EDWARD LUCAS: Tell the Germans if you want to give the Kremlin a secret. Why Berlin is the weakest member of NATO

A British spy provided me with a clear understanding of the situation of Germany’s intelligence agencies in 1988, while I was working as a foreign reporter in West Berlin during the final stages of the Cold War. “Give it to the Germans and tell them it’s a secret if you want the Kremlin to take something seriously,” he advised. “The following morning, it will be on every desk in the Politburo.” It’s obvious that not much has changed in the years.


On Friday, the Russians disclosed that they had overheard a conversation concerning the contentious issue of Germany’s long-range Taurus missile transfer to Ukraine between the head of the Luftwaffe and three senior air force colleagues. Such weapons would enable that nation to attack Russia’s supply routes and logistical hubs, including the Kerch Strait Bridge, which connects Crimea to the Russian mainland. Any respectable nation’s top officials would hold such delicate conversations in secure settings utilizing special phones and encrypted lines—a setup known as a “STRAP environment” in this country. However, the stupid Germans employed Webex, a Zoom-like conference call system.


One person used his regular phone to make a call from Singapore. And the Russian invaders did, too. Amazingly, no one paid attention to the additional, quiet participant. During the call, nothing was decided. The delivery of the missiles is still obstructed by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. However, the 38-minute tape, made public by the Kremlin, did show that he had misled the German people. The brass hats said that skilled Ukrainians could program the missiles using targeting data, contrary to Scholz’s assertion that German experts would need to be present in Ukraine. He thought that this would be an incredibly provocative step. However, allied security rather than reputations suffered the most harm.

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