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Senior German officials confirm authenticity of officers' WebEx recording – WSJ

Saturday, 2 March 2024, 23:44
Senior German officials confirm authenticity of officers' WebEx recording – WSJ
Taurus. Photo: Afp via Getty Images

Senior German officials have confirmed to The Wall Street Journal the authenticity of a recording of Air Force officers during an online meeting held on the commercial, unencrypted WebEx platform.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

Details: The newspaper notes that one of the officers joined the meeting using his mobile phone from a hotel room in Singapore.


Officials familiar with the German investigation into the audio leak said the military and other sensitive departments of the German government widely use WebEx. "This should be a wake-up call," said one senior official.

The meeting focused on how Germany could organise the delivery and operation of Taurus long-range cruise missiles if they were sent to Ukraine. The officials also claimed on the recording that the UK, France and the US were keeping military personnel in Ukraine to help operate modern Western weapons systems, which these countries have denied.

In the recording, Ingo Gerhartz, German Air Force Commander-in-Chief, instructed his aides to prepare a presentation for the defence minister on how Germany could supply Ukraine with Taurus and how Kyiv could use it to destroy targets including ammunition depots and the Crimean Bridge.

German officers on the recording noted that they had analysed in great detail how to attack this key infrastructure site and said it would take 10 to 20 Taurus missiles to bypass Russian air defence systems and destroy the bridge.

"There is no real reason to say we can’t do this; it only depends on the political red lines," General Gerhartz said.

Germany has about 600 Taurus missiles in service, of which about 500 are considered operational. General Gerhartz said that Germany could afford to supply Ukraine with 100 missiles in two tranches.

He added that the UK and France are putting pressure on Germany to provide missiles because they have exhausted their own stocks.

In the leaked conversation, General Gerharts said that it makes no sense to provide Ukraine with more than 100 missiles, as these weapons cannot have a significant impact on the battlefield, because Ukraine does not have enough troops to liberate new or even hold controlled territory.

According to him, the destruction of the Crimean Bridge would be strategically and politically important, but Ukraine is unlikely to be able to continue a ground offensive.

"This will not change the course of the war, we must be clear about that," Gerharts said.

According to the leaked conversation, it would take six hours for Ukraine to launch a missile after receiving intelligence on a new target, if its personnel were properly trained and had access to all the necessary data.

The German air force has modelled the terrain around the battlefield for the weapon system and can easily help Ukrainian forces bypass Russian air defences around key targets, including the Crimean bridge, the officers said.

According to one of the officers, this topographic data is "for German eyes only" and its dissemination could violate restrictions imposed by the German government on German involvement in the conflict.

Training for Ukrainian operators will take between two weeks and four months, depending on the level of accuracy and complexity of the tasks they will have to perform, say the officers who participated in the recorded conversation.

General Gerhartz says the chancellor insisted that any missile delivered be used without any involvement of Berlin's armed forces.

One general involved in the talks said that the missiles could be installed relatively easily on Ukrainian Su-24 aircraft, which are already equipped to carry Storm Shadow missiles. They could also be easily installed on the F-16 fighter jets that Ukraine is expected to receive from NATO this year.

According to General Gerharts, US military personnel in Ukraine could help local troops with the Taurus. "Many people with American accents run around [in Ukraine] in civilian clothes," he said.


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