Leaked German military call amplifies tensions in Russian ‘information war’

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz

4th March 2024 – (Berlin) Germany’s Defence Minister, Boris Pistorius, has accused Russia of waging an “information war” aimed at destabilising the nation. This follows the release of a confidential call between high-ranking German military officers by Russian state media.

The 38-minute recording, which surfaced on Friday and was later authenticated by German authorities, captures a discussion among four Bundeswehr officers, including notable figures such as Air Force chief Ingo Gerhartz and Brigadier General Frank Gräfe. The dialogue centres on the potential export of Taurus cruise missiles to Ukraine and their hypothetical use against Russian targets.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz has been consistently opposed to supplying Kyiv with such weaponry, a stance that has been a source of division within the country’s governing coalition. This contrasts with the positions of Britain and France, which have provided Ukraine with their own long-range missile alternatives.

Pistorius emphasised on Sunday that the officers’ conversation should not be interpreted as approval for missile shipments to Ukraine. He labelled the leak as a calculated move by Moscow to create discord within Germany. “It’s a hybrid disinformation attack — it’s about division, it’s about undermining our unity,” Pistorius stated, cautioning against falling prey to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s tactics.

The leaked dialogue, conducted over Cisco’s WebEx instead of the military’s secure network, included discussions on how Taurus missiles, if supplied, could be employed against Russian infrastructure, such as the Kerch bridge that connects occupied Crimea to mainland Russia. Officers estimated that 10 to 20 missiles might be needed to penetrate Russian air defences and bring down the bridge.

Furthermore, the officers deliberated on the logistics of transferring the necessary data for programming the Taurus missiles from German airbases to Ukraine. Despite the detailed military strategising, they expressed doubts over whether missile deliveries would alter the course of the conflict.

The leak coincides with sensitive timing for the German government, coming days after Chancellor Scholz suggested that British and French personnel were involved in calibrating missile targets for Ukraine — a statement that caused consternation among allies.

Germany’s Military Counterintelligence Service has commenced an investigation into the breach. Pistorius referred to the timing of the audio’s release as suspect, noting its proximity to the funeral of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and the preceding weekend.