Germany and Saudi Arabia: Friends or Foes?

Germany and Saudi Arabia

Friends or Foes?

On December 2nd, the German Federal Intelligence Service published an analysis that categorizes the desert nation Saudi Arabia as “impulsive”. However, Saudi Arabia has reserved eighteen billon Euro to buy tanks from German manufacturers. This contradiction is reason enough to cause a discussion in Germany.


In 2011 the former Secretary of Economy Philipp Rösler (FDP) obtained an export license for 270 German tanks (Leopard II). This license was revoked at the beginning of 2015. Fifteen patrol boats were delivered to Saudi Arabia later this year nevertheless.

In the light of pending and completed weapon exports, the report by the German Federal Intelligence Service, called the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), has caused newspapers and German Twitter users to discuss the relations between Germany and Saudi Arabia. Especially remarks such as Saudi Arabia would be ready “to run military, financial and political risks in order to not fall behind in the region” and the questionable human rights situation in Saudi Arabia are cause for criticism reports Die Zeit.

The Online Debate

The BND report upsets most German netizens, of whom Twitter user @Germanyshero is an example:

We are selling our tanks to Saudi Arabia, right? Maybe Germans should think about that.

Towhich another Twitter user named Marc Schneider responds:

The ideologies of ISIS and Saudi Arabia are 99% the same and we consider the Saudis our ally? That’s just ridiculous.

Also, in connection with the Paris attacks on November 13th and the planned German intervention in Syria, netizens are confused as to why Germany is contemplating delivering weapons to Saudi Arabia, especially if the monarchy is “impulsive”:

We are supporting #SaudiArabia with weapons. They on the other hand support the #IS with oil. And we then send soldiers to Syria to fight the #IS? #WTF?

Honest dismay is not the only reaction on Twitter and other social media. Many netizens mock the BND for publishing an analysis that has been all too clear to most German netizens. The reports about suppression of freedom of opinion and the neglect of women’s rights have been in the German media for a long time. No wonder they are mocking the BND for not coming to that conclusion earlier. The journalist Manu Radvan tweeted sarcastically:

+++UNBREAKING NEWS+++BND warns of Saudi Arabia+++UNBREAKING NEWS+++The earth isn’t flat+++

But some understand the news differently: Not that the BND just became aware of the situation in Saudi Arabia, but that Germany is sending a message by making such a statement publicly, as the comment by a netizen on the news website Spiegel Online shows:


What happened… that our BND makes such “insights” public knowledge? The content (of the report) is not really new, but that is published. BTW…what else can you expect from a hereditary monarchy? Our European history is full of seigneurs who drove their people into war and doom for various reasons. Only after monarchies were abolished / deprived of power it is slowly calming down.

Was ist geschehen … … dass unser BND derartige “Erkenntnisse” öffentlich macht? Neu daran ist ja nicht der Inhalt, sondern, dass es publiziert wird. BTW … was anderes ist von Erbmonarchie zu erwarten? Unsere europäische Geschichte ist voll von Feudalherrschern, die aus verschiedensten Gründen ihre Völker in Kriege und ins Verderben getrieben haben. Erst nach der Abschaffung/Entmachtung von Monarchien wurde es langsam ruhiger.

Although distrust toward Saudi Arabia is big among Germans, they don’t believe much will change in the future. The reason for that explains an anonymous netizen:


When will we take the appropriate actions? Well that’s very simple: When we don’t want to export weapons anymore and when we don’t need oil anymore.

Wann wir daraus Konsequenzen ziehen? Ist doch ganz einfach: Dann, wenn wir keine Waffen mehr exportieren wollen und kein Mineralöl mehr benötigen.

That Saudi Arabia is respected, and even occupies a seat in the United Nations Organization’s Human Rights council, is because of its resources thinks this newsreader as well:


Greed for profit is our religion. For that our high priests (Managers, bankers, and politicians) sacrifice all human rights. How perverted has capitalism become?

Profitsucht ist unsere Religion. Dafür opfern unsere hohen Priester (Manager, Bänker und Politiker) alle Menschenrechte. Wie pervers ist dieser Kapitalismus geworden?

Whatever the reaction to the newly published BND report is, the German online community seems to be unified in one aspect: Saudi Arabia as a country continues to prove suspicious. For a long time the public has criticized openly that their government has been ready to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia, and that this government considers the monarchy a partner. The BND report might show that the federal government is distancing itself from such positions.

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