BERLIN — Germany authorized the export of more than €7.5 billion (U.S. $8 billion) in military goods during the first half of the year, nearing the total amount in 2023, according to recently released government data.

Last year, Germany exported a total of €12.2 billion, setting an all-time record for the country that has historically presented itself as extra cautious when it comes to delivering weapons and flexing its defense industry.

But this year, up until June 18, the government had already exported 61% of the value of military items in the first half of 2024 compared to the entirety of the year prior. The majority of the exports this year were classified as “weapons of war.”

The data was released after a parliamentary inquiry by a member of the Bündnis Sahra Wagenknecht political party.

Ukraine remained the No. 1 destination, receiving almost €4.88 billion worth of materiel in the first half of 2024. This is more than twice as much as Germany provided to the embattled nation during the entire first year of Russia’s full-scale invasion.

Germany has become a key supplier of arms for Ukraine, second only to the United States. About 65% of German weapons exports so far this year have gone to Ukraine.

Germany has resumed significant arms exports to Saudi Arabia, despite allegations of human rights abuses. The kingdom was fourth on the government’s list of countries receiving the largest totals of German military exports, at almost €132.5 million.

Germany effectively froze military sales to the kingdom in 2018 following the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the country’s consulate in Turkey, and amid its military campaign in Yemen.

Notably, the German government provided a note along with its data, saying Saudi weapons sales were related to joint projects with other European Union and NATO partners.

The other three countries in the top five were Singapore at €1.209 billion; India at €153.7 million; and the U.S. at €110.6 million. Rounding out the top 10 were Qatar, Greece, the United Arab Emirates, Brazil and the United Kingdom.

The government said 91% of German arms exports thus far this year went to close allies — a list of countries primarily in the EU and NATO but also including Ukraine, South Korea, Singapore and several other Western-aligned states in the Indo-Pacific region.

When German voters elected into office the left-of-center government around Olaf Scholz in 2021, one of its campaign promises was to further restrict German arms exports. The country already had strict rules on the books regarding the sale of weapons to countries with poor human rights records, unreliable governments or ongoing wars.

Since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, a few months into Scholz’s tenure as chancellor, the governing coalition in Berlin — composed of the Social Democratic, the Greens and economic liberal parties — has reversed course.

Following what Scholz famously called a “Zeitenwende” — a historic turning point — it has presided over the loosening of rules for the sale of German arms, skyrocketing military exports and a significant expansion of domestic military procurement.

Linus Höller is a Europe correspondent for Defense News. He covers international security and military developments across the continent. Linus holds a degree in journalism, political science and international studies, and is currently pursuing a master’s in nonproliferation and terrorism studies.

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