UPDATED: German Defence minister resigns, successor to be announced promptly

Reading Time: 3 minutes
  • Scholz accepts Lambrecht’s dismissal request
  • Unclear who might succeed her
  • U.S. defence minister in Berlin on Thursday

BERLIN, Jan 16 (Reuters) – German Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht resigned from Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government on Monday, the culmination of growing doubts about her ability to revive Germany’s armed forces against the backdrop of the Ukraine war.

Her decision is a blow to Scholz at a time when Germany is under pressure to approve an increase in international military support for Kyiv, and Germany’s defence capabilities have been called into question after several Puma infantry tanks were put out of service during a recent military drill.

The pressure to find a successor is also mounting because U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is expected in Berlin on Thursday and will attend a conference on Friday at the U.S. military base in Ramstein, in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, to discuss further support for Ukraine, including whether to send German-built tanks.

Lambrecht asked the chancellor to dismiss her, as formally required, and Scholz has accepted it, a government spokesperson said. The chancellor would propose a successor promptly, the person added, refusing to comment on names.

Parliamentary Commissioner for the Armed Forces Eva Hoegl, junior defence minister Siemtje Moeller, SPD party head Lars Klingbeil and Labour Minister Hubertus Heil have been suggested as candidates by German media.

Scholz has promised to staff his cabinet with equal numbers of men and women. If a man should succeed Lambrecht, this could result in further reshuffling.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper said, citing government sources, that a successor would be announced on Tuesday.

PERFORMANCE CRITICISED

Lambrecht has been blamed by critics for failing to get the German armed forces, known as the Bundeswehr, back in shape quickly, despite a 100 billion euro special fund being agreed for that purpose after Russia invaded Ukraine.

Lambrecht was most recently criticised by media and opposition figures for posting an outdoor video on social media on New Year’s Day in which she thanked servicemen and women, but struggled to be heard against background noise from firecrackers and seemingly mixed up the war in Ukraine with pleasant personal encounters.

“What kind of a year was 2022? It faced us with many incredible challenges. There is a war raging in the middle of Europe. Associated with this were for me many special impressions, many encounters with interesting, great people,” Lambrecht said in the video.

Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, the head of Germany’s parliamentary defence committee and a member of Scholz’s junior coalition partner Free Democrats (FDP), called for her successor to be installed quickly.

“I now expect the Social Democrats to name a successor as soon as possible who is assertive towards the ministry, does not abuse the defence ministry for other political ambitions and, above all, brings with them an understanding and heart for the soldiers.”

(Writing by Miranda Murray and Kirsti Knolle; Editing by Rachel More and Alex Richardson)

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