German Chancellor Olaf Scholz sought to justify his reluctance to supply Ukraine with Taurus cruise missiles on Thursday by naming constitutional constraints and the risk of an “escalation of the war.”
However, Scholz did announce additional military support for Kyiv in the form of another “Patriot” air defense system “for the winter months” and argued that “this is what is most needed now.”
The chancellor has come under increased pressure from allies like the United Kingdom — but also from within his own ruling coalition — to hand over the German long-distance, high-precision Taurus cruise missiles to Ukraine, especially as the U.K. and France have already supplied Kyiv with their “Storm Shadow” and “Scalp” cruise missiles.
Yet Scholz continues to rule out delivery of the Taurus “for now,” a German official told POLITICO on Wednesday, confirming a report by Bild. And when asked by reporters on Thursday why he does not want to send the cruise missiles, the chancellor argued that such a decision could only be made after “careful consideration.”
“After all, when a war lasts so long, these considerations can’t stop at once,” Scholz said during a press conference on the sidelines of the European Political Community summit in Granada, Spain, adding that his government “must always take into account what the constitution requires of us and what our options for action are.”
He added: “This includes in particular the fact that we must of course ensure that there is no escalation of the war and that Germany does not become part of the conflict. It is also my task as chancellor to ensure that.”
Scholz did not elaborate on what potential constitutional constraints he had in mind, but Bild reported that the chancellor was concerned that for Ukraine to use the Taurus missiles, Berlin would have to deliver geo-data of Russian targets and thereby take a more active role in the war. Scholz is also reportedly worried that Ukraine might use the missiles to hit the Kerch bridge connecting occupied Crimea with Russia.
Yet Christian Mölling, the deputy director of the German Council on Foreign Relations and a renowned security expert, argued on X, formerly Twitter, that Germany would not take an active role in the war once it hands the cruise missiles over to Ukraine, and denounced Scholz’s concerns as “smoke grenades.”
Among the harshest critics of Scholz’s decision is Andreas Schwarz, a defense policy lawmaker from the chancellor’s Social Democratic Party: “History books will find their verdict on our politics today,” Schwarz wrote Wednesday evening on X, adding: “My opinion is and remains clear: Deliver Taurus — immediately!”
Seemingly trying to calm down the growing criticism, Scholz repeatedly emphasized during his press conference on Thursday how “very far-reaching” but also “very effective” was his decision to supply Ukraine with another Patriot air defense system.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy confirmed the delivery of the Patriot system on X, and wrote: “I’m grateful for Germany’s support in defending our freedom and people.”