Germany’s defense chief reportedly quit ahead of Ukraine’s most important tank decision – POLITICO

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Germany’s controversial defense minister Christine Lambrecht is reportedly set to resign as early as Monday. She suffers the consequences of a series of blunders that affect her credibility and that weigh increasingly heavily on Chancellor Olaf Scholz and his announced U-turn in German defense policy.

News of Lambrecht’s expected resignation — which has not been officially denied or confirmed more than 18 hours after an initial report from the German media outlet Bild — throws the Scholz government into uncertainty less than a week before a crucial meeting of Western defense officials.

The news comes amid mounting international pressure to support Ukraine with German-made Leopard main battle tanks. The UK on Saturday agreed to send next-generation Challenger tanks to the Ukrainian battlefield.

Two officials in Berlin confirmed that Lambrecht’s immediate departure has been discussed in her Social Democratic Party (SPD). An official admitted that the leaked information about the expected dismissal had left the government agitated as Scholz had not yet officially decided on a possible successor, causing a communications fiasco. A government spokesman declined to comment on “rumours” late on Friday. A spokesperson for Lambrecht could not be reached for comment.

Lambrecht’s expected resignation is a bitter setback for Scholz, who had long defended his minister against mounting criticism and said through a spokesman just two weeks ago that he considered her a “first-rate defense minister.” Letting Lambrecht go would also be an acknowledgment that the Social Democratic chancellor had picked the wrong person for the job just over a year ago when he formed his government.

There is also a possibility that Scholz will take the opportunity to announce a wider government reshuffle.

Since the start of the war in Ukraine, Lambrecht’s leadership style has come under fire, mainly because he has failed to implement an increase in military spending that Scholz had promised under his command. turning point major change in German defense and security policy, and despite the creation of a €100 billion investment fund for the Bundeswehr, the German armed forces. POLITICO reported last month that criticism mounted amid ammunition shortages and revelations that Germany’s bold promise to invest “from now on, year after year” at least 2 percent of its economic output in defense had been suspended, leaving the country a laggard in NATO’s military alliance.

5,000 helmets

Lambrecht also faced strong criticism for celebrating an early delivery of 5,000 helmets to Ukraine early last year as “a clear signal” of support, then by taking her son on a helicopter ride as part of a personal holiday. The minister also had no authority among her own troops and caused a stir when, six months after her appointment, she admitted in an interview that she still did not know the military service figures.

A clumsy video posted to social media on New Year’s Eve was likely the tipping point for Germany’s defense minister, distancing even close allies in her party. Against the background of the Berlin fireworks, Lambrecht said the war was “connected with many special impressions” and “many, many meetings with interesting, special people”.

In addition, Lambrecht’s authority was widely seen as undermined after Scholz and US President Joe Biden announced on Jan. 5 that they would jointly send infantry fighting vehicles to Ukraine, despite Lambrecht only weeks earlier (at a time when Scholz and Biden had already discussed). saying that Germany had no such armored vehicles available.

This, as well as the fact that the Lambrecht Ministry had stayed behind in recent days to organize the promised vehicles following Scholz’s announcement, led to the suggestion that the Defense Minister had not been heavily involved in Scholz’s planning, although the government that disputed.

Western defense ministers will meet on Friday at the Ramstein military base in Germany, where Berlin is expected to allow partner nations like Poland and Finland to send their German-made Leopard main battle tanks to Ukraine. German Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck already said on Thursday that Berlin should not stand in the way if partner countries want to organize such deliveries, and a government spokesman said on Friday that Scholz shared Habeck’s position.

In saying on Saturday it had agreed to send Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine, the British government noted “other international commitments in this vein, including Poland’s offer to supply a company of Leopard tanks,” according to a statement.

Scholz will now have to quickly nominate a successor to Lambrecht ahead of the important Ramstein meeting, with Eva Högl, the parliamentary commissioner for the armed forces, and Siemtje Möller, the deputy defense minister – both also from the SPD – named as potential candidates. Other possible names include SPD co-leader Lars Klingbeil, SPD Labor Minister Hubertus Heil and SPD leader Wolfgang Schmidt, the head of the Scholz chancellery.

Given that Interior Minister Nancy Faeser, also from the SPD, is expected to soon announce a nomination for Prime Minister in the German state of Hesse, which will hold elections in October, Scholz could also announce a broader reshuffle.

Federica DiSario contributed reporting.

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