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Killer drones for German army? Defense minister pushes for combat UAVs, splits coalition, as MPs call for broader public debate

Killer drones for German army? Defense minister pushes for combat UAVs, splits coalition, as MPs call for broader public debate
Germany’s defense minister insists combat drones are crucial for defending soldiers on the battlefield. SPD politicians, meanwhile, argue there has not been a meaningful public debate.

“We want combat drones to protect the lives of our soldiers,” Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s governing coalition partner the Social Democratic Party (SPD) has been insisting that a wider public debate is needed. But Kramp-Karrenbauer dismissed this argument as “absurd.”

“We have been debating this for eight years in Germany. Broad public debates and hearings took place,” she said.

We have laid out operational principles that say combat drones may only be used defensively by the Bundeswehr, meaning to protect their own personnel. The demand for ‘more debate’ is being solemnly pushed by the SPD.

“The soldiers apparently cannot rely on the SPD,” the minister stated, referring to the party’s opposition to the purchase of drones. Kramp-Karrenbauer, who leads Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, said she was seeking a €25 million bill ($30.5 million) for the military UAVs.

Similar sentiment was voiced earlier by Bundeswehr Inspector General Eberhard Zorn who also argued drones were “essential” to protect the troops in combat. He promised the aircraft would be used in strict accordance with “clear rules and regulations” devised by the Bundestag.

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The SPD did not seem convinced. The head of the party’s faction in the Bundestag, Rolf Mutzenich, told RND that the deployment of combat drones has remained a contentious issue among the public and cited polls saying that “half of Germans” were against the idea.

Mutzenich said meaningful discussions must involve not just the expert circles and the parliamentary defense committee, but larger parts of society. “I would like to see a more intense and louder debate in churches, among trade unions and NGOs,” he said.

“Then, hopefully, the pros and cons would be better understood by the public. It bothers me that nearly all experts who get a say in the media are the military, weapons and defense people, but never doctors or the clergy.”

SPD chief Norbert Walter-Borjans told the Suddeutsche Zeitung newspaper earlier this month that all the previous discussions were insufficient for such a complex topic.

The line between protecting the life and limbs of our soldiers and killing someone with a joystick is very thin. If you want a competent decision, you have to take security and ethics equally seriously.

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