How Germany is to become ready for war

Lessons from the Taurus affair

by Karl-Jürgen Müller

Two and a half weeks ago, on 1 March 2024, the editor-in-chief of the Russian channel Russia Today published an audio recording of a conference call with senior German air force officers1, including the Inspector of the Air Force, the highest-ranking soldier in this branch of the armed forces, Lieutenant General Ingo Gerhartz on her Telegram channel. The meeting was on 19 February 2024 and took around 38 minutes. The main topic was detailed deliberations on the possibilities of using the German Taurus cruise missile in the Ukraine war, particularly when firing on Russian ammunition depots and the Kerch Bridge from the Russian mainland to the island of Crimea.
  Initially, this publication was only discussed for a few days in the statements of German politicians and the German mainstream media. Although the authenticity of the audio recording was officially confirmed, hardly anything was said regarding the content of the conversation, except that it was claimed that the content was a completely normal matter: the Bundeswehr always had the task of thinking through various scenarios of possible warfare. Or: the conversation proved that the German Chancellor’s reasons for holding back on the Taurus delivery to Ukraine were not valid. After all, there seemed to be ways of avoiding the direct involvement of German soldiers in the operation of the Taurus in Ukraine. Those in German politics and in the German media wanting to escalate the war in Ukraine with active German participation virtually rejoiced on this.
  The statement by German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius on 5 March2 was characteristic of the German reactions: comments on the question of how the audio recording could happen; massive accusations – not against the air force officers, but again against Russia; emphasis that the ranks of Russia’s Western opponents of the war remain firmly closed; … but not a single word about the content of the conversation.

The style, content, and implications
of the Taurus conversation

This makes it even more important to take a closer look at the style, content and implications of the conversation. In my opinion, the key points are

  • The German Bundeswehr has moved very far away from what officers such as Graf von Baudissin – the initiator of the idea of “inner leadership” and the “citizen in uniform” – had formulated for the new German army after the horrors of the Second World War and demanded as indispensable: a German army should exist in future only to prevent another war. Peace was to be the “worst-case scenario”. The senior German air force officers of today’s Germany have lost their “respect” for war; they tend to speak “cooly” and with countless inserted Anglicisms, even in everyday terms, about weapons and wars. As if it were a computer game. Death and destruction have become the norm for these people.
  • The telephone conference shows (also because an officer from distant Singapore is particularly susceptible to eavesdropping) that those responsible in Germany are under time pressure. The plans for the Taurus mission are to be implemented as quickly as possible. The considerations of the German officers are anything but purely hypothetical. They are eagerly looking for a course of action that will overcome previous tactical and strategic political concerns.
  • Although there is official talk of “red lines” regarding German participation in the war, these are purely due to political expediency: to (supposedly) prevent clear Russian reactions and to appease the public. Principles of political ethics no longer play a role. So, the senior officers try to devise “tricky” plans to prevent Germany from openly appearing to be a party to the war. For example, with secret car journeys by German officers to Poland to hand over the target data for the attacks to the Ukrainians. Or with the involvement of the (private) defence industry in the delivery of the weapons system and the training of Ukrainian soldiers. Or by involving British and US soldiers, who are already directly involved in the war in Ukraine, in the deployment of the Taurus cruise missiles. The fact is, however, that Germany has been a party to the war for a long time and is becoming more and more so. The German political scientist Johannes Varwick – one of the few university lecturers still in the profession who sometimes allow themselves a critical word on government policy – wrote on 2 March in an otherwise uncritical tweet on X (formerly Twitter): “But the fact that details of the military planning of the deployment of a German weapons system are being discussed in detail also shows how far Germany (and, as was also made clear in many interesting details, to an even greater extent the UK and USA) has already become a party to the war, whether you call it that or not.”
  • The German armed forces are planning – with backing from politicians and even more from the mainstream media – to deploy German weapons and German soldiers in the war, now also with the aim of directly striking the territory of the Russian Federation. This is not helped by the facts that it is “trickily” concealed and that the Chancellor repeatedly speaks out against it. The air force officers openly and in detail a speak about a key target of the Taurus mission: the Russian road and railway bridge from the Russian mainland to the island of Crimea. The reactions from Russia were correspondingly clear. But in Germany this is still dismissed as Russian propaganda and disinformation. Political and media Germany does not want to hear, does not want to see, ... and probably does not want to think seriously.
  • British Foreign Minister David Cameron has now offered to supply more British cruise missiles to Ukraine if the UK receives German Taurus cruise missiles in exchange (i. e., at no cost to the UK).3 German war supporters in the Greens, FDP, CDU, and CSU, as well as the German mainstream media, see this as an opportunity to escalate the war. However, the newsletter of the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” of 11 March also wrote: “The deputy leader of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group, Johann Wadephul, rejects multilateral exchange with Great Britain. Everything must be done to prevent a Ukrainian defeat; the CDU politician told the ‘Rheinische Post’. ‘This includes supplying the best system, and that is the Taurus. No multilateral exchange can replace it.’”
  • The debate in the Bundestag on 13 and 14 March once again showed the pressure on the Chancellor and the SPD to abandon their previous objection to Taurus deliveries to Ukraine – either directly or via detours. The renewed rejection of the CDU and CSU’s proposal to supply Taurus to Ukraine – probably primarily for reasons of maintaining power – cannot hide this fact.

The weak spot of the German
citizens’ unwillingness to go to war

On 8 March, the newspaper “Die Welt”4 reported: “A majority of citizens reject deliveries of the Taurus cruise missile to Ukraine. Fear of war is pronounced according to the Deutschlandtrend. polls.” A survey conducted by the Infratest Dimap polling institute in March 2024 showed that 61 per cent of Germans surveyed said no to the delivery of the Taurus cruise missile to Ukraine, 9 per cent more than in August 2023. Only among supporters of the Greens was there a narrow majority in favour of the weapons delivery. 62 per cent of respondents fear that Germany could be “directly drawn into the war”. Interesting in this context: 45 per cent of respondents stated that they “cannot trust” the USA as an ally. That is 14 per cent more than in March 2023. However, the same survey also shows the extent to which anti-Russian propaganda has taken hold in Germany – without any evidence. 64 per cent of respondents believe that Russia will attack other European countries. 74 per cent are even in favour of higher arms spending. This is the weak spot of the German unwillingness to go to war, which the majority of Germans still harbour.
  All Germans who seriously want to make their country capable of peace can therefore not ignore the main objective of the penetrating enemy image of Russia in Germany: to make its citizens “ready for war”.  •

1 (audio filei) and (transcript). Access to this Telegram channel may be difficult for readers and listeners in the EU.
2 of 5 March 2024
3 of 9 March 2024


km. The Taurus (“Bull”) is a German-Swedish air-to-ground cruise missile, i.e., it can only be launched from aeroplanes. In Germany, it is assembled by a subsidiary of the MBDA defence group in Schrobenhausen, Bavaria. The name is an acronym for Target Adaptive Unitary and Dispenser Robotic Ubiquity System. Taurus was developed to destroy massively hardened and buried targets as well as so-called high-value targets. It is armed with an explosive charge of around 500 kg (high destructive power) and has a range of more than 500 kilometres. The cruise missile is considered to be very accurate, although this accuracy in turn depends on the quality of the programmed target data. The use of the Taurus requires extensive technical knowledge.

Oskar Lafontaine: Irresponsible risk-takers

“The real scandal is that German officers are planning Germany’s entry into the war and giving the impression that this is ‘business as usual’ for them. To divert attention from this, the German warmongers in politics and journalism point out how outrageous it is that Russians have bugged German officers. The good German war-minded defence minister Pistorius […] sees ‘Putin’s disinformation campaign’ at work in the fact that the Russians regard the planning of a terrorist attack with German Taurus missiles as an outrageous affront. The mental confusion of our warmongers culminated in the statement by politician Kiesewetter from the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), who advised supplying Taurus missiles to destroy Russian ministries. This insane idea did not lead to an outcry in politics and the media, nor did the CDU distance itself from this completely crazy ‘defence expert’. It’s scary when you realise which irresponsible risk-takers are now deciding whether Germany will become a party to the war in Ukraine.” (Oskar Lafontaine in the Nachdenkseiten of 5 March 2024)

(Translation Current Concerns)

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