NATO Secretary-General Stoltenberg Calls out Germany Over Drones

NATO Secretary-General Stoltenberg Calls out Germany Over Drones

An internal dispute between the German government in Berlin over the procurement of drones is confusing alliance partners, namely NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has uttered his concern in the German dispute over arming the Bundeswehr with drones. “These drones can support our troops on site and, for example, reduce the number of pilots that we put in danger,” says Stoltenberg.

Unmanned aerial vehicles with weapons were recently used by allies in Iraq and Syria, for example, to fight the Islamic State (ISIS). It was a priority to protect the lives of soldiers, said the Secretary-General.

The current debate in Germany concerns new Heron TP drones. Prominent members of Angela Merkel’s coalition partner SPD recently stated that further discussion was needed before an armament of the unmanned aerial vehicles could be facilitated. This has sparked outrage among Merkel’s CDU, but it also irritated NATO allies.

The opponents of combat drones argue that the inhibition threshold for using weapons was lower compared to manned combat aircraft since the drone pilot does not endanger himself.

So far, the Bundeswehr has only used drones for reconnaissance purposes, for example, in Afghanistan or Mali.

Stoltenberg pointed out that armed drones have been used in conflicts for decades. “It is crucial that whenever we use armed drones, we do so under strict rules and in accordance with international law,” he said.

The users and not weapons or computers are always responsible for them. However, the specific decision about arming the German drones was, of course, a matter for German politics.

However, progress has not been made as of late. One reason for it is Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD).  While he has taken the side of those in favor of armament, he also supports the plan for a further postponement of the decision. It is emblematic of the SPD’s stance.

Meanwhile, Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (CDU) accused the SPD of cowardice on Tuesday and said that although she respected the arguments against combat drones, the continued indecisiveness by the SPD was unacceptable. Kramp-Karrenbauer, therefore, called on the SPD to finally say what it wanted.

(Image: Bundesregierung/Bergmann)

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