Leaked German military recording: With new Spy vs Spy game, has Cold War begun again?

The recording shows espionage system is intact and as active as ever

Ingo-Gerhartz Lieutenant General Ingo Gerhartz, the commander of German Air Force | via Wikicommons

The leak of a 38-minute-long audio tape of a conversation of a ‘very sensitive’ nature between Lieutenant General Ingo Gerhartz, the commander of Luftwaffe, the German Air Force, with three of his subordinates, on Russian state-owned media outlet RT, has the strategic community sit up and take notice.

While many reports say that the CIA had prior knowledge of Russia's plan to launch special operations in Ukraine and which it had reportedly warned Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy about, the fact remains that the espionage system—a strong vestige of the Cold War era—is intact and as active as ever if not less.

Among the leaked content of Gen Gerhartz’s chat was a debate on a possible delivery of the German Taurus missile to Ukraine.

With its 500-km range, Ukraine can conduct deep strikes with the stealth-capable Taurus (an abbreviated form for ‘Target Adaptive Unitary and Dispenser Robotic Ubiquity System) including the Kerch Bridge, which connects Crimea to Ukraine, and which was mentioned in the leaked audio.

Delivering the Taurus would therefore escalate the ongoing war to dangerous levels.

While the UK and France also supply the Storm Shadows or the Scalp missiles to Ukraine, the range is considerably less.

The very fact that Russia chose to release the leak in a Russian propaganda platform rather than to other media outlets underlines that Moscow is stepping up its espionage game.

The earlier Cold War (1947-1991), in the aftermath of the Second World War, saw the world being divided into two camps—one led by the East or the Soviet Block and the other being the Western block led by the US. It is commonly agreed that the Cold War era ended in 1991 with the world moving to the unipolar phase from a bipolar phase.

Broadly, the main fulcrums of the Cold War were an active effort on the part of the two blocs to spread their spheres of influence, an arms race that included nuclear stockpiling and a very active espionage system. The Cold War is also described as the lack of an open war between the two warring superpowers but one that is waged using proxies.

All these conditions are prevalent in the current context except for the fact that Russia is actively fighting in Ukraine.

It is noteworthy that the leak happened after French President Emmanuel Macron courted controversy by suggesting that soldiers may be sent to Ukraine.

While France is the military powerhouse in Europe, Germany is the biggest economy.

On Ukraine, the Germans have been somewhat reluctant to be as proactive as the British or the French in supporting Ukraine with war material.

Just before the Ukraine war began in February 2022, the German Navy chief Vice-Admiral Kay-Achim Schönbach created quite a stir at an event organised in New Delhi by the Manohar Parikkar Institute of Defence and Strategic Analysis (MPIDSA), when he said of Germany’s Indo-pacific strategy: “Does Russia really wants small and tiny strip of Ukraine soil, integrate the country. No, this is nonsense. Putin is probably putting pressure because he knows he can do it, and he splits EU opinion. What he really wants is respect. And my God, giving someone respect is low cost, even no cost. It is easy to give him the respect he really demands—and probably also deserves.”

While Admiral Schönbach had soon to put in his papers, it was not before underscoring the lack of unity in the western ranks.

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