Germany's Scholz defends his refusal to send Ukraine Taurus missiles, says prudence is a virtue

Chancellor Olaf Scholz has defended his refusal to send Taurus long-range cruise missiles to Ukraine

Geir Moulson
Wednesday 13 March 2024 14:35 GMT

Chancellor Olaf Scholz defended his refusal to send Taurus long-range cruise missiles to Ukraine, telling German lawmakers Wednesday that prudence is not a weakness while insisting that he trusts Kyiv.

Germany has become the second-biggest supplier of military aid to Ukraine after the United States, but Scholz has stalled for months on Ukraine’s desire for Taurus missiles, which have a range of up to 500 kilometers (310 miles) and could in theory be used against targets far into Russian territory.

That position has frustrated the main center-right opposition bloc and parts of Scholz's three-party coalition. The criticism didn't diminish after Scholz finally offered a detailed explanation last month, pointing to his insistence that Germany must not become directly involved in the war.

The chancellor has long emphasized his determination to help Ukraine without escalating the war and drawing Germany and NATO into it, stressing that no German soldiers will go to Ukraine. Over the past two years, he has at times drawn criticism for appearing to hesitate before pledging new weapons systems, such as the Leopard 2 battle tanks, to Kyiv.

Scholz has dug in much harder on Taurus missiles, though he has stopped short of explicitly ruling out ever delivering them.

“From my point of view, this is a very long-range weapon,” he told parliament's lower house, the Bundestag. “Given the significance of not losing control over targets, this weapon could not be used without the deployment of German soldiers. I reject that.”

Highlighting Germany's extensive contributions to Ukraine's defense, Scholz said “it remains central that we weigh every individual decision carefully.”

“Prudence is not something that one can qualify as a weakness, as some do,” he said. “Prudence is something that the citizens of our country are entitled to.”

Critics reject Scholz's insistence that Taurus missiles could only be responsibly used with the involvement of German soldiers whether inside or outside Ukraine — which he said is “a line that I as chancellor do not want to cross.”

In a sometimes testy exchange with conservative lawmakers at a regular question-and-answer session, Scholz rejected the suggestion that he didn't trust Ukraine to use the missiles responsibly.

“We trust Ukraine — that's why Germany is by a long distance the biggest supplier of weapons among the European states," he said.

Britain and France have long since announced that they were sending Storm Shadow and Scalp long-range missiles, respectively, to Ukraine. But Scholz said last month that “what is being done in the way of target control and accompanying target control on the part of the British and the French can’t be done in Germany.” He didn't elaborate then or on Wednesday.

Conservative lawmaker Norbert Röttgen accused Scholz of “not explaining the real motives for your policy, (and) repeatedly finding new excuses that in part contradict each other and rule each other out.”

On Feb. 22, German lawmakers called on the government to deliver further long-range weapons to Ukraine but voted down an opposition call explicitly urging it to send Taurus long-range cruise missiles.

On Thursday, the center-right opposition is putting a new motion urging the government to send Taurus missiles to a vote in the Bundestag, hoping to exploit divisions in the governing coalition.

The embarrassing leak of a recording of four high-ranking German air force officers discussing hypothetically how Kyiv could use Taurus missiles against Russian forces was barely alluded to in Wednesday's session.

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