Taurus cruise missile: What the release of the

Taurus cruise missile: What the release of the

Air force officers openly discuss German cruise missiles for Ukraine. A recording of the conversation is published in Russia. What happens now? Answers to the most important questions.

This was not intended for the public: Internally and quite openly, German Air Force officers discussed theoretical possibilities for the use of German Taurus cruise missiles by Ukraine. A recording of the conversation is now being published in Russia. Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) speaks of a “very serious matter”. In response to a question from the German Press Agency DPA about possible foreign policy damage, he said on Saturday: “That’s why this is now being clarified very carefully, very intensively and very quickly. That is also necessary.”

Is the recording authentic?

The German Ministry of Defense is investigating whether communications within the Air Force were intercepted. “The Federal Office for the Military Counterintelligence Service (BAMAD) has initiated all necessary measures,” said a spokeswoman for the ministry. “We cannot say anything about the content of the communication that was apparently intercepted.” According to DPA information, the published conversation is authentic and did take place.

What is the content of the conversation about?

At the beginning, a casual chat can be heard on the audio. One of those involved explains that he is currently in Singapore. He raves about the view from the hotel room. “Maybe I’ll send you a photo later. That’s great.” But it quickly becomes more serious: it is a preparatory meeting between the officers for a briefing for Defense Minister Boris Pistorius (SPD), probably in February. The topic is how Ukraine could use German Taurus cruise missiles in the war against Russia – if Chancellor Scholz reconsiders his no to supplying the weapons.

What questions are specifically discussed in the conversation?

One question is whether Taurus cruise missiles would theoretically be technically capable of destroying the bridge built by Russia to the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, which was annexed in violation of international law. Another point is whether Ukraine could carry out the shelling without the participation of the Bundeswehr, for example in target programming. It is being discussed how long the training of Ukrainians at Taurus could take, how Germany could go about it and how the training could be shortened. However, it can also be heard in the recording that there is no political green light for the delivery of the cruise missiles.

What is fundamentally about the debate about Taurus?

The Ukrainian government requested the delivery of cruise missiles in May 2023 in order to be able to hit Russian supply lines in occupied territory behind the front. Scholz decided in October not to send the Taurus rockets to Ukraine for the time being. In recent days he has reiterated his no and explained his reasons in detail. Essentially, it’s about the risk that Germany could become involved in the war. “German soldiers must not be linked at any point or place to the goals that this system achieves,” said Scholz. Parts of our own traffic light coalition, but also Union politicians, are in favor of a delivery from Taurus and criticize Scholz for his negative attitude.

Why is the publication of the conversation explosive?

Some of it involves military-sensitive information. One of those involved – probably Air Force Inspector Ingo Gerhartz – explains that he could imagine that 50 and then another 50 missiles would be delivered in a first tranche – but that would not change the war. However: Ultimately, these are just mind games to show politicians options.

There is also talk of the British having “a few people on site” in connection with the use of their Storm Shadow cruise missiles delivered to Ukraine. Chancellor Scholz’s words a few days ago were interpreted in a similar direction. “What the British and French are doing in terms of target control and the accompaniment of target control cannot be done in Germany,” said Scholz. The British then stated that Ukraine’s use of Storm Shadow and the target selection process were a matter for the Ukrainians.

The publication of the conversation is also explosive because it exposes an obvious security gap. How did Russia get included? Was there a targeted wiretapping operation? Does the fact that one of the participants was staying in a hotel in Singapore play a role? According to DPA information, the participants use the Webex platform for their meeting. The CDU defense expert Roderich Kiesewetter expects further publications by Russia after the leak. “Several other conversations will certainly have been intercepted and may have been leaked at a later date for the benefit of Russia,” he told the news portal “ZDFheute.de”.

What does Russia want to do by publishing the conversation?

Above all, Russia wants to show that Germany – contrary to what the federal government has asserted – has long been a party to the war and is deeply involved in the conflict. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova complained that the conversation demonstrated the “planning of hostilities against Russia, including the destruction of civilian infrastructure.” “We demand explanations from Germany.”

Zakharova’s influential friend Margarita Simonjan made the recording public. The editor-in-chief of the Russian propaganda channel RT first announced the recording as a sensation on Friday morning, then hours later published a Russian text version and then again hours later the audio file with the German original sound on the Internet for everyone to hear. Simonyan is considered a confidante of Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin, who himself worked as an intelligence officer in the GDR and also temporarily headed the Russian domestic secret service FSB.

Why does Ukraine, which has already made several attempts, want to destroy the Crimean Bridge?

The images of an explosion and fire in the fall of 2022 on the Crimean Bridge and new severe destruction in the summer of 2023 after an attack went around the world. Ukraine claimed responsibility for the attacks and repeatedly stated that it would destroy the 19-kilometer-long bridge, with one section for trains and one for cars, as soon as there was an opportunity to do so. The Taurus cruise missiles that Kiev is demanding are considered correspondingly powerful here.

Kiev justified the plans by saying that the structure is important for supplying Russian troops during the invasion of southern Ukraine. This supply route is to be destroyed. However, Russia is also increasingly supplying its troops through the occupied territories in eastern Ukraine. Even before the war, Ukraine had criticized the bridge, which was partially opened in 2018 and 2019, as illegal and a violation of international law.

What significance does the bridge have for Russia – and what would be the consequences of its destruction?

For Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin, the bridge between Russia and the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, which was annexed in 2014, is an object close to his heart. The billion-dollar property represents a firm economic connection between Crimea and Russia. Millions of tourists come to the holiday island by train and car. Freight transport is also important for supplying the people there. This is also why Russia speaks of civilian infrastructure, the destruction of which would, from Moscow’s perspective, be tantamount to a war crime.

The bridge is also used by the Moscow Ministry of Defense, which is why, from Kiev’s perspective, it is a military object that could be destroyed. Russia has so far carried out severe retaliatory strikes against Ukraine after every attack on the Crimean Bridge. The nuclear power always threatened to defend Crimea with all its available means.

What consequences can be drawn from the publication of the recording?

The FDP defense politician Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann called for better precautions against espionage. She told the editorial network Germany (RND) that espionage was “part of Russia’s toolbox of hybrid warfare.” It is neither surprising nor surprising that conversations are being intercepted.

The German contingent leader for NATO airspace surveillance in the Baltics, Swen Jacob, told the DPA: “Especially here in the Baltics, where the Russians are so close, we have to assume that we are being listened to. We also know that we are being listened to become.” The soldiers on site are prepared for this – increased technical measures have also been taken to prevent eavesdropping. “We have already done the maximum we can, as far as we can. But it also shows that the Russians are listening.”

Source: Stern

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