We are capable of looking ourselves in the mirror

– Geir Vinghøg, Chairman of the Board at Vinghøg AS, about knowing how and why the export control system works.

Most arms producers have an idea of what they are allowed to do, and what requests would be futile to follow up on. Faced with the unlikely, hypothetical question of how he would react if a country in a situation like Israel approached his company with a request to buy equipment, Geir Vinghøg is certain of their chances of making a purchase.

“If Israel makes a request, we’ll probably just laugh,” he says, then quickly takes it back. “Well, we won’t laugh – it’s terrible what’s happening down there – but there’s no question about us taking them seriously.”

He emphasizes that the company doesn’t get many requests like that. Most countries, he says, has realized where they can turn, and what they can forget in terms of arms purchases.

Recently, another company in Scandinavia received an e-mail from a country identifiable, in spite of the censorship of the company’s communications department, as Pakistan. (The dots replace identifying information):

Date: March 15, 2002
Subject: Application for import arms and ammunition from foreign manufacture for … government.

Dear Sir,

We are pleased to inform you that we are a authorized arms and ammunition supplier of ministry of defense of … government. We supply arms and ammunition to arms force of … from foreign manufactures. Our registration is no- … to Directorate General Defense Purchase (DGDP).

Now ministry of defense is purchasing various kinds of arms and ammunition for its arms forces (army, navy and air force). We are very much interested to get connected with you to supply arms and ammunition to ministry of defense. Please inform us the procedure for getting involved with you.

We look forward to here from you.

Kind regards

Managing Director

The reply they received, without the company having to contact the foreign ministry to ask guidance, sounded something like this:

Dear Sir,

Thank you very much for showing interest in our Company and Products.

Due to the rules and regulations in our country we are not allowed to do business with your country. We regret that we cannot give you any answers to your requests.

Best regards

There are also the odd requests that can be laughed at without there being much risk of international diplomatic incidents.

“I think it was just a joke,” Christer Henebäck at Bofors Defence says about one unusual order. “But we got an e-mail from a guy in Texas who wanted to buy a huge canon.”

Apparently he had a rabbit farm he wanted to protect.