Luftwaffe Brass Hold Unsecure Online Webex Meeting About Using Taurus Missiles To Blow up the Kerch Bridge

You might’ve heard about Webex, a company that provides eponymous videoconferencing software. They pledge to “bring together your global workforce and customers anywhere, on any device, in any environment” and to furnish “an engaging meeting experience, no matter … location, language or communication style.” Basically, Webex is a less popular Zoom. A lot of people use Webex, including universities, major corporations, and apparently also the German Luftwaffe, when their Brigadier General is off networking in Singapore and the need arises to discuss Taurus cruise missiles and how they might be used to destroy the Kerch Bridge or Russian munitions depots.

You must understand that these are very supersecret operations. It is one thing to arm Ukraine, but quite another thing to provide targeting assistance, because at a certain point it begins to look like we Germans are just using Ukraine as a cut-out for our own military aggression, and the last thing we want to do is provoke open hostilities. The whole point of the Ukraine war is that it allows us to strike Russia at one remove and with plausible deniability. This is important to the Federal Republic, because after years of mismanagement and underfunding, our soldiers are barely equipped to shoot down Houthi drones in the Red Sea. Should Germany give the Ukraine some of its precious few Taurus missiles, any assistance with pointing and firing them would have to be laundered supersecretly through Poland, or through the British, lest our fingerprints end up anywhere on the scheme. It’s so suspersecret that a Lieutenant Colonel might have to drive the targeting data across the Polish border to hand it off personally to intermediaries, just so nobody can prove direct German involvement. That is how supersecret all of this is.

While the origins of this targeting data have to be kept supersecret, our Luftwaffe brass decided that their conversation about maintaining this supersecrecy could be entrusted to an unsecure Webex videoconference. In this they resemble a murderer who plans the perfect crime only to livestream the entire thing to his friends on Facebook.

On Friday, Russia Today published the audio of the 38-minute conference call held on 19 February between Luftwaffe Inspekteur Ingo Gerhartz, Brigadier General Frank Gräfe, and two Lieutenant Colonels named Florstedt and Fenske, as they speculated about the practicalities of supplying Taurus to Ukraine. The leak amounts to one of the greatest security scandals Germany has experienced in recent memory. At first the Bundeswehr tried to limit the damage by blocking social media accounts that linked to the recording. After dishonest press speculation that the recording might be a deep fake, the Defence Ministry confirmed that the leak was authentic on Saturday.

In what follows, I’ll go over the entire call in detail, and then I’ll talk a bit about Pistorius’s recent press conference on the scandal and some broader context.

For the less patient, I provide this TLDR of the major points:

Olaf Scholz’s ongoing refusal to deliver Taurus missiles to Ukraine is a subject of deep consternation and puzzlement in the Luftwaffe and perhaps also the Ministry of Defence. The leadership are rattled by rumours that Scholz is reluctant to deliver because Taurus doesn’t work, which they consider “total bollocks,” and they hope that growing international pressure may cause Scholz to give in sooner or later. Taurus is a complex weapons system and the Ukrainians will not be able to use it without months of training. Efforts to cut corners here could be dangerous and result in a Taurus missile obliterating civilian targets. Should Scholz change his mind, either Germany or (preferably) British operatives in Ukraine would have to assist in planning the earliest Taurus attacks. Simply waiting for Ukrainians to complete Taurus missile school and use the weapons on their own is undesirable, because the months-long delay would generate bad headlines. At first only about 50 missiles can be delivered; even if Ukraine presses for more, they are unlikely to get more than 100. Nobody believes this will change the course of the war at all, but Taurus missiles have the potential to take out the Kerch Bridge; secondarily, they might be used against Russian munitions depots. For these purposes, they would probably have to be mounted on Sukhoi Su-24 tactical bombers, and Ukraine has hardly any of these left.

Now to the details:

The conference call is a thing to behold. The recording seems to have been taken from Brigadier General Gräfe’s computer; it opens as a captain offers to connect Gräfe to the call. The Taurus experts, Fenske and Florstedt, are waiting for him. “Long time no hear!” Florstedt says to Gräfe in English. Throughout they use random English catch-phrases, worse than the dumbest teenagers. Gräfe immediately begins raving about the “mega” view from his Singaporean hotel room. He reports to his subordinates that there’s a fantastic swimming pool right next to the bar where he’s just had a drink, and that he’s getting to meet all kinds of people. “That’s the great thing about these events,” he confides.

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