The Complicated Debate Surrounding the Potential Transfer of Cruise Missiles to Ukraine


The German government finds itself embroiled in a divisive debate over the possibility of sending Taurus cruise missiles to Ukraine. The situation escalated when a leaked confidential conversation among Bundeswehr commanders raised questions about Germany’s stance on the matter. The discussion suggested potential use of the missiles against Russian infrastructure in Crimea, prompting scrutiny over who holds the reins of power in Germany – the military or the government, which has maintained it has no plans to supply missiles to Kiev.

Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, also the leader of the Green Party, added fuel to the fire by indicating openness to a proposition from her British counterpart, David Cameron. Baerbock entertained the idea of transferring Taurus missiles to the UK, which in turn could provide more of its Storm Shadow cruise missiles to Ukraine. However, the government spokesman, Steffen Hebestreit, swiftly refuted Baerbock’s comments, underscoring that the government’s position remained unchanged. This disparity hints at internal discord within the German government, with Chancellor Scholz’s stance potentially differing from that of Baerbock.

The crux of the matter, often overlooked in analyses of the missile debate, lies in the logistical challenges associated with complex weapon systems like Taurus and Storm Shadow. These systems require specialized support personnel for operation, a resource that cannot be outsourced to Ukraine. Unlike the UK and France, which have their own personnel deployed, Germany’s reluctance stems from a reluctance to send military personnel to Ukraine.

If the proposed swap materializes, Germany may send around 100 Taurus missiles to the UK, with Britain reciprocating by providing roughly 100 of its remaining Storm Shadows to Ukraine. However, military observer Mikael Valtersson criticizes this potential move as “very stupid” on the UK’s part. He argues that the UK already faces significant defense budget gaps, and managing two distinct missile systems would exacerbate logistical challenges.

Despite the technical and financial hurdles, the willingness to engage in such discussions underscores London’s desperation to support Ukraine. However, even if the swap occurs, it may offer only short-term assistance. Ukraine’s limited resources, particularly in terms of aircraft capable of deploying Storm Shadows, pose significant constraints. The Su-24, the primary aircraft compatible with these missiles, is in short supply, limiting the long-term impact of the potential missile transfer.

The Taurus, a German-Swedish air-launched cruise missile, and the Storm Shadow/SCALP-EG, a missile system manufactured by European defense giant MDBA, boast impressive specifications and operational capabilities. However, their transfer to Ukraine is not without complexities and potential repercussions.

The debate surrounding the transfer of cruise missiles to Ukraine highlights the intricate dynamics at play within the German government and underscores the practical challenges associated with such a move. While it may offer temporary relief to Ukraine’s military capabilities, the long-term implications remain uncertain amidst logistical, financial, and strategic considerations.


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