Germany and UK Vow Not to Let Putin Divide Ukraine’s Allies

(Bloomberg) -- Germany and the UK vowed not to let President Vladimir Putin drive a wedge between them after a Russian hack of German intelligence exposed a disagreement over how to provide military support to Ukraine.

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“I don’t want to play into the hands of some Russian narrative about divisions between allies,” British Foreign Secretary David Cameron told reporters at a joint news conference in Berlin with German counterpart Annalena Baerbock. He said there was “incredible unity between allies” and in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Russian media last week published what they said was a conversation between high-ranking German air-force officials about supplying long-range Taurus cruise missiles to the government in Kyiv.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz has repeatedly ruled out such a move, arguing that it could make Germany an active participant in the Kremlin’s war on Ukraine. The UK government has privately urged Berlin to rethink, arguing that Kyiv badly needs the weapons, Bloomberg has reported.

As well as deeply embarrassing for Scholz’s governing coalition and the armed forces, the leak raised questions about his country’s security protocols and reliability as a NATO partner.

Baerbock said Ukraine’s allies would not let the Russian president intimidate them and sow discord.

“If we have different views, we will discuss that behind closed doors,” she told reporters. “Because we won’t let ourselves be divided by Putin, no matter what other means and methods he will use.”

Asked about supplying Taurus, she acknowledged that Ukraine needs ammunition and long-range missiles, though she added that there were many different types.

Though Cameron said the decision ultimately lies with Germany, he said several times that long-range weapons have helped Ukraine in its fight to repel Russia.

The UK has offered solutions to Berlin’s resistance, including a swap deal that would see Britain supply more of its own Storm Shadow missiles, and Germany then restock Britain with replacements.

A wider argument also blew up between the UK and Germany over an apparent reference by Scholz to British troops in Ukraine assisting with the operation of weapons systems against Russian targets. The remarks were seen by some British lawmakers as the German leader publicly commenting on the classified activities of UK soldiers.

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius presented some initial findings of a probe into his country’s intelligence breach on Tuesday. He said it likely occurred when one of the participants joined a WebEx call from Singapore over a public Wi-Fi network that was hacked by Russia.

The government is checking its IT systems to assess whether tighter security is required to prevent such a lapse happening again, he said.

According to the transcript, German officers discussed how many Taurus missiles would be needed to destroy a bridge linking mainland Russia to Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula that Russia annexed in 2014.

Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said Monday the recording showed that Germany’s armed forces “are discussing substantive and specific plans to strike Russian territory.”

--With assistance from Iain Rogers.

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