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22 Jan, 2024 12:22

German defense contractor disputes missiles-for-Ukraine claim

Berlin voted against delivering long-range ‘Taurus’ missiles to Kiev last week
German defense contractor disputes missiles-for-Ukraine claim

German contractor Taurus Systems has said it could increase production of long-range missiles to replace stockpiles sent to Ukraine, contradicting a statement by a lawmaker who said Berlin’s defense industry would struggle to replenish supplies sent as military aid.

Last week, Germany’s federal parliament, the Bundestag, rejected a proposal from the Christian Democrats (CDU) and the Christian Social Union (CSU), which had called on Berlin to “finally and immediately provide Ukraine with the largest possible number of operational ‘Taurus’ cruise missiles.”

The motion, which was comprehensively defeated by 485 votes to 178, with three abstentions, follows reports that German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is unwilling to provide the weapons to Ukraine amid concerns that the long-range munitions could be used by Kiev to attack targets in Russia.

Speaking on German radio station Deutschlandfunk last week, Johannes Arlt, a defense expert with Scholz’s ruling Social Democratic Party (SDP), indicated that Berlin’s limited stockpile of the weapons would make it impossible to transfer them to Ukraine while also maintaining its own defensive responsibilities.

However, this statement was contradicted by Taurus Systems managing director, Joachim Knopf, who said in a statement on Saturday: “We can push ahead with new Taurus production, platform integration and the overhaul of inventory at short notice.”

He added: “The prerequisite is the order from the customer.” 

Ukraine submitted a formal request for the missiles, which have a range of up to 500km (310 miles) and can penetrate bunker defenses, last May. The concern in Scholz’s government, reports state, is that the possible use of the weapons inside Russia’s borders could potentially draw Germany closer to the conflict in Ukraine.

Ahead of the Bundestag vote last week, the CDU’s parliamentary leader, Friedrich Merz, told lawmakers in Berlin that “we consider the situation in Ukraine to be increasingly critical.” He added that Kiev’s troops have “no chance” of holding off Russia’s forces without access to state-of-the-art weapons such as the Taurus missiles.

Ukraine has received long-range missiles from some of its other international allies. The UK sent Storm Shadows, which have a range of 250km (155 miles), in May, while France also sent similar weapons last summer.

Washington also provided Ukraine with Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS) in October.