With Ukraine’s counteroffensive moving slowly and Britain and France providing long-range missiles to Kyiv, pressure is building on Germany to transfer some of its own.
The Biden administration has made no public indication that it is sending its long-range Army Tactical Missile Systems — known as ATACMS and pronounced “attack ’ems” — to give Ukraine a boost in the counteroffensive against Russian forces. But European officials and security experts say they expect a U.S. announcement soon, raising the stakes for Chancellor Olaf Scholz to donate Germany’s Taurus missiles.
“He is under extreme pressure and might want to end this discussion,” Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, the head of the Bundestag’s Defense Committee, said Thursday in an interview. “But if the Americans will give a green light for delivery of their ATACMS, then maybe.”
A German government spokesman said on Thursday that Mr. Scholz’s position remained unchanged from last month, when the chancellor was asked directly about the Taurus and signaled to journalists that no decision had been reached.
For much of the past year, the German government has sought to announce its donations of armored vehicles, air defense systems and battle tanks in tandem with similar statements from the United States. Long-range missiles are among the last major weapons systems that Ukraine has demanded from the West, but concerns that they could strike Russian territory and escalate the war seeded reluctance in both Berlin and Washington to send them.
Ukraine has pledged to not fire the missiles into Russia’s internationally recognized borders, assurances it also gave when Britain and France donated their long-range missiles earlier this year.
Mr. Scholz, a member of Germany’s center-left Social Democrats party, has other reasons to hesitate amid a clamor from right-wing populists to wind down support for the war that mirrors others across Europe.
His government has voiced concern that Russia could reverse-engineer the Taurus missile and develop ways to counter it, should its components be gathered up on the battlefield. His allies have suggested that German troops would need to be deployed in Ukraine to help operate the Taurus systems. Ms. Strack-Zimmermann and some experts have rejected that assertion, because Kyiv’s forces have been trained on other Western weapons systems in North Atlantic Treaty Organization states.
The missile, formally named the Target Adaptive Unitary and Dispenser Robotic Ubiquity System, has a range of more than 310 miles — at least 120 miles longer than the U.S. ATACMS and probably longer than, or at least comparable to, that of Britain and France’s Storm Shadow and SCALP.
Developed in the early 2000s, the Taurus would be the newest and most sophisticated long-range missile yet for Kyiv. It can fly low to avoid radar detection, and its targeting is so precise that it can hit a specific floor in a building.
Experts said that about 150 Taurus missiles out of the 600 that the German military originally ordered could be available on short notice.
Foreign Minister Dymtro Kuleba of Ukraine said last month that it is “just a matter of time” before the Taurus missiles are delivered. On Thursday, German lawmaker Anton Hofreiter of the Green party said Mr. Scholz’s reluctance “reinforces Putin’s belief that he will win the war in the long run.”
“This sends exactly the wrong signal,” Mr. Hofreiter said Thursday.