All about the Taurus debate case of clandestine eavesdropping causes

All about the Taurus debate: case of clandestine eavesdropping causes unrest in Berlin

The delivery of Taurus cruise missiles to Ukraine has been discussed in Germany for weeks. Kiev is pushing for the delivery of the weapons system; The German Chancellor has so far categorically rejected this – including criticism from the ranks of the coalition partners.

However, the German Bundeswehr was apparently still thinking about how the weapons system would be used in Ukraine. At least that's what appears in an audio recording that has been circulating on the internet since Friday. It was published by Margarita Simonyan, head of Russian state broadcaster RT, formerly known as Russia Today – and banned in the EU. Simonjan shared the 38-minute recording on Telegram before the weekend. According to her information, the conversation took place on February 19th.

Eavesdropping incident in the German Air Force

The German Ministry of Defense assumes that an internal conversation between German Air Force officers was intercepted. Four high-ranking Bundeswehr officers discuss the capabilities of the Taurus cruise missile. A 38-minute recording of the call was published by the head of Russian state broadcaster RT.

On Saturday, the German government confirmed that there had been a wiretapping incident in the German Air Force. “According to our assessment, a conversation within the Air Force was intercepted. Currently, we cannot say for sure whether changes have been made to the recorded or written version circulating on social media,” said a ministry spokeswoman in Berlin.

“Very serious matter”

According to the Ministry of Defense, the Military Counterintelligence Service (MAD) began an investigation into suspected espionage. Chancellor Scholz also commented on the incident. On the sidelines of a visit to the Vatican, he spoke of a “very serious matter”. This is “now being clarified very carefully, very intensively and very quickly,” Scholz said.

Taurus Leaks: “Very Serious Matter”

Germany assumes that an internal Air Force conversation was intercepted. The head of Russian state broadcaster RT published an audio recording. In it, officials discuss the possibilities of Ukraine's use of German Taurus cruise missiles.

Green Party MP Konstantin von Notz also expected an immediate and comprehensive clarification from the federal government on Saturday. “It is necessary to clarify as quickly as possible whether this phone hacking scandal is a one-off event or a structural problem,” said the Green politician.

Pistorius information request

The case is doubly explosive for the German government. Firstly, of course, the fact that a conversation between senior German military officers was apparently intercepted by Russia is causing unrest. According to information from “Spiegel”, the conversation was not conducted online, but rather via the Webex platform – and it could not have been the only conversation tapped. At the same time, the content of the conversation also provides material for discussion.

Boris Pistorius

Portal/Liesa Johannssen The now published conversation apparently took place in preparation for a briefing for the German Defense Minister

The discussion between the four Air Force officers is about the possible use of German Taurus cruise missiles by the Ukrainian armed forces and their possible effects. The reason for the conversation – at least that's what the recording shows – was a request from the German Defense Minister, Boris Pistorius, as well as Scholz, a member of the SPD. However, it is also stated in the conversation that Pistorius' request for information does not indicate any anticipation of a Taurus deployment.

However, participants hypothetically discussed how the Taurus system could be used in Ukraine. Among other things, the four officials also discuss whether Ukraine could use Taurus cruise missiles to target the Kerch Bridge, which connects the Crimean peninsula to the Russian mainland.

Statements about allies

Participants in the discussion point to Britain, which supplied the Ukrainian army with Storm Shadow cruise missiles, and France, which supplied Ukraine with Scalp cruise missiles. “I know how the English do it,” said one of the participants in the conversation. “They also have some people on site… the French don’t.” The British said they would “also look over the Ukrainians’ shoulders when loading the Taurus.”

Anger has just erupted in Britain over a statement made by Scholz, which some interpreted as an indiscretion. “What the British and French are doing in terms of target control and monitoring target control cannot be done in Germany,” Scholz said. He left it open what exactly he meant by that. However, the ruling was understood by some as an indication that the two states would support controlling cruise missiles delivered to Ukraine with their own personnel – which Britain immediately denied.

Russia demands “explanation”

Russia has already used the publication of the audio recording to criticize the West. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in Antalya, Turkey, that the conversation showed “that the war field in Europe is still very, very strong.” The “war party” – Ukraine’s Western supporters – does not want to change course and inflict a “strategic battlefield defeat” on Russia.

Lavrov's spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, called for “explanations from Germany”. Attempts to avoid answering these questions “would be seen as an admission of guilt.”

Russia's calculations are suspicious

The chairman of the Bundestag Defense Committee, Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, also saw the publication as a calculation by Russia. According to the FDP politician, Moscow wants to dissuade Chancellor Scholz from giving the green light for the delivery of the Taurus. She told RND that espionage is “part of Russia’s hybrid warfare toolbox.”

The deputy chairman of the Bundestag's intelligence control committee, Roderich Kiesewetter, also suspected that the audio recording had been published “very specifically by Russia at this time”. The CDU politician also saw this as an attempt by Moscow to prevent the delivery of the Taurus from Germany.

Of course, Kiesewetter took advantage of the discussion to once again criticize the German Chancellor. Scholz's refusal to hand over Taurus cruise missiles to Ukraine is in Moscow's favor, Kiesewetter said. Scholz always justified his refusal by saying that Germany could be drawn into the war in Ukraine, even leading to the direct involvement of the German military.