Germany divided over armed drones debate

Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen is considering equipping the German military with combat drones.

Germany divided over armed drones debate

World Bulletin / News Desk

Long-running arguments over whether the German army should purchase combat drones intensified on Monday as a defence committee debate split the ruling coalition government.

Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen is considering equipping the German military with combat drones.

In the hope they will further protect soldiers in war zones, the Bundeswehr has been after the weapons for some time.

The defence ministry had ordered Euro Hawk drones which did not have permission to fly in German airspace before von der Leyen took charge.

The scandal left Germany without the remote-controlled weapons and cost €600 million.

Thomas de Mazière, von der Leyen’s predecessor, cancelled the Euro Hawk project last May, but that has not dampened the military’s enthusiasm.

During Monday’s debate in the parliamentary defence committee, Armed forces commissioner Hellmut Konigshaus put his argument for drones forward.

Minister von der Leyen is expected to state her position on Wednesday or Thursday.

Lieutenant-Colonel André Wustner from the armed forces association said: “Rejecting long-range weapons endangers the lives of our own soldiers.”

However the Social Democrats (SPD), who sit in a coalition government with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc, appear reluctant to sanction drones for the Bundeswehr.

“I can’t say that we would necessarily support this,” SPD general secretary Yasmin Fahimi said on Monday in Berlin.

The SPD came out against armed drones before the elections in September, and foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier (SPD) said he did not expect a decision on them in this parliament.

Steinmeier's party colleague and defence committee chairman Hans-Peter Bartels, told the Berliner Zeitung the SPD remained sceptical. “I can’t see any scenario in which the German military would need combat drones,” he said.

The US military uses armed drones to target terrorist suspects in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, said Bartels. “We find what the Americans do unacceptable.”

Last Mod: 01 Temmuz 2014, 16:35
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