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German lawmakers twist Scholz’s arm on long-range missiles for Kyiv

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Lawmakers in Germany’s ruling coalition are set to vote this week on a motion that could finally push Chancellor Olaf Scholz to deliver long-range precision Taurus cruise missiles to Ukraine.

A draft resolution prepared by the three groups in the government’s parliamentary majority and seen by the Financial Times requests “the delivery of additionally necessary long-range weapon systems” for Kyiv which could strike “far in the rear area of the Russian aggressor”.

While non-binding, the successful passage of the motion could leave Scholz symbolically isolated. With the mainstream opposition Christian Democratic Union in favour, the chancellor’s resistance to the missiles’ delivery to Kyiv would be seen as being supported only by MPs of the hard left and hard right.

In a sign of the ongoing sensitivity around dispatch of this type of ordnance, the text does not mention Taurus by name, even though it is the only weapon in the German military arsenal that currently meets the criteria set out in the proposal.

The debate over delivering Taurus, a bunker-busting missile with a range of 500km, has rumbled on for months in Berlin.

While Scholz’s coalition has dramatically ramped up its deliveries of weaponry to Ukraine, and is now the second largest supplier after the US, it has stubbornly resisted calls for Taurus to be sent, fearful of the potential escalatory effect the powerful missile may have.

Taurus has greater range and sophistication than the British Storm Shadow and French Scalp cruise missiles delivered to Ukraine last year. It would be capable of reaching Moscow and evading most Russian anti-aircraft defences.

As its troops run out of critical ammunition and are forced to retreat from frontline positions, Ukraine has said it urgently needs long-range weapons to try and degrade Russia’s military logistics and buy urgently needed time.

Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, chair of the German parliamentary defence committee and member of the liberal Free Democrats, said direct reference to the Taurus missile had been removed from the motion being proposed this week “due to the stubbornness of the chancellery”.

She noted that the death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s “powerful appearance” at the Munich Security Conference last weekend “apparently were not enough to make everyone in the SPD [Scholz’s party] understand that Ukraine is fighting for our peace and our freedom and our future in Europe”.

Strack-Zimmermann said the motion would have “significant and far-ranging” consequences regardless and could force the government to act despite its lack of precision.

The lawmaker said she would “also” be voting for a proposal from the opposition Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the party of former chancellor Angela Merkel, which is expected to come before parliament this week and specifically name the missile for urgent delivery.

Norbert Röttgen, the senior CDU MP, called on Scholz to accept that Taurus missiles now had to be delivered.

“We in the CDU are unanimous in favour of the fact that these weapons must be delivered because they destroy Russian weapons and ammunition on Ukrainian territory before these weapons and ammunition kill civilians,” said Röttgen, a former chair of the parliamentary foreign affairs committee. “Every day [of more war] is the result of inadequate western support, not least German support.”

In an interview with Germany’s Die Zeit newspaper on Tuesday, former defence minister in the Merkel government Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg also said it was time to deliver Taurus.

“Germany should deliver [it] with the proviso that it refrains from attacks on the Russian hinterland,” said Guttenberg. “If Ukraine only uses Taurus to attack Russian logistics centres and command centres in its own country, I don’t see the danger of this escalation.”

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