Secretary of Defense Christina Lambrecht (SPD) seemed relaxed on Friday afternoon. She had just finished a conversation with representatives of the defense industry. It was about the future of the Puma infantry fighting vehicle, which once again did not work as it should. But now everything is supposed to get better, the soldiers are to be given more training, and the industry is to be held more accountable. It was one of those announcements again. Lambrecht sent the armaments managers and press people into the January day with friendly words: “Nice weekend”.
It was not yet known that this weekend would be her last in this office. In the evening it was announced from the government apparatus that she would not be staying much longer. The newspaper reported first picture about that. Also the Southgerman newspaper found out a little later: Lambrecht is facing that resignation. They say it’s her decision. She had spoken to the chancellor a long time ago. Accordingly, she wanted to explain her withdrawal in the coming week. At the end of her first year as secretary of defense, she no longer even has control over her departure: week by week, she was losing authority. Now she obviously sees for herself, things can’t go on like this.
Instead of being the manager of the turning point, she made other headlines
Lambrecht, 57 years old, former Minister of Justice and for a short time also Minister for Family Affairs, failed in this office. Right from the start she had trouble finding her feet in the world of the Bundeswehr. Then came February 24th and the war in Ukraine, Chancellor Scholz proclaimed the policy of turning the tide. With an extra 100 billion euros, made available in a special fund, she was supposed to start modernizing the Bundeswehr. Almost a year later, the Bundeswehr is in a worse position than at the beginning of the war in terms of material and ammunition. Germany has surrendered tanks, missiles and anti-aircraft systems to Ukraine. And the replacement purchases for military equipment and ammunition delivered to Ukraine are dragging on for a long time. A convincing plan of how and when the Bundeswehr will be able to defend the country and the alliance again is not clearly discernible.
Instead of being the manager of the turning point, Lambrecht made other headlines: in April she came under political pressure after letting her son fly in a government helicopter. This was not proof of legal misconduct, but of a lack of instinct, according to a number of defense politicians in the Bundestag. The gaffes increased, most recently it all culminated in her unsuccessful video message on New Year’s Eve – recorded, of all things, in the noise of gunfire, when war is raging in Ukraine.
Now the chancellor needs a successor as soon as possible
For Scholz, her withdrawal is a debacle. When she was introduced a good year ago, he said: “She will be a very, very important defense minister in the Federal Republic of Germany.” In an interview with the SZ in December, he said that Lambrecht was a “first-rate defense minister.”
Now he needs a successor as soon as possible. The allies will meet in Ramstein next Friday to discuss further aid for Ukraine. The question of whether Ukraine will receive the Leopard 2 tank should also be on the agenda. Poland has already offered it, but Germany would have to agree to it being passed on because it was made in Germany. In Ramstein at the latest federal government to make their position known.
In the background, a position is being fought for in Berlin. The chancellor’s office registers that Moscow’s threats of a nuclear strike have recently diminished. So should one risk more when supplying arms so that the war in Ukraine could be ended quickly? As is so often the case, the chancellor remains silent until he eventually makes a decision. Internally, Scholz emphasizes that for him leadership does not mean doing what others think is right.
He is convinced that it is necessary to keep in touch with Russia, which he doesn’t see in being overly aggressive. It also plays a role that Olaf Scholz sees the leading figure of the West in US President Joe Biden. The US has not yet delivered any of its Abrams main battle tanks, but has signaled it has nothing against deliveries from other countries.
This is the starting position in which Scholz has to admit that he made a bad choice in Lambrecht. He needs to find a replacement quickly. In the middle of the turning point without Secretary of Defense Standing there is tantamount to a catastrophe.