German lawmakers back sending further long-range weapons to Ukraine, but vague on details

BERLIN (AP) — German lawmakers on Thursday called on the government to deliver further long-range weapons to Ukraine, but voted down an opposition call explicitly urging it to send Taurus long-range cruise missiles.

Germany is now the second-biggest supplier of military aid to Ukraine after the United States, and Chancellor Olaf Scholz has called recently for other European countries to step up with more weapons deliveries.

His government is increasing aid for Ukraine this year, planning more than 7 billion euros ($7.5 billion) for weapons deliveries. It has delivered air-defense systems, tanks and armored personnel carriers among other aid. Last week, Scholz signed a long-term bilateral security agreement with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

However, Scholz has stalled for months on Ukraine’s desire for Taurus missiles, which have a range of up to 500 kilometers (310 miles) and could in theory be used against targets far behind the front line. He hasn't stated definitively that they won't be delivered or publicly going into detail.

That has annoyed the conservative opposition and some within Scholz's three-party coalition. The chancellor has long emphasized his determination to help Ukraine without escalating the war and drawing NATO into it.

“Ukraine is still not entirely receiving the material it urgently needs to repel the Russian war of aggression effectively,” opposition leader Friedrich Merz told parliament.

A motion drawn up by the coalition parties on support for Ukraine two years into Russia's full-scale invasion called on the government to keep up military support and said “this includes the delivery of further necessary long-range weapons systems and ammunition” to enable attacks on “strategically important targets far in the rear of the Russian aggressor.” Such motions aren’t binding.

The formulation allowed government lawmakers to advocate sending Taurus missiles, or not. Asked by an opposition lawmaker whether it includes them, Defense Minister Boris Pistorius replied: “I can't answer that.”

Pistorius said Germany's contribution is drawing admiration at international conferences, “and here the opposition is talking us into the ground.”

A prominent lawmaker with one of the junior coalition parties and longtime advocate of strong support for Ukraine, Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, said she regretted that the motion wasn't more specific.

“We don't need to hide in international comparison, quite the contrary,” said Strack-Zimmermann, the chair of parliament's defense committee. “Ukraine no longer has time," she said.

The governing parties' motion passed by 382 votes to 284, with two abstentions. A separate opposition motion on German policy since the full invasion of Ukraine started, which included a call for the prompt delivery of all available weapons systems sought by Ukraine and specifically mentioned Taurus missiles, was defeated by 480 votes to 182. Five lawmakers abstained.

Geir Moulson, The Associated Press