Will Germany deliver Taurus cruise missiles to Ukraine?

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After facing an initial dismissal from the German Federal Ministry of Defense (BMVg) the prospect of delivering Taurus cruise missiles to Ukraine seems to be gaining traction among several German politicians. 

The Taurus KEPD 350 cruise missile was designed as the result of a collaborative effort between MBDA Deutschland and Saab Bofors Dynamics. It features stealth characteristics and a range exceeding 500 kilometers (310 miles). The missile is powered by a turbofan engine, achieving speeds of Mach 0.8 to 0.9, and is compatible with aircraft such as the Tornado, JAS 39 Gripen, F/A-18 Hornet, and F-15E Strike Eagle.  

In late May 2023, Ukraine asked the German government to provide Taurus cruise missiles. The idea was initially dismissed, however, with German politicians concerned that Ukraine would use the Taurus missiles to attack Russian territory.  

As recently as August 3, 2023, Federal Defense Minister Boris Pistorius spoke out against the delivery of the cruise missiles to Ukraine, adding that there was “no urgent need for a decision.” 

But in an interview with the Tagesspiegel on August 8, 2023, Nils Schmid, the foreign policy spokesman for the Social Democratic Party (SPD) parliamentary group, seemed to have warmed up to the idea. 

“I do not rule out that we will also supply other systems such as Taurus in conjunction with the Americans,” commented Schmid. “Before it must be ensured that the Ukrainians themselves can take over the target programming and not Bundeswehr soldiers – that would bring us dangerously close to direct war involvement.” 

The debate gained further momentum when the next day, Yegor Chernev, Head of the Ukrainian Parliament delegation to the NATO Assembly, disclosed that he had received information from his German counterparts regarding an apparent positive consensus among the main parliamentary factions of the Bundestag. 

“My friends in the Bundestag have just informed me that the key parliamentary factions have reached a consensus on the transfer of long-range Taurus missiles to Ukraine,” Chernev said on Facebook. “For a long time, we worked with German parliamentarians to form a support group, and now, finally, the ice has broken. We are waiting for an official decision.” 

Not the first long-range cruise missile provided to Ukraine

Ukraine has received two previous shipments of SCALP-EG/Storm Shadow long-range missiles. On May 11, 2023, the commitment from the United Kingdom to furnish Storm Shadow long-range missiles to the Ukrainian military marked a significant step up in Western support. Further enhancing this momentum, French President Emmanuel Macron declared that France was poised to supply SCALP long-range missiles to Ukraine at the NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania on July 11, 2023. 

Similar to the Taurus missiles, this British-French weapon possesses the capability to engage targets within a radius of 560 kilometers (350 miles). However, the export versions have been carefully modified, confining their operational range to 250 kilometers (155 miles). This limitation aligns with previous assurances granted by Ukrainian officials to the United Kingdom that the deployment of these missiles will not be aimed at penetrating deep into Russian territory. 

On August 6, 2023, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense celebrated the SCALP-EG delivery with a picture showing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky writing a message on one of these missiles, before suggesting that the weapons were later used to target the bridges of Chonhar and Henichesk, which link Crimea to mainland Ukraine.  

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