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“Defending democracy cannot be reprehensible”


Ukraine lacks ammunition and weapons in the war against the aggressor Russia. Rheinmetall boss Papperger explains in an interview how much the arms company is currently expanding its production – in order to be able to deliver faster.

tagesschau24: The war in Ukraine has fundamentally changed German security policy. How does this affect Rheinmetall's business development?

Armin Papperger: We have grown significantly in the last two years. And we will grow even faster in the future – thanks to the investments we are currently making in Germany and internationally. We were already growing strongly before the war in Ukraine and had growth expectations of over ten percent in the defense sector. We are now entering a growth phase that is expected to be between 20 and 30 percent over the next few years.

At the same time, we are also investing a lot, for example around 300 million euros in our plant in Lower Saxony. We are currently also investing in expanding our powder technologies in Bavaria. But we are also active internationally in the investment sector, for example in Spain and Romania. Currently, especially to be able to help Ukraine as much as possible.

A new work in twelve months

tagesschau24: And will you also be producing ammunition in Ukraine in the future?

Papperger: Yes, that is the objective. We have agreed this with a Ukrainian partner. We now want to determine the location as quickly as possible and – similar to Germany – have an ammunition plant for artillery there in the next twelve to 15 months.

tagesschau24: Producing ammunition is complex and takes quite a long time. How optimistic are you that Ukraine's ammunition problems can be solved?

Papperger: We currently have far too little ammunition production in Europe, but also in the United States of America. The Western world has no longer focused on conventional ammunition. I think that was a big mistake. We have to build this now. It doesn't help: we have to do it as quickly as possible. It is entirely possible to build a factory in twelve months.

tagesschau24: Before the war against Ukraine, many investors were cautious when it came to defense stocks. Because there are ethical and moral reservations. Are you seeing a change in attitude among investors?

“Conventional war has returned”

Papperger: Yes, something has changed. I have always believed that it is necessary to invest in these areas because ultimately we are protecting our society. Look what is happening in Ukraine: if Ukraine had no weapons, the country would no longer exist. Unfortunately, there are always aggressors in the world.

Now conventional war has returned. For the past 25 to 30 years we have believed that this would not happen because nuclear weapons exist. But now Russia is waging a conventional war against Ukraine. Of course, as a defender you first and foremost need ammunition. Above all, you also need a lot of equipment for the army. This means that the land forces must be properly equipped. This has also been neglected by us in the last 20 years.

To person

Armin Papperger (61) has been CEO of Rheinmetall AG, Germany's leading arms company, since 2013. He studied mechanical engineering at the University of Duisburg and has been working in various positions at the company since 1990. Papperger has been driving internationalization for many years. The native of Mainburg (Lower Bavaria) has also been chairman of the Federal Association of the German Security and Defense Industry (BDSV) since 2014.

tagesschau24: Despite the changed world situation, one can understand many people's reservations about military equipment – after all, they can be deadly. What is your personal stance? How do you deal with that?

Pappberger: I have been with these companies for almost 35 years. I was convinced from day one that I was doing the right thing, otherwise I wouldn't be doing it. I am doing the right thing because I am convinced that we are defending NATO, Germany, Europe, but ultimately also our democracy. That cannot be objectionable.

tagesschau24: Rheinmetall is repeatedly criticized because the company exports weapons to crisis areas. How do you deal with this criticism?

Papperger: We do what the governments allow us to do. We are not allowed to export a single screw if the democratic governments in which we produce – especially the Federal Republic of Germany – do not agree. Most of our intellectual property is in Germany, so the Federal Republic of Germany actually has everything in its hands. The criticism would then have to be directed at the government, but not at the companies, because we are only the executive body.

“Federal government still very cautious”

tagesschau24: But don't we Germans in particular have a historical obligation to deal with this issue more sensitively than other countries?

Papperger: I think the federal government is doing that. She is very sensitive, she is also generally very reserved. But we in Germany have probably simply done too little to be able to defend our democracy. Now it's time for us to step on the gas in Germany. That's why I'm very grateful that the Chancellor and the Defense Minister are doing this.

tagesschau24: In your position, you also have to deal with security policy every day: In your opinion, how great are the chances that Ukraine can actually turn this war in its favor?

Papperger: The Ukrainians are fighting incredibly bravely. They put their lives on the line every day. We have to give them enough material so that they can continue to defend themselves. And then they won't lose the war.

tagesschau24: Mr. Papperger, thank you very much for the interview.

Klaus-Rainer Jackisch, ARD finance editor, asked the questions. The interview was shortened and edited for the written version.

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