By Işıkgün Akfırat
German Defense Minister Lambrecht has resigned after being criticized for blocking aid to Ukraine. The resignation comes just before a summit of Western defense ministers to be held at the largest US military base in Europe. It is considered to have been forced in order to break the resistance of the Olaf Scholz government to sending tanks and heavy weapons to Ukraine.
Germany has experienced the biggest political rift since the beginning of the Ukraine War. Criticized German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht submitted her letter of resignation to Chancellor Olaf Scholz the previous day. Hours later, Deputy Government Spokesperson Christiane Hoffmann announced that German Chancellor Olaf Scholz had accepted Defense Minister Lambrecht’s resignation. It was reported that Lambrech would deputize until his successor is appointed.
Silent on Ukraine conflict
In her resignation statement, Lambrecht said:
“The media’s focus on me for months has hardly allowed for objective reporting and discussion about security policy decisions that are in the interest of soldiers, the armed forces and German citizens. The valuable work of the soldiers and the many motivated people in the military should be at the forefront. That is why I have decided to leave my duty.”
German newspaper Bild, which first announced the minister’s resignation, criticized Lambrecht for blaming the media instead of self-criticism and pointed out that the resignation statement did not include any statements about the war in Ukraine.
Government spokesman Hoffman said that Scholz thanked Lambrecht for her good work as Defense Minister during this difficult period. “The Chancellor respects Lambrecht’s decision,” Hoffmann said, adding that Chancellor Scholz would soon submit a proposal to the President of the Republic for a new appointment.
Not blunders but tanks dug her political grave
Lambrecht has long been criticized for being “unqualified” to be defense minister. Her mistakes, such as admitting in interviews that she did not know the military ranks, taking her son for a ride in a military helicopter and posting images of it on social media have long been on the agenda.
Most recently, her opponents were dismayed when she said in his New Year’s message that the war in Ukraine had “given her the opportunity to meet some very interesting people”.
The real reason behind the media operation against Lambrecht, however, was allegedly not the lack of seriousness in her behavior, but the fact that she was the “weak link” in the Scholz government, which had blocked the delivery of Leopard tanks to Ukraine. Kiev’s long-standing demand for the tanks had always received a negative response from Berlin. After German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock promised to send Leopard tanks during her recent visit to Ukraine, all eyes turned to the coalition government.
Government spokesman Hoffmann emphasized that no decision had yet been made and warned that it would be “illegal” to deliver Leopards to Ukraine without Berlin’s permission. The Greens and the Free Democratic Party (FDP), the other members of the so-called “traffic light coalition” because of their party colors, criticize Chancellor Scholz and the Social Democratic Party (SPD) for “dragging their feet” on sending heavy weapons to Ukraine. The fierce opposition to Lambrecht, herself a member of the SPD, is seen as an attempt to break the resistance of Olaf Scholz, who last month called her “a first-class defense minister”.
Just on the eve of the Rammstein summit
The most striking detail about the timing of the resignation was that it came just before the meeting with the defense ministers of Western countries on Friday. It was announced that the most important agenda of the summit, scheduled to be held in Rammstein, the largest US military base in Europe, would be the acceleration of military aid to Ukraine. Moreover, Lambrecht was scheduled to meet with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, due to arrive in Germany on Thursday. According to Bild, Lambrecht, in consultation with Olaf Scholz, had postponed her resignation until after these talks. However, the Atlanticist media in Germany leaked the information that she would resign, and the timing was moved just before these meetings.
This week also stands out as a week in which the US and the UK are pressuring Europe to step up its military assistance to Ukraine. The Atlantic leadership believes that the only way to stop the Russian army making advances in Bahmut and Soledar is to provide tanks and missile systems that have not been sent before.
Britain’s Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, who has pledged to send a tank fleet to Ukraine, announced this week that he will visit the US and Canada to discuss how they can cooperate more closely on military aid to Kiev. British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace has openly called on Germany to allow the delivery of Leopard tanks.
“I expect more in the near future,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in an interview with German newspaper Handelsblatt on Sunday, following Britain’s commitment to send heavy military hardware.
‘The army is headless while you drink beer!’
The Christian Democratic Party (CDU), the main opposition in the German Parliament, criticized the failure to quickly find a minister to replace Lambrecht after her resignation.
CDU Secretary General Mario Czaja criticized that Lambrecht’s resignation caught the SPD and the Chancellor unprepared despite days of speculation and rumors. Scholz must urgently appoint a “competent successor” to Lambrecht, Czaja told Bild. “The forces must know who will lead them. The vacuum that has been created here must be filled as soon as possible.”
CDU defense expert Johann Wadephul accused Scholz of acting “like a local politician”. “Instead of handing over command of our troops again, we see him visiting a brewery with a beer measure in his hand,” Wadephul said, adding, “The international situation requires a ‘functioning ministry’.”
Ben Hodges, former Commander-in-Chief of the US Army in Europe, told the German magazine Stern “unclear messages from Berlin and the Chancellery are causing international uncertainty and suspicion.”
Kremlin: Those tanks will also burn
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Kiev’s foreign backers, who have pledged to supply Ukraine with tanks and other heavy weapons, do not care about the lives of Ukrainians and are motivated by a desire to harm Russia.
Poland and Britain’s pledges to provide Kiev with main battle tanks show that they want to further escalate the conflict in Ukraine, Peskov said, adding that these weapons will not change the outcome of the conflict. “Like other the tanks sent previously, these ones will burn up too,” he said.