Merkel Downplays Tank Request
Seeking to downplay the development, Merkel did not comment on the tank issue after her meeting with Yudhoyono, saying only that no details had been discussed. Following a request from the left-wing Left Party in parliament, the German government had been forced to reveal at the end of May that the Indonesian government had verbally informed Berlin of its interest in the Leopard 2 combat tanks. But no official application for the transfer had been made. Sources within the German Defense Ministry said they hadn't heard anything more about a possible deal after Indonesia originally expressed its interest.
Germany already made a partnership agreement with Indonesia in February, but the language is very broad and does not include anything about weapons deliveries or tanks. Instead, it includes things like exchange programs for military officers. It's the kind of agreement Germany has with many countries -- but it doesn't mean that its strict export rules for armaments would be lifted or reduced.
Still, Yudhoyono's openness about his country's desire for German tanks puts Merkel under a certain amount of pressure. Is there anything to the possible deal with Indonesia? The country is not as controversial as the Middle East, where the possible export of tanks to Saudi Arabia has been criticized. Indonesia is still not an exemplary country when it comes to democracy. It currently holds 100th place on Transparency International's corruption index, and Amnesty International states that human rights violations occur in some Indonesian provinces.
Dutch Rejected Similar Deal
Recently, the parliament in the Netherlands, the former colonial power in Indonesia, rejected a request for tanks from Jakarta, citing the shaky human rights situation in the country. And despite Yudhoyono's statement he would not use the tanks against his own people, it is likely that Germany opposition politicians will seek to stop the request.
Gernot Erler, the deputy head of the center-left Social Democrats party group in parliament, told Spiegel Online: "The chancellor tried in vain to force the issue of the tank sale onto the back burner during her official visit to Indonesia." He added, however, that it was obvious that "clear messages have been sent to Jakarta that a deal will materialize." Erler also believes a deal is likely illegal under German law. "Against the backdrop of regional tensions and territorial conflicts as well as a dubious human rights situation in the country, it would be a clear violation of arms export directives," he said.
The Green Party is also calling on the government to make a clear commitment to oppose the export. "I don't see any particular security policy interest in this," senior parliamentarian Katja Keul told Spiegel Online. "According to the existing standards, we can't deliver tanks to a country like Indonesia."
Officials at Germany's Defense Ministry seemed surprised by the renewed debate over arms exports. A spokesperson said Indonesia hadn't even become an issue yet. "When there is an official request … the German Federal Security Council will review it just as it does every other defense deal," the spokesperson said.
As the influential Süddeutsche Zeitung daily noted in its Wednesday edition, a decision in favor of Indonesia would be in line with previous arms exports decisions made by Germany. "Indonesia is one of the world's fastest growing economies, it has no ongoing martial conflicts, it is considered an ally and is a member of the G-20," the paper noted.
Intellpuke: This article was written by Spiegel journalists Florian Gathmann and Matthias Gebauer, with reporting by news agencies; you can read it in context here: www.spiegel.de/international/world/indonesian-request-to-import-german-tanks-sparks-debate-a-843812.html