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Scholz defends refusal to send Taurus missiles to Ukraine

February 26, 2024

Germany's chancellor has commented further on the country's reluctance to send longer-range Taurus cruise missiles to Ukraine. He said range, and the need for German troops to help operate them, were problematic.

A Taurus cruise missile pictured on a transport rack. Undated file photo.
Image: Sven Eckelkamp/IMAGO

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz elaborated at a Berlin event on Monday on his reasons for not approving the export of Taurus cruise missiles to Ukraine

He named two principal problems: their range, and the likely need for assistance from German Bundeswehr troops, which he said could be construed as direct or indirect participation in the war

Britain and France have already announced plans to send comparable Storm Shadow and Scalp long-range missiles to Ukraine, but Scholz said at a senior editor's conference run by German news agency DPA in Berlin that the cases were not identical. 

Describing Taurus as a "very far-reaching" weapon, with ample range to target Moscow from Ukraine, he said: "What is being done in the way of target control on the part of the British and the French can't be done in Germany. Everyone who has dealt with this system knows that." 

What is the Taurus missile capable of?

Germany 'will not become a party to the war'

Scholz has indicated several times in recent months, amid some pressure, that the delivery of Taurus missiles is not currently on the cards, albeit while stopping short of ruling it out entirely. 

"German soldiers can at no point and in no place be linked with the targets that this [Taurus] system reaches. Not even in Germany," he said on Monday.

"This clarity is necessary. I am surprised that this doesn't move some people, that they don't even think about whether, as it were, a participation in the war could emerge from what we do." 

The chancellor published similar if less detailed comments in writing on social media, saying that Germany "will not become a party to the war, neither directly nor indirectly."

FDP politician questions claims about Bundeswehr soldier involvement

However, his comments were questioned in strong terms by Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann (Free Democratic Party), the head of the Bundestag parliament's defense committee and a member of the three-party coalition led by Scholz. 

"German soldiers are NOT needed on Ukrainian soil for Taurus. The federal chancellor's assertion is false," Strack-Zimmermann wrote online. 

She called Scholz's comments "more than bizarre" in a later interview on German public broadcaster ARD, citing both Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock being "threatened, even pursued" by a Russian drone on her recent visit to Ukraine and also the intensification of the conflict and Russia's recent gains.

"In that sense I'm somewhat unsettled by this," she told ARD. "If this is supposed to be the 'basta,' and now the conversation's over, then I'm surprised, because this dreadful war is ongoing and there is no 'basta,'" Strack-Zimmermann said, using the Italian for "enough!" that is also common slang in Germany. 

Strack-Zimmermann, who is the FDP's lead candidate for European elections this summer, has carved out a reputation since Russia's invasion of Ukraine as a leading advocate of doing more to help Ukraine.

Scholz, meanwhile, argued in Berlin that the Taurus discussion risked overlooking Ukraine's main military problems at present, particularly in terms of a shortage of ammunition.

"What Ukraine is lacking is ammunition at all possible distances, but not decisively this thing from Germany," he said. 

Why is Germany ruling out Taurus delivery to Ukraine?

msh/jsi (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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