German defense minister resigns over criticism of Ukraine

BERLIN (AP) — Germany’s defense minister announced his resignation on Monday.

Christine Lambrecht said in a statement that she had handed in her resignation to Chancellor Olaf Scholz, saying that “for months the media focus on my person” was a threat to the military and German security. It hinders a fact-based discussion of protection policy, he added.

“The valuable work of soldiers and many people in my department must be on the front lines,” she said.

There was no immediate word on possible replacements.

The 57-year-old has been defense minister since Scholz took office in December 2021. Her critics have long portrayed her as her profundity, but Scholz stood by her last month, describing her as a “first-rate defense minister.” The pressure on her was recently heightened following the misjudgment of her message in her New Year’s video.

Lambrecht’s resignation came at a delicate time. Scholz is facing increasing pressure to take an important step in German military aid to Ukraine by agreeing to hand over two of his tanks to Leopard. Germany agreed earlier this month to provide Kyiv with 40 Marder armored personnel carriers and Patriot air defense missile batteries.

Germany has provided substantial support to Ukraine in recent months, including howitzers, Gepard self-propelled anti-aircraft guns and the first of four IRIS-T surface-to-air missile systems. But some critics within Germany’s ruling coalition have long complained about Scholz’s perceived reluctance to step up aid. This issue was overshadowed by the prime minister’s announcement.

Lambrecht was acting as Finance Minister Scholz before being appointed Minister of Justice in 2019. She also served as Minister for Family and Women in the last months of the government of then Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Although she was respected for these roles, she was widely seen as one of the Scholz government’s weakest links in the Ministry of Defense.

Notoriously unwieldy, the department has a history of discrediting ministers.

Its importance was heightened by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This would allow Scholz to provide a special €100 billion ($108 billion) fund to upgrade the German Armed Forces, the Bundeswehr, which had suffered years of neglect, especially aging and dysfunctional equipment. Now to announce.

Last month, Mr. Lambrecht dismissed criticism that the government was pushing spending too slowly. She said authorities moved quickly, but that “such projects must be negotiated carefully – this is a tax.”

The minister also drew criticism for the ill-fated communication, beginning with the announcement that Germany would deliver 5,000 military helmets to Ukraine in January 2022, as “a very clear signal that we stand by you”. I was.

In April, she took her 21-year-old son for a military helicopter flight. When he posted the photo on Instagram, it turned out that the minister had taken it himself. He said he made a decision.

An amateurish New Year’s video message posted on her own private Instagram account prompted renewed opposition calls for Lambrecht’s resignation and strained the patience of political allies.

It showed a barely audible Lambrecht speaking against the background of the big New Year’s Eve fireworks in the streets of Berlin.

“War is raging in the middle of Europe,” she said. “In connection with that, I got a lot of special impressions. I met a lot of interesting and wonderful people.”