NOS Nieuws•vandaag, 21:43
She doesn’t even do well to leave, is the unrelenting comment of a German newspaper on Christine Lambrecht. After a little over a year, the Social Democrat resigns from her position as German defense minister, with a statement of only five sentences in which she blames mainly the media. And that at a time when important decisions about the military are needed.
After an accumulation of criticism in recent months, her position had already become very shaky. With New Year’s Eve, an uncomfortable video message was added that she herself posted on her Instagram. She posted that a year of war had given her the opportunity “for many meetings with interesting people”.
It was a final tear in the image of a minister whose relationship with Defense seems to have been unhappy from the start.
It was not a very popular job when the ministerial posts were divided under Chancellor Scholz at the end of 2021. Germany had neglected its own army for years. The equipment was poor and major investments to do something about it were not in the offing. The post is known as “ejection seat” and would have been the last one left when the government was formed.
The choice for Lambrecht came as a surprise. Not only because the lawyer had no experience in the field of Defence, but also because she had aimed her arrows at the Interior. She previously served as Minister of Justice and as State Secretary for Finance she worked closely with Scholz, when he was still Minister of Finance.
Even before she officially took office, some of the Defense staff, some of whom had worked there for years, were told that they had to leave immediately. One of the reasons why it is said that the then retiring minister did not want to be present when Lambrecht was actually appointed.
Lambrecht on a visit to an army unit in Germany
According to weekly magazine Der Spiegel, Lambrecht would then have shown little dedication and responsibility for Defense. Study sessions to get to know the ministry quickly were cancelled. A traditional trip to troops abroad, just before Christmas, was also cancelled. It wouldn’t have helped her popularity in the military at all.
Added to this is a visit to a nail salon shortly after the outbreak of war in Ukraine, and photos of her son flying on duty in an Air Force helicopter. She emphasized that she paid for it herself, but it also flaked her image further.
None of these in themselves were grounds for dismissal. But there were also problems of a more substantive nature.
German support for Ukraine, especially arms support, was wavering. For example, the government did not want to supply weapons at first, only 5000 helmets. After that, weapons were promised, but delivered only slowly. Heavy weapons would not materialize, but came later. And often there was a lack of ammunition.
Not all of that was Lambrecht’s fault. The German army was already poorly equipped before it arrived, and Chancellor Scholz is also responsible for important decisions. He showed himself to be extremely reserved, partly for fear that the war would otherwise escalate further.
At the same time, Scholz announced a huge investment in the armed forces, an unprecedented break with the policies of his predecessors. That was almost a year ago. Nevertheless, Lambrecht failed to significantly improve the situation at Defense. Orders are slowly coming in, bureaucracy continues to put the brakes on.
Lambrecht (l) and Olaf Scholz (r) during a budget debate in the Bundestag
Lambrecht herself keeps the explanation for her departure short. In just five sentences, she mainly points to the media. “The months of media attention for me as a person no longer leaves room for objective reporting and discussion about the soldiers, the army and the security policy.”
The pressure on Scholz to quickly name a successor to Lambrecht is great. For example, because Germany is already faced with the next important choice: will the country supply heavy main battle tanks to Ukraine or not? While other countries have already pledged these or similar tanks, pressure is growing on the German government to do the same. A decision that also has consequences for your own equipment: there is less and less left for it.
Western countries will meet in Germany next Friday to discuss this, among other things. The day before, the US Secretary of Defense will visit. It is still unclear by whom he will be received in Germany. Scholz is expected to make an announcement on Tuesday.
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