, what the greek part of the roman empire used to be for Rome.

    1. You're overrating the Americans. They're masters at marketing, and spend quite some effort on promoting their own myths (as does every nation, but few so skilfully and none with skill AND numerical advantage concerning opinion multipliers).

      The U.S. has certain systemic political defects, which are being masterfully exploited by lesser powers and tiny domestic minorities. Europe is much more pluralistic and politically diverse, and thus much less susceptible to such exploitation and manipulations in general (it does happen, though - see the UCK and Kosovo War '99, but also the imported GWOT craze).

      The Saudi government gets inordinate and undeserved support from the U.S., so I call this exploitation. I don't see the Saudis as dependent puppets at all.

      I do understand your position, though - it depends on some ideas which I consider U.S. myths.
      That's a topic too long for comments, of course. It's also only peripherally related to defence or freedom, at least from a European perspective.

  3. I agree with you that in general Europeans are much less subject to the cultural grip than US-Americans are. But, as the (somewhat infamous) Rapport Obin from french education minister discovered, those who resist culturally (-be it indigenous families or immogrants) usually have strong family ethics, and thus a familial teaching activity that runs parallel to the "system" one (school + TV). This parallel teaching is getting thin nowadays.

    The European political strength is slowly waning away, as significant political engagements of the past are increasingly distant, and not adapted to our times.

    On a local level, a lot of Europeans are willing to follow US strategic madness, believing in "the stories on TV". Some could do better, but being in the Rotary Club or whatever similar outlet of the colonial power, they simply follow.

    I believe that it is centrally related to issues of defence and freedom. When in Germany there was a talk about suspending presumption of innocence for "possible terrorists", there was an uproar - but those people in charge have come up with this criminal idea that fits very well in an US-run world. This is also where freedom is at stake. I live in France, where since 2007 the "americanization" of the ruling high administration is blatant, as proven by Libya and Syria.

    This links directly to defense perspectives, where NATO basically tells Europe to have "expeditionary armies" (under the guise of "projection") and getting rid of the rest (or letting it rot). Given the general idea of reducing also the numbers in police and domestic security, and substituting technology and "solutions of the private sector", we could very well have a South American configuration soon in certain parts of Europe.

    I know we could say these are myths, but having a look at the direction we're headed towards; I'd say our administrations are pretty much colonized now (although it must have been the case post-1945 already, with "Gladio" networks etc.)

  4. "I believe that it is centrally related to issues of defence and freedom. When in Germany there was a talk about suspending presumption of innocence for "possible terrorists", there was an uproar - but those people in charge have come up with this criminal idea that fits very well in an US-run world."

    Innocent until proven guilty and right to a jury trial are not European Ideals, they are English ones.

    1. It's correct we use no jury (usually a chairing judge aided by two silent judges instead).

      The assumption of innocence on the other hand is anchored by now in the 1948 UN declaration on human rights, guaranteed in member countries of the European council and in the most powerful core first 20 articles of the German constitution (Art. 11, additionally in Art. 28).
      According to German wikipedia, it goes back to a French medieval cardinal albeit the English wikipedia says it actually goes back to Justinian, Qu'ran and even farther to some Roman scholar called Julius Paulus Prudentissimus.

  5. From an ethical point of view we should not deliver MBT, APC or WTF to the Saudis.
    On the other hand:
    If Russia delivered the tanks, we would not have any influence at all.
    By withdrawal of german stuff, we could hamstring their operations at least.

    Anyway the Tank-Export seems to be one of the few ways to sustain the German defence industrial base.

    PS: A quotation from defenseindustrydaily about the Saudi order for a national command system:

    "Poor command and poor training, coupled with the best C4I system money can buy, just means that your military can watch itself lose conventional fights in near-real time."

  6. SO, what is your opinion about the German sale of Leopard 2 MBT's to Indonesia which the Dutch government judged to be politically unacceptable?

    "After Dutch Hesitation, Indonesia Buys German Tanks" July 2, 2012

    "Indonesia confirms plan to buy German tanks"
    27 Aug 2012

    How much does any national defense industry for a country like Germany need to keep a healthy level of cutting edge military technology necessary for good national defense? Are international sales (outside of alliances) needed to maintain the necessary level of expertise? And is this different for bigger countries?

    So basically, "what would the impact be on Germany's national defense industry, if for ethical reasons Germany would only sell to alliance nations?"

    1. The Dutch are the former colonial power; their policies may be more intricate in regard to Indonesia than ours need to be.

      MBTs play afaik no role in the Papua conflict or in the occasional flare-up of conflicts between Javanese settlers and indigenous people on other islands. I'm not sure about the tactical nature of the Aceh conflict, and it appears to have cooled down anyway.

      Indonesia is in my opinion not considered to be a crisis region, and that's the key criterion for our arms exports IIRC.

      I suppose some BND/AA dossiers about Indonesia and domestic security would be enlighting.
      The German AFV industry is at the same time our industry for the production of custom machines, robots, metal and plastic part production machines and so on. It's a dual-use industry and it's not so much its survival that depends on arms exports (profits), but its interest.
      A company like Krauss-Maffei could cease to assign young engineers to military-related projects and instead send them to devise a better injection-moulding machine.

      Likewise, our aviation industry is essentially dual use, with Airbus, EADS and Eurocopter as keywords. Again, they could focus on civilian business and neglect to develop thier personnel qualification for military orders - but they wouldn't disappear without arms sales.

      Finally, we have the example of the Swedish. They maintained for decades a great military aviation skill, fine coastal naval skills
      and some army equipment skills in their industry without much arms exports and a smaller domestic market.

    2. If such technology is truly dual-use, which doesn't seem so far fetched, it makes the USA Military Industrial Complex situation that much stranger. Wouldn't it be better to just invest more in non-military projects that actually create wealth and prosperity? But I guess corruption is much easier in the military industry.

      The dual-use reality we have to just accept does have a "drawback". Scientists and engineers who desire to remain ethical in their profession will have a difficulty doing so if all their work can be both used for good and evil. Especially if the governments are not trustworthy.
      But knowledge does not have any boundaries, so I guess this is a universal problem. And we just have to accept that and try to take the most good out of any form of knowledge.
      Maybe it is a indication that scientists and engineers need to be (more?) concerned about politics and the political/ethical impact of their work.

      Nevertheless, thank you for your clear reply and clarifying that it is possible to be both ethical and prosperous. Even if it does take a lot of effort.

    3. "If such technology is truly dual-use, which doesn't seem so far fetched, (...)"

      GE and Boeing are dual-use corporations from the US.

      "Wouldn't it be better to just invest more in non-military projects that actually create wealth and prosperity?"

      This is a no-brainer for an economist, but it runs counter to some mythology which still survives in at least the U.S.. Military spending is considered to be the only good stimulus (and supposedly working as such) by right wingers in some countries.