It is usually the leaders of the federal and state governments who send out special greetings for the New Year. Christine Lambrecht, the Federal Minister of Defence, probably wanted to be offensive and posted her own New Year’s speech on the Internet.

While in the background the New Year’s Eve rockets are already going up in the Berlin air and firecrackers are banging, Lambrecht speaks undeterred into the cell phone camera on Saturday evening. The 57-year-old talks about the challenges of the year that is coming to an end. “There’s a war raging in the middle of Europe,” she says. “There were a lot of special impressions that I was able to gain from this. Many, many encounters with interesting, great people.”

Sounds like a great year for the minister.

The total loss of 18 Puma armored personnel carriers, the lack of ammunition for the troops, problems in obtaining the F-35 or the much-criticized helicopter photos of her son were not mentioned by the SPD politician in her New Year’s speech.

Instead, Lambrecht explains that he will celebrate the turn of the year with family and friends. She thanked everyone who couldn’t because they were on duty.

Meanwhile, Germany took over the leadership of the NATO Rapid Reaction Force (VJTF) at the beginning of the year. The Bundeswehr thus provides around 8,000 men and women for a total of around 11,500 soldiers. This must be ready in 48 to 72 hours to be moved to wherever the alliance needs it. NATO describes its “spearhead”, the leadership of which changes every year, as making a significant contribution to deterrence and defense in Europe.

“While Russia’s illegal war in Ukraine continues to threaten peace and security in Europe, there must be no doubting NATO’s determination to protect and defend every inch of Alliance territory,” NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said in Brussels communicated at the turn of the year. NATO thanks Germany for assuming leadership of the VJTF in 2023.

A total of nine NATO countries are taking part in the multinational forces this year, including Belgium, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and Slovenia. The Panzergrenadierbrigade 37 “Freistaat Sachsen” is the lead organization for the multinational land units of the VJTF. Of the approximately 5,000 soldiers in the brigade, around 4,000 are committed to NATO.

The establishment of a very high readiness joint task force (VJTF) goes back to resolutions at the NATO summit in Wales in September 2014 and was a reaction to the Russian annexation of Crimea. NATO has since stepped up protection for allies in the East who feel threatened by Russia. The VJTF is the troop with the greatest willingness to be deployed at short notice.

The failure of the Puma infantry fighting vehicle during a firing exercise in December had overshadowed the Bundeswehr’s participation in the VJTF. After numerous technical defects, Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht (SPD) announced that the German soldiers would not be provided with the Puma as a combat vehicle, but with the older Marder.