Germany's Scholz Explains His Reluctance To Send Taurus Long-Range Missiles To Ukraine

FILE - German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, right, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy walk down the stairs in the chancellory during a meeting in Berlin, Friday, Feb.16, 2024. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has emphasized his reluctance to send Taurus long-range cruise missiles to Ukraine, pointing to a risk of his country becoming directly involved in the war. Germany is now the second-biggest supplier of military aid to Ukraine after the United States and is stepping up aid to Kyiv. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber, File)
FILE - German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, right, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy walk down the stairs in the chancellory during a meeting in Berlin, Friday, Feb.16, 2024. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has emphasized his reluctance to send Taurus long-range cruise missiles to Ukraine, pointing to a risk of his country becoming directly involved in the war. Germany is now the second-biggest supplier of military aid to Ukraine after the United States and is stepping up aid to Kyiv. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber, File)
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BERLIN (AP) — German Chancellor Olaf Scholz made clear Monday that he remains reluctant to send Taurus long-range cruise missiles to Ukraine, pointing to a risk of his country becoming directly involved in the war.

Germany is now the second-biggest supplier of military aid to Ukraine after the United States and is further stepping up its support this year. But Scholz has stalled for months on Ukraine’s desire for Taurus missiles, which have a range of up to 500 kilometers (310 miles) and could in theory be used against targets far into Russian territory.

He hasn’t stated definitively that they won’t be delivered but offered the clearest explanation yet of his hesitancy — which has annoyed both Germany's conservative opposition and some in his own three-party coalition — at an editorial conference of German news agency dpa.

The chancellor has long emphasized his determination to help Ukraine without escalating the war and drawing Germany and NATO into it, and stressed that no German soldiers will go to Ukraine.

Britain and France have long since announced that they were sending Storm Shadow and Scalp long-range missiles, respectively, to Ukraine.

Scholz said Monday that the Taurus is “a very far-reaching weapon” and added: “What is being done in the way of target control and accompanying target control on the part of the British and the French can’t be done in Germany. Everyone who has dealt with this system knows that.”

Asked if he's worried that German soldiers would have to go to Ukraine to control what the missiles target, Scholz said that “German soldiers must at no point and in no place be linked to targets this (Taurus) system reaches,” and added ”not in Germany either."

He said there are good reasons why the missiles are not the next option on the agenda. “This clarity is necessary. I am surprised that this doesn't move some people, that they don't even think about whether, as it were, a participation in the war could emerge from what we do.”

Scholz suggested that the German debate over Taurus missiles has lost sight of what Ukraine actually needs now. “What Ukraine is missing is ammunition at all possible distances, but not decisively this thing from Germany,” he said.

Last week, German lawmakers called on the government to deliver further long-range weapons to Ukraine, but voted down an opposition call explicitly urging it to send Taurus long-range cruise missiles.

A motion drawn up by the governing parties urged the government to keep up military support and said “this includes the delivery of further necessary long-range weapons systems and ammunition” to enable attacks on “strategically important targets far in the rear of the Russian aggressor.”

That unspecific formulation allowed government lawmakers to advocate sending Taurus missiles, or not.