Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht has resigned. In her short career as head of the Bundeswehr, she made a whole series of mishaps and mistakes. An overview of their blunders.
In December, Scholz defended his minister in an interview with the “Süddeutsche Zeitung” with the words: “The Bundeswehr has a first-class defense minister.” Now Christine Lambrecht has offered her resignation. In her short tenure as head of the Bundeswehr, she made a few mistakes. Her recent appearance in a video from New Year’s Eve that she posted on Instagram led to numerous calls for the minister to resign – on January 16th the time had come.
In her justification, the minister wrote: “The media focus on my person hardly allows factual reporting and discussion about the soldiers, the Bundeswehr and security policy decisions in the interests of the citizens of Germany.”
A look back at the minister’s glitches and mistakes.
With her speech on New Year’s Eve with fireworks in the background, Christine Lambrecht said: “A war is raging in the middle of Europe.” For Lambrecht, this meant “many, many encounters with great people”, for which she was grateful. For the Instagram post, she received harsh criticism from her own ranks as well as from the opposition. The allegations range from “incompetence” to “no sense of proper communication”. Demands for his resignation were raised again, but the minister held on to her position for the time being. However, the pressure on the SPD politician increased – at the end of the second week of January rumors were heard that the minister would offer to resign. You should prove yourself.
During a maneuver in December, all 18 “Puma” armored personnel carriers failed, although they were only classified as combat-ready in 2021. The tanks were actually intended for the command operation of the Bundeswehr in the NATO Rapid Reaction Force (VJTF) to secure the eastern flank of the military alliance. Instead, the much older “martens” are to be turned off for the intervention team. Lambrecht initially blamed the manufacturers for the damage. She later promised a damage report, which she did not deliver until the beginning of January, but which was only two pages long and did not describe the technical problems and their causes in more detail, but the industry spoke of “minor damage”. By the end of the year, 17 of the 18 armored personnel carriers had been repaired. Coming to terms with the “Puma” misery became another pitfall for Lambrecht.
At the end of November, the Federal Minister of Defense gave an interview to the “Rheinische Post”. Among other things, she spoke about the plan to support Poland with German Patriot units after two misguided Ukrainian missiles hit the country.
Two weeks later it came out that Lambrecht shouldn’t have done that at all. According to a report by “Bild am Sonntag”, Poland had asked the Federal Ministry of Defense for secrecy. “Your offer will be examined very carefully by us,” the newspaper quoted an email from Piotr Pacholski, deputy director of the international security policy department. “At the same time, we would like to ask and recommend that you refrain from disclosing information.”
FDP defense expert Marcus Faber sharply criticized Lambrecht’s behavior in an interview with “Bild am Sonntag”. “We have to communicate respectfully with NATO partners like Poland,” he said. “I recommend that the minister not divulge any information in interviews that allies do not yet want to be published in the press. Otherwise, the foundations of trusting cooperation will be destroyed.”
And Poland also seems angry. Defense Minister Mariusz Błaszczak said after the defense minister’s blunder that Germany should rather deploy the Patriot batteries in western Ukraine.
There are apparently more problems with the purchase of F35 fighter jets from the USA than the Department of Defense has previously admitted. As the “mirror” reports, the ministry is apparently unsure of the price.
The paper quotes from the so-called 25 million euro template, which is classified as classified information. As a result, the prices are “expressly subject to adjustment”. Other risks should also be mentioned. There could be problems if German standards were not met. For example, national approval for flight operations may not be forthcoming.
The descriptions are apparently particularly specific at Büchel Air Base. According to “Spiegel”, the paper states that “timely implementation of the weapon system-specific infrastructure by 2026” under the framework conditions mentioned is “highly ambitious”.
There is also talk of “delays” and “increased financial requirements”. The modernization of the Büchel airfield is the central prerequisite for the F-35 project. It is intended to secure the nuclear participation of the Federal Republic.
In an emergency, it is the German Air Force that drops the US nuclear bombs stored there. However, the USA will only send the F35 jets required for this when Büchel has completed the modernization.
So it is hardly surprising that the coalition is seething. SPD politician Andreas Schwarz told the “Bild am Sonntag”: “It is unacceptable that Parliament is only now learning about the problems. I expect the ministry to provide comprehensive information on how it intends to get the risks under control. Attempts are being made here to get rid of responsibility.”
And there is also criticism from the opposition. “The troops and all of Germany only have to be ashamed of this new information. The question arises as to whether there is inability or intention behind it,” said the defense policy spokesman for the Union faction, Florian Hahn (CSU), the German Press Agency.
Lambrecht has repeatedly come under pressure in recent months, for example because of a vote in the Bundestag. The background: In July, the Bundestag voted on a Union proposal to help Ukraine with 200 Fuchs tanks.
The application was rejected, in addition to the traffic light groups, some MPs from the left and AfD also voted against it. The parliamentarians thus followed the line of the federal government. Referring to the Fuchs armored personnel carriers, Minister Lambrecht said that it would harm Germany’s “defense capability” if some from the Bundeswehr stocks were handed over to the Ukraine. Lambrecht describes this as “looting”.
But as the “Welt am Sonntag” reports, by no means all traffic light deputies were of this opinion. A total of eleven Greens and 14 Liberals did not vote.
Who acted politically and who was prevented for other reasons cannot be fully clarified: However, five members of the Green Party explicitly told the newspaper that they had left for political reasons, but did not want to make this public yet.
The others declined to comment, the report said. An unnamed person from the Greens can be quoted as saying: “Many in our parliamentary group are becoming less and less patient.” The displeasure is directed at the Chancellery and the Ministry of Defense.
There was also criticism of Lambrecht via a statement. In a debate in the Bundestag on the subject of arms deliveries to Ukraine, she claimed a few months ago that “applications for arms exports would of course continue to be decided in the Federal Security Council”.
Its meetings “do not necessarily have to take place in person”, one could “also coordinate in a circular procedure”. And “of course” they “made these decisions along the way.”
But obviously that wasn’t true. Because the federal government had informed the CDU MP Thomas Röwekamp in writing that the export decisions for the Ukraine would not be made by the Federal Security Council, but “currently regularly at management level by the Federal Chancellery and the Federal Security Council departments”.
This is reported by the “Welt”. According to the government information, the Security Council has “so far not made any approval decisions on the export of armaments in 2022, including deliveries of weapons from Bundeswehr stocks”.
Florian Hahn (CSU), defense policy spokesman for the Union faction, told the newspaper: “Minister Lambrecht obviously said the untruth in the Bundestag.”
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Lambrecht was under political fire from the start. As someone who openly admitted that she had not even aspired to the task of defense minister, she started with a skeptical press: “Minister in basic training – this is not time for the troops,” warned the “world”.
The reason: In November 2020, Lambrecht, then Minister of Justice, announced her withdrawal from politics. In interviews, she justified the step with “personal reasons”.
She was at an age where you could start something new again, she said in view of the impending defeat of the SPD in the federal elections and thought aloud about perhaps working as a lawyer again, her “dream job”. But when the SPD won the election about a year later, the dream job was forgotten.
Once nominated, their quick personnel decisions caused irritation. Even before taking office, close associates of her predecessor Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (CDU) should vacate their offices.
While other previous members of the government, such as former Economics Minister Peter Altmaier (CDU), celebrated the transfer of office in a friendly manner, Kramp-Karrenbauer demonstratively stayed away from the reception of the successor – a style that she did not otherwise use.
At the beginning of 2022, the situation in Ukraine also came to the fore for the minister. The pressure on Germany to help the country increased. The SPD politician then declared in late January that Germany’s support to beleaguered Ukraine would consist of the delivery of 5,000 military protective helmets.
The criticism came immediately and was fierce. The fact that Ukraine had specifically asked the federal government for the helmets faded into the background. The opposition fired a broadside at the minister. CDU leader Friedrich Merz attested to “doubts about Germany’s reliability”.
Kiev Mayor Vitali Klitschko called it an “absolute joke”. When the war broke out at the end of February and the army inspector said the Bundeswehr was “blank” and only partially ready to defend itself, this comment also stuck with the minister.
But with Scholz’s radical change of course and the decision to upgrade to 100 billion euros, she of all people was given the key position in reorganizing Germany’s security architecture.
In his decisive speech in the Bundestag, however, Scholz no longer named the Minister of Defense by name, while he expressly emphasized other ministers as supporters of his change of course. From then on it was clear that he wanted to have a say in the distribution of the billion dollar budget. A de facto disempowerment of Lambrecht.
Tip: SPD problem – Christine Lambrecht: Germany’s controversial defense minister
However, the politically stricken minister still did not go about her work with the necessary diligence. In the spring, she made a faux pas on the fringes of the meeting of EU defense ministers in Brussels.
She announced to the press that she would offer her colleagues “that the military core, the rapid reaction force, can then be provided by Germany for a year in 2025”.
It’s about 5,000 soldiers, of which nobody in the Ministry of Defense knew where they were supposed to come from. The authority then clarified, somewhat twisted grammatically, that the minister had offered “that the Bundeswehr can provide the core of the rapid reaction force for 2025”. That sounds like less.
In Germany, the Federal Chancellor and Defense Minister share command of the armed forces. In times of peace, it is the currently incumbent Federal Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht (SPD), as soon as the state of defense arises, Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) takes over the supreme command.
The division of labor is in the Basic Law. However, after the start of the war in Ukraine, Olaf Scholz withdrew from the minister the authority to distribute the additional 100 billion euros for the Bundeswehr. He wants to have a say himself. In doing so, he de facto disempowered the Secretary of Defense.
And as the war against Ukraine raged intensified, new disturbing details about the work of the Defense Department leaked out.
SPD problem – Christine Lambrecht: Germany’s controversial defense minister