German Chancellor Scholz stands accused of handing Russia a propaganda coup in order to smooth over his own political difficulties as he claims the presence of British and French soldiers aiding Ukrainian forces.

Scholz has been accused of abusing intelligence and being a bad ally by angry NATO politicians after his remarks about the level of involvement he claims there is of the British and French in the deployment of the Storm Shadow / SCALP cruise missiles they have given to Ukraine, and which have been deployed with devastating effect.

Ukraine continues to demand Germany hand over its stock of Taurus bunker-buster cruise missiles to help it fight Russia. Indeed, the powerful and long-range weapon which Berlin has proven resistant to supply has been the subject of debate in Germany dragging on now for several months. Chancellor Olaf Scholz insists providing the weapon, which has the endurance to strike deep into Russian areas would represent an irresponsible escalation of the war and make Germany a party to the conflict in a way its previous donations of weapon systems and ammunition had not.

A sign of the ”Taurus missile” is visible while hundreds of people are participating in a demonstration to show support for Ukraine, where a 100-meter-long Ukrainian flag is being carried, in Cologne, Germany, on January 6, 2024. (Photo by Ying Tang/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Answering questions on the subject again this week, Chancellor Scholz developed his reasoning for refusing the weapon by stating it was of such complexity there would necessarily have to be German soldiers present in Ukraine to program and set up the weapon before it could be fired. Scholz said this week: “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”.

Indeed, he doubled down on this on Friday: “I will not support any decision that would somehow involve German soldiers in a military operation related to Russia’s terrible war against Ukraine”.

It is a little-discussed fact that many NATO states have soldiers in Ukraine, but these troops are generally present only to protect the embassies of those nations in Kyiv, and to safeguard diplomatic staff. In some cases they have additional roles: the United States has been open about the fact it has a limited presence of soldiers who track what happens to the enormous amounts of high-tech weapons systems the West gives to Ukraine, for the sake of accountability. Indeed, that presence was re-confirmed only this week by John Kirby.

In the case of the United Kingdom, an apparently off-guard remark by a senior military officer in 2022 revealed there may be more going on behind the scenes, the Lieutenant General saying there had been “discreet operations in a hugely sensitive environment and with a high level of political and military risk”. The British government later strongly denied having any active troops in Ukraine, however, warning against “taking at face value allegations that have the potential to spread disinformation”.

Nonetheless, Scholz saying British and French troops are active inside Ukraine in this more active way — helping Ukrainians to program and target individual missiles — is a considerable step beyond this minor embassy protection role. Figures from the United Kingdom and within Germany itself have lashed out at Scholz for, it is alleged, throwing his allies under the bus to try and diffuse domestic political tension over his own issues.

TAEAN-GUN, SOUTH KOREA – SEPTEMBER 12: In this handout image provided by South Korean Defense Ministry, Taurus long-range air-to-surface missile fired from a South Korean Air Force F-15K fighter jet during an exercise on September 12, 2017 in Taean-gun, South Korea. Taraus is capable of covering entire North Korea with its 500-kilometre firing range. South Korea is scheduled to deploy 177 missiles in this year. United Nations Security Council unanimously approved tougher sanction on North Korea on September 11. (Photo by South Korean Defense Ministry via Getty Images)

Britain’s former defence secretary Ben Wallace, one of the key figures in the early days of the Ukraine war and released to speak freely on the matter by virtue of no longer being inside government, said of the comments: “Time and time again Germany has been last to help Ukraine. At every stage they have had to be pushed or embarrassed into doing anything. That isn’t leadership that is followship.

“Scholz‘s latest gaffe shows that when his excuses are exposed he lashes out with not only dangerous use of facts but also often wrong facts!”

The Daily Telegraph cited Tobias Elwood, until recently the chair of the UK Parliament’s Commons Defence Committee, who said of Scholz’ gaffe: “This is a flagrant abuse of intelligence deliberately designed to distract from Germany’s reluctance to arm Ukraine with its own long-range missile system. This will no doubt be used by Russia to racket up the escalator ladder.”

At the heart of the German debate over the deployment of the advanced Taurus missiles is what they would be used for. The Anglo-French cruise missiles have already been used to pummel the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, a strike at the heart of the nation’s military leadership. Germany’s Taurus bunker-buster cruise missiles, which can navigate themselves accurately over long distances without needing fickle GPS the nation’s Die Welt newspaper notes, have sufficient range to reach Moscow.

On this, Scholz said today: “A Taurus with the 500-km range may hit some specific target in Moscow if used incorrectly…  From the very beginning I clearly said: there will be no German, NATO soldiers in Ukraine… We will prevent escalation, the war between Russia and NATO”.