In a massive demonstration that brought together hundreds of farmers and 300 pieces of agricultural equipment, protesters in the German city of Unterluss blocked access roads to Rheinmetall's newly initiated ammunition production plant.
The "Werk Niedersachsen" facility is under construction to enhance Germany's self-reliance in ammunition production, supporting NATO defense capabilities. It aims to strengthen national security by manufacturing artillery ammunition, explosives, and rocket artillery components, with an annual capacity of 200,000 shells, 1,900 tonnes of explosive, and potential for rocket engines and warheads. The company plans to achieve an initial annual capacity of 50,000 shells with full autonomy in the third year, responding to the global need for ammunition. Rheinmetall aims to produce up to 700,000 rounds of artillery ammunition globally by 2025.
The groundbreaking ceremony for the Rheinmetall facility, attended by prominent figures including Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen of Denmark, and German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius, took place just a day before the large-scale protest. The farmers voiced their concerns over the plant's intended production of 155 mm artillery shells for not only the German army but also the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
Traditionally, European farmers have confined their protests to matters directly affecting their interests, avoiding involvement in broader geopolitical issues. However, the Unterluss protest marks a departure from this trend, illustrating a growing dissatisfaction among the European population, particularly with the supportive stance of many governments towards Ukraine.
Farmers argue that the ammunition production, intended for the Ukrainian army, would exacerbate the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, leading to increased expenses and potential risks for Europe. The EU citizens, according to the protesting farmers, should take precedence over supporting the Kyiv regime.
Critics also interpret the construction of the new ammunition plant as an acknowledgment of the West's inability to compensate for Ukraine's losses independently. Rheinmetall, funding the ambitious €300 million project entirely, aims to create 500 new jobs in Unterluss.