Can German Chancellor Continue to Refuse to Supply Ukraine with Taurus Missiles?

The second motion introduced to the Bundestag by the opposition Christian Democrats in favor of the delivery of Taurus missiles to Ukraine was voted down by the government majority on March 14 (292 to 188), just as the first one less than a month ago had been. But this time, several members of the FDP and Greens deserted the government to vote with the CDU-CSU. Due to the growing opposition, both inside and outside Germany, to the Chancellor’s categorical “no” to any delivery, he has had to repeatedly state in public that the government’s position on the issue would not change.

In virtue of the constitutional privilege of the Chancellor to decide in the last instance, Olaf Scholz is the one who determines what the government policy is. However, the defection of members of his own government coalition to the other side is symptomatic of a serious crisis. The question is for how long the Chancellor will stick to his guns, as the CDU will likely not wait long before presenting a third motion.

In addition to a majority of the population, some senior military officers also resist delivery of the Taurus. None other than the Inspector-General of the Bundeswehr, General Carsten Breuer, the highest ranking military officer, told the Bundestag Defense Committee a few days before the vote that giving the missile to the Ukrainians would pose a security risk for Germany. The session itself was declared “top secret”, but some details were leaked to the portal. Breuer’s testimony was undoubtedly known to Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann of the FDP, the chairwoman of the Defense Committee, but she nevertheless continued to claim that experts saw no risk, and proceeded to vote against Chancellor Scholz.

The aggressive anti-Russian posture of Strack-Zimmermann in the Bundestag debate preceding the Taurus vote prompted the leader of the SPD faction, Rolf Mützenich, to denounce the FDP for including her on the list of speakers. He then went a step further, declaring that there was “too much narrowed focus on weapons system”, while there should be more talk of “the need to freeze this war and bring it to an end”. That is emphatically not the position of Olaf Scholz, who just one day later, in his meeting with French President Macron and Polish Prime Minister Tusk, encouraged Ukraine to continue fighting and promised upgraded military assistance. Some are now wondering whether Mützenich, known to be a strong supporter of the Chancellor, may have been referring to some kind of ceasefire diplomacy that might be quietly going on in the background. Unless something develops on that front, Germany remains in acute danger of being drawn deeper into the Ukraine geopolitical quagmire. If the government crisis deepens, Scholz might give in on the Taurus issue just to rescue his chancellorship. But the Russians have repeatedly warned that such a move would make Germany an official war party, subject to possible retaliation.

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