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‘Credible Deterrence’: Germany Plans to Deploy Armed Drones

By Veit Medick

A document obtained by SPIEGEL ONLINE indicates the German government is preparing to procure armed drones for foreign combat. Opposition politicians are outraged by the development and note that the use of weapons-equipped unmanned aircraft is legally dubious and possibly unethical.

Photo Gallery: Germany Discovers Drones


Bowing to pressure from the German armed forces, the Bundeswehr, the federal government in Berlin is preparing to deploy armed, unmanned drones in foreign conflicts. In an answer to an official query made by the far-left Left Party, which has been obtained by SPIEGEL ONLINE, the German government wrote that its experience in foreign combat operations has made it clear that reconnaissance vehicles must be armed “in order to provide protection against sudden and serious changes in the situation.”


As opposed to unarmed surveillance drones, these aircraft could attack known targets in a “quick, precise and scalable” way, the document stated. “In addition, the new features would confront opposing forces with a permanent and unpredictable threat that would limit their ability to act.” It went on to say that the weapons boost safety and security through “credible deterrence,” pointing to the “Predator” drones used by the United States as a possible model.

The government decision on armed drones brings the German air force one step closer to implementing a long-standing plan to dramatically alter the country’s drone fleets. Unlike the United States, Germany has only been using unarmed drones in combat. For aerial reconnaissance in Afghanistan, the Defense Ministry leases the drone model “Heron 1” from an Israeli consortium and also relies on drones built by the German company Rheinmetall. But the government’s contract with the Israeli group runs out at the end of 2014, and the military has been searching for a replacement for some time now.

The move is likely to rekindle the debate within the government overfighter drones. Last year, the head of the German air force, Karl Müllner, landed in hot water shortly after assuming office for vehemently supporting the purchase of armed drone systems. At the time, the government remained cautious and called for a “broad discussion” in parliament before making any decision.

Nevertheless, Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière has always been open to having armed drones. “Aircraft are allowed to carry weapons, so why shouldn’t an unmanned aircraft also be able to do so?” de Maizière, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU), said in an interview with the German daily Die Welt. “The new weapons have a huge advantage: They are more targeted. And the better one can target, the less damage there will be,” he said.

Political Opposition to Plans

With its move, the German government is entering a political minefield. Even the use of unarmed drones is a issue of heated debate in Berlin. Drone opponents exist the world over, but many in Germany are concerned that drones will be misused to spy on people within the country. Criticism against armed drones is even sharper. Many security experts in the political arena point to the US’s intensive reliance on drone warfare as a chilling example of the use of armed, unmanned machines — the legality of which is questionable under international law.

Within Germany, politicians have been divided on the issue. Those within the CDU and the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) view drones as a necessary evil of security policy. Meanwhile, the Left Party, the Green Party and even many within the CDU’s governing coalition partner, the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP), are opposed to the plans.

“I’m vehemently opposed to the Bundeswehr’s drone strategy,” said Andrej Hunko, a parliamentarian with the Left Party. “I’m also critical of expanding the use of reconnaissance drones.” Hunko said that he fears that such aircraft won’t just be used abroad, but that they could be used domestically as well.

Green Party officials have also expressed their opposition to the move. “The government’s plans to order armed drones are evidence of a blind and irresponsible handling of progress in terms of military technology,” parliamentary group leader and chancellor candidate Jürgen Trittin told SPIEGEL ONLINE. “We oppose the government’s plans. By lowering the bar for the use of military means, the deployment leads to a further blurring of the limits of military force. Procuring armed drones, if at all, can only proceed after the ethical issues and questions of international law have been successfully clarified.”

Such sentiments are also being echoed by members of the opposition SPD, including senior parliamentarian Thomas Opperman, who told SPIEGEL ONLINE: “I’m opposed to a hasty decision because this brings a new quality to warfare. We need a broad societal and parliamentary debate about the ethical and legal boundries of the deployment of combat drones and not some backroom decision. It is entirely inappropriate that the public and parliament have learned of these plans more or less by accident.”

The government, for its part, has refuted that suggestion. Unmanned flying aircraft of all kinds were “not intended to have the effect of escalating” conflict, it said in response to the Left Party’s inquiry. In the future, they will be used “exclusively within the framework of their constitutional and mandated assignment.”



Written by uprisings230950

January 26, 2013 at 11:45 pm

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How often have we seen images like this ?

This image is deceptively simple.  But do not be deceived.  There is more strength in this lady than there is in many other people who live life according to every convenience.  This women will endure.  Indeed, she represents a people who will endure.  Israel threw everything at Gaza in November 2012.  I know because I was there !  And I saw this lady everywhere.  She is in every camp in Gaza.  She is just as the Palestinian people, completely unshaken …

The Palestinians of Gaza are impressive.  They face the worst and then demand their Right of Return.  They do not falter.  This lady knows that if she does not see a return in her time, her children’s children will.  So she is in no hurry.  She knows Palestine’s claim is right.  It is just a matter of time.  This kind of strength only exists because a people are sure of their being on the side of right.  The international community of political leaders shrugs this lady off.  The Right of Return is said to be unreal.  Yet there is always space for more illegal settlements.  The Israelis will bomb Gaza again.  But this lady will not be deterred.  She will talk about where she comes from with renewed vigour.  It is completely untrue that the Palestinians live in the past.  They live in the future.  And they know its coming just like the Israelis who live up the coast …  No wonder she looks easy.

Ordinary people all around the world are starting to understand this lady.  These are not people in the Think Tanks of Washington or the Palace of Westminster.  They are ordinary people who worry about their jobs and how they will be able to send their children to university.  It is they who know this women, and it is they who quietly push the boycott of Israeli goods.  You will not see these people on marches.  But you will see them avoiding Palestinian goods in shops and on supermarket shelves.  Again this situation is deceptive.  These actions look simple.  They are about the ‘quiet’ boycott and there are far more than perhaps is appreciated and just like the women in the picture, they also know that the Palestinians will have their rights.  They also know that the Palestinians will have their Right of Return.  It is all a question of time and stepping things up …

Written by uprisings230950

January 26, 2013 at 11:06 pm

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Two years after the events of 2011 and how far has Egypt moved ?

Whatever the current problems, Egypt has moved considerably since 2011.  The media has changed.  The leadership in many of the Syndicates has changed.  The student unions have changed.  Have they changed enough ?  Of course not.  Was the announcement of  Morsi assuming ‘special’ powers acceptable ?  Of course not.  Is it acceptable that human rights are still not being respected.  No.

But watch these people; give them time.  No one can wind back the political clock.  No doubt many commentators are looking at Algeria, or the ever present bogey man, Iran.  But Egypt is Egypt.  There is a lot of history in this part of the world.  This is not a state that was grafted onto the Middle East in 1948.  History has a way of hanging around in the present, reasserting itself when it is least expected.  No one expected the uprisings to get rid of Mubarak in 18 days but they did …

A long way to go still but these people will get there.

Written by uprisings230950

January 26, 2013 at 10:59 pm

Posted in Uncategorized