Arms, Exports, Influence: Institutional Corruption in the German Arms Export Regime

30 Pages Posted: 8 Aug 2014

See all articles by Kathrin Strobel

Kathrin Strobel

Harvard University - Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics

Date Written: August 7, 2014


The present article analyses the role of the arms industry in the German arms export control regime, and examines the claim that the illegitimate influence of industry interests has diverted the regime from its original restrictive function. The article applies the concept of institutional corruption, which is defined as a systemic or strategic influence that undermines an institution’s effectiveness by diverting it from its purpose. The article discusses the German arms export regime, examines the characteristics of the German weapons industry, and then goes on to analyze the strategic influence exerted by the German arms industry through the lens of the concept of institutional corruption. It discusses a range of practices associated with this concept, for example the so-called revolving door phenomenon and contributions to political parties, and their consequences for the regime’s trustworthiness. Finally, this article discusses the role of secrecy in making the German arms export regime more vulnerable to institutional corruption, and lays the basis for reform proposals.

By using the concept of institutional corruption, this article sheds light on aspects of the issue that have long been ignored and connects the dots between lack of parliamentary control and of political transparency, and insufficient regulation of lobbying activities and other forms of interrelationships between politics and the industry. This article comes to the conclusion that both secrecy within the authorization regime and lack of transparency regarding corporate attempts to exert influence are causing the arms export regime to be extremely vulnerable to institutional corruption, since supervision and control by political and civil society actors are effectively limited.

Keywords: Institutional corruption, revolving door, donations, campaign finance, arms industry, weapons exports, Bundestag, democratic control, Bundessicherheitsrat, Federal Security Council, Germany, transparency, secrecy, military-industrial complex, lobbyism, influence, export authorization, export control

Suggested Citation

Strobel, Kathrin, Arms, Exports, Influence: Institutional Corruption in the German Arms Export Regime (August 7, 2014). Edmond J. Safra Working Papers, No. 47. Available at SSRN: or

Kathrin Strobel (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics ( email )

124 Mount Auburn Street
Suite 520N
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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