Scholz under pressure after blocking Taurus cruise missile delivery to Ukraine

German chancellor has claimed it would only be possible for German soldiers to programme Taurus targets on-site in Ukraine

Two years ago on Tuesday German chancellor Olaf Scholz said Russia’s war on Ukraine would force Europe to ask itself “whether we have it in us to keep warmongers like Putin in check”.

Two years and nearly €28 billion in arms and aid deliveries later, Mr Scholz is under friendly fire from his own coalition partners for blocking the export to Ukraine of Taurus cruise missiles. With a range of 500km and a 480kg explosive warhead, each Taurus missile can fly low enough to evade radar and strike far behind enemy lines – the main reasons they are sought by Ukraine.

After months of obfuscation, however, Mr Scholz rejected the request, saying “German soldiers must not be linked to the goals that this system achieves in any place”.

He claimed it would only be possible for German soldiers to programme Taurus targets on-site in Ukraine – noting that no parliamentary mandate from the Bundestag exists for such a deployment. In addition, he expressed fears that such deliveries would see Moscow view Germany as a party to war.


His liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) coalition partner has attacked his reasoning as “beyond bizarre”, and dismissed what its defence spokeswoman called his “long-disproven arguments”.

“German soldiers would not be needed on Ukrainian territory, that is simply incorrect,” said Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, FDP defence spokeswoman. Last week she broke with government ranks to back a parliamentary motion in favour of a Taurus delivery tabled by the opposition Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

Equally critical – and quick off the mark – were German users of X, formerly Twitter, who challenged a post by Mr Scholz explaining his reasoning. They forced the social media company to append a clarification to the chancellor’s post disputing his claims as “incorrect”. The note added that similar British and French systems “are used by Ukraine without – [the UK or France] becoming parties to war”.

A former diplomatic and security aide to Angela Merkel, Christoph Heusgen, also weighed into the debate. He asked on X whether the Taurus weapons systems Germany has supplied to South Korea “have to be programmed on-site by German soldiers?”

“If not why is it not possible in Ukraine too without German presence?” he asked. “If so, did the Bundestag issue a mandate for South Korea?”

After a day of criticism Mr Scholz defended his decision to keep the “very far-reaching weapon” at home on Tuesday, saying the situation was not comparable with similar systems provided by the UK and France. “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,” he said. “Everyone who has dealt with this system knows that.”

German officials describe the row as a distraction, insisting Europe’s real challenge lies in supplying Ukraine with enough conventional ammunition, not cruise missiles. In the last two years, from tank to missile deliveries, Germany has been anxious to mirror US deliveries. So far Washington has supplied Ukraine with only a handful of its MGM-140 army tactical ballistic missiles.

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Derek Scally

Derek Scally

Derek Scally is an Irish Times journalist based in Berlin