The head of the Union parliamentary group in the Bundestag has sharply criticized Defense Minister Boris Pistorius (SPD) for his handling of information about possible Russian attempts to intercept NATO data. In a letter available to the German Press Agency in Berlin, the parliamentary managing director of the CDU/CSU MPs, Thorsten Frei, accuses the minister of an inadequate response to a request in connection with a possible disclosure of military secrets of the Bundeswehr by authorities in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania .

The CDU politician calls on Pistorius to “answer the Union’s questions immediately” and otherwise threatens organ dispute proceedings before the Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe.

Background: At the beginning of December, after questioning witnesses in the state committee of inquiry into the Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania Climate Foundation, members of the state parliament in Schwerin reported that Moscow had tried to obtain secret NATO data to the Baltic Sea through the approval process for the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline. A CDU MP explained at the time that the Stralsund Mining Authority, as the licensing authority, had asked the Bundeswehr on behalf of Nord Stream 2 for coordinates of NATO’s submarine diving areas in the region.

The climate foundation was founded by the state parliament at the beginning of 2021 to enable the gas pipeline to be completed while avoiding impending US sanctions, which was also successful. Among other things, the committee should clarify how great the influence of the Russian donors was on the then SPD/CDU state government when the foundation was founded. Nord Stream 2, a subsidiary of the Russian state-owned company Gazprom, was the largest donor to the MV Climate Protection Foundation with 20 million euros. Nord Stream 2 did not go into operation as a result of the Russian attack on Ukraine in February 2022.

Submarine diving areas and number of shots in the Pomeranian Bay

The Union parliamentary group sent the federal government a catalog of 18 questions on February 22nd – also with reference to media reports that the Bundeswehr’s military secrets, particularly regarding the number of shots fired in the Pomeranian Bay artillery firing area, had been passed on to third parties without federal approval and were partly published on the Internet.

In its response to the dpa in Berlin, the Ministry of Defense points out that dealing with the matter is very complex and time-consuming. “A comprehensive answer to some of the questions cannot be provided due to the unreasonable effort that would be associated with the survey,” says the letter dated March 25th.

State Secretary: Answering this would weaken the ministry

The Defense Department further writes: “Proper processing of the minor request would also tie up capacities to such an extent that it would lead to a significant and unjustifiable weakening of the functionality of the Federal Ministry of Defense. The proper fulfillment of the tasks of the organizational unit would therefore be significantly jeopardized.”

Free: “The term “answer” is euphemistic”

Frei told the dpa that it was “considerable that even answering a small query would overwhelm the Ministry of Defense.” If this is the case, Pistorius urgently needs to rebuild his house. He added: “If these are just pretextual reasons, it is a blatant disregard for Parliament.” The defense minister is “duty to comply with the parliamentary right to ask questions”.

In his letter to Pistorius, Frei also criticizes: “The very course of the procedure shows a disregard for the constitutionally guaranteed parliamentary right to ask questions.” The ministry’s response was only received weeks after the response deadline expired on March 7th. Frei adds smugly that “the term ‘answer'” can “only be seen as euphemistic” since “the federal government refuses to provide information on almost all of the essential points of the request.”

Ministry: Documents on number of shots submitted

However, the Defense Ministry’s response is not entirely without content. When asked what documents the Bundeswehr had submitted in the course of the approval process for Nord Stream 2, the ministry replied that there were documents about the number of shots and calibers in the Pomeranian Bay artillery firing area as well as “a communication about the use of acoustic, optical and electromagnetic measuring devices”. Stralsund Mining Authority and the Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency (BSH).

The Ministry of Defense does not answer the last of the 18 questions publicly, but “with a view to the welfare of the state” only with the classified information “VS – For official use only”. The Union parliamentary group wanted to know whether relevant employees of the Stralsund Mining Authority or of the state authorities who were involved in the Nord Stream 2 process were informed by the federal intelligence services – i.e. the Federal Intelligence Service (BND), the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV ) or the Military Counterintelligence Service (MAD) – had been checked for potential dangers.

The ministry responds: “Disclosing the requested information carries the risk that details of the Federal Intelligence Service’s (BND) findings would become known, especially since conclusions can be drawn from this about intelligence approaches and priorities.” As a result, “both state and non-state actors could draw conclusions about the BND’s specific procedures and capabilities.”