German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht, of the centre-left Social Democrats, formally announced her resignation on Monday after a weekend of speculation about her future.
Lambrecht was under intense pressure because of a video she posted on Instagram on New Year’s Day from the streets of Berlin, in which she tried to summarize her experience of the war in Ukraine, but she was nearly drowned out by the noise of exploding fireworks around her.
Members of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) called the letter deafening and urged her to resign.
“The media focus that has been going on for months on my person does not allow for objective writing and reporting on military personnel, women, the Bundeswehr and security policy decisions for the benefit of German citizens,” Lambrecht wrote in a statement on Monday.
Schultz: The replacement will be announced quickly
Chancellor Olaf Scholz remained loyal to Lamprecht until the end, describing her as “first-rate” as recently as December.
Schulz said on Monday he had a “clear idea” of plans to replace Lambrecht and would announce his intentions quickly, but said it was too early to discuss them on Monday. He praised Lamprecht for her work trying to usher in reforms in one of Germany’s most difficult ministries.
“I have worked with great involvement to move away from the paths that have been followed for decades so that we can manage the major restart necessary for the national defense and also for Ukraine,” he said.
Tough year on defense
Lambrecht’s tenure, even before the war in Ukraine, began inauspiciously. Military experts were uncertain of her experience, and her year in office became a series of minor scandals. Lambrecht also had to make a lot of criticism for the German government’s reluctance to send heavy weapons to Ukraine.
But it didn’t help that she took her adult son on an official trip to a military unit in northern Germany in a German Armed Forces helicopter, to catch up with him on vacation on Sylt.
But perhaps more important than the family’s scandals is the apparent loss of faith in the armed forces, with leaks emerging in the German media in recent weeks.
one source said Der Spiegel This weekend, the Ministry of Defense fell into a “deep dormancy” under Lambrecht. “What ultimately led her to resign was a complete loss of the authority of the Ministry of Defense,” said Rafael Luce, a defense expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR). “I think that suggests that even if she had continued as minister it would have been very much a lost cause.”
Schultz hopes his new appointment will provide some stability to the department. Among the candidates being proposed in the German media are Social Democratic Party leader Lars Klingbeil, longtime Labor Minister Hubertus Hill, and Eva Högel, the special parliamentary commissioner for the German army. A successor would almost certainly hail from the Social Democrats led by Schulz, to maintain the balance in the cabinet agreed upon during coalition negotiations. Schulz also promised to maintain parity between men and women in his government.
Great job for the new person
Whoever the new minister is, they’re going to have to go fast. And the first thing in the works will be to prepare for the “Ukraine contact group” of NATO defense ministers on Friday, at the US Air Force base in Ramstein, western Germany.
The loss in the ECFR believed that Schultz could use this meeting to reset Germany’s policy on Ukraine, which has come under international pressure.
“The resignation opens the opportunity for Schulz to change the narrative about Germany’s support for Ukraine,” he told DW. “If he had any interest in showing more leadership before the Ramstein Air Force Base meeting, I think this resignation gives him an opportunity to spin a story about how to change everything.”
Whatever the case, the German defense minister will ultimately have little say in major decisions about what weapons are sent to Ukraine, but he will have a lot to deal with.
“NATO has already placed significant burdens on the German armed forces in connection with the current deployment,” Loos said. “The next two years will greatly increase the pace of operations and the requirements of the Bundeswehr, and achieving this will be a challenge. The task of the next Minister of Defense will be to manage all this, while not losing the support of the armed forces, as Christine Lambrecht apparently did.”
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