Taurus Leaks wiretapping scandal: An incident that makes others ashamed

Taurus leaks
Wiretapped conversations of German military personnel: A moment of shame

Chancellor Scholz, Defense Minister Pistorius: Explosive switch to Taurus

© Michael Kappeler / DPA

The Russians intercepted and published a conversation between high-ranking German military officials about the Taurus cruise missile. The biggest problem is not the content.

It’s 38 minutes of embarrassing yourself. A group of high-ranking Germans Military officials have arranged to have a video conversation. First you exchange everyday phrases in small groups (“Ciao Cocoa”), then you talk more seriously in larger groups about various scenarios of how the use of German Taurus missiles in and through Ukraine could work. Also there: the Air Force inspector, Ingo Gerhartz.

It’s just stupid: the Russians listened to the conversation and then published it on their propaganda channel “Russia Today”. Now everyone can find them online.

The embarrassing thing is less the content. Even if the military complains that the Federal Chancellor’s blockade of Taurus fueled absurd speculation and even if how Taurus could be used is discussed in great detail, all of this is still more or less known information. This has been talked about in public for weeks.

Taurus leaks: naivety or technical ignorance?

No, the explosive thing is the process itself. The Bundeswehr leadership has apparently failed to ensure that such conversations only take place via tap-proof channels. Whether that was naivety, negligence or technical ignorance will now quickly become clear.

For the moment, one can only hope that the Russian espionage team made a lucky hit and did not record conversations whose content is actually security-relevant.

The intercepted Taurus conversation is a hit for the opposition

The incident is a hit for the opposition. Both AfD and Left politicians have announced that they will file charges for “preparing for a war of aggression.” Either way, in moments like these it’s difficult to tell the difference.

The accusation itself is absurd: the conversation was not about Germany attacking Russian targets. But rather that Ukraine would attack Russian targets with the Taurus missiles supplied by Germany. At one point it is noted that the scenarios must also take into account the risk of civilian collateral damage. For example, if a kindergarten were attacked with Taurus. A legitimate point.

Not just Taurus leaks: A bad week for Germany

But the damage to image is enormous. Not just for the Bundeswehr. The wiretapping scandal comes at the end of a week that was devastating for Germany. First, Scholz rejected the Taurus delivery at an editor-in-chief meeting without any communicative sensitivity. He then publicly argued with French President Emanuel Macron over the deployment of ground troops in Ukraine. And now the impression is that, in the land of data protection fetishism, the Bundeswehr does not even have mastered the basic standards of digital security.

All of this is happening at a time when, given Donald Trump’s possible second term in office, it is more important than ever for Europe to appear united and capable of defending itself.

One could almost think that Kremlin boss Vladimir Putin just has to sit back with popcorn and watch Europe fall apart. Before he finishes his dirty business in Ukraine.

We can’t do him this favor. It is not too late to take this incident as a wake-up call. For regulations in the Ministry of Defense that guarantee that confidential conversations only take place via tap-proof communication systems.

For more European unity in the fight against Putin. And for more strategic ambiguity in Germany’s Ukraine policy, which leaves Russia more unclear about how far Germany would be willing to go.

source site-3