Abstract: War Business and the State: German Arms Companies and Germany's "Foreign Economic Policy" toward the Ottoman Empire, 1880-1914

Naci Yorulmaz


The arms trade had a decisive impact in stimulating and strengthening the German political, economic, and military-based expansionist foreign policy toward the Ottoman Empire in the late nineteenth century. The interrelationships among political, financial, and military players would be simultaneously realized during the finalization of an armaments contract. In the hands of Germany, as the exporting country, arms sales proved to be a "multi-purpose tool" to be used in both domestic socio-economic policy and foreign economic policy. Therefore, from the outset, the German state apparatus openly and strongly supported the German armament firms' marketing and sales operations in the Ottoman military market. German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, who did not initially support the German interests in Ottoman railroad construction, did, however, give full patronage to the arms makers' efforts in the Ottoman market. Kaiser Wilhelm II, who was the Krupp family's personal friend, strongly believed the arms trade was an inseparable part of the bilateral relations between the Ottoman Empire and Germany. The multidimensional impact of obtaining a foreign military contract was well known and well understood by the German state apparatus. Based on this awareness, the German state did not hesitate to support publicly both the domestic and international operations of the armament firms. Over the course of time it had been noticed by the German policy makers that Germany's aggressive expansionist strategy could utilize the German arms makers' successful international business as an influential tool to penetrate the foreign state's decision-makers' circle and also by extension to gain a controlling position within foreign military markets. In the paper, which is based on multinational archival research, I argue that arms export was regarded by the German state as one of the key steps to achieve successful penetration of the countries where the state had political, economic, and strategic interests. As a consequence of that approach, the paper indicates the collaboration that existed between the German arms companies and the German state.