Olaf Scholz under pressure for “embarrassing” defense minister

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is under mounting pressure to sack his defense minister after she released a New Year’s video message in which she mentioned the war in Ukraine as fireworks exploded behind her.

Christine Lambrecht, a member of Scholz’s SPD, was already facing severe criticism from the German opposition for problems with arms procurement and a series of gaffes.

Her controversial message has increased pressure on Scholz to put a more credible figure at the top of the defense mandate at a time when his government is keen to dramatically overhaul its armed forces in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – and space of the country to redefine the European security order.

in the video, posted on her Instagram account, Lambrecht said the Ukraine conflict had led to “many special experiences” and the chance to “many encounters with great and interesting people”. As she spoke, loud bangs and whistles of firecrackers echoed around her, accompanied by blaring sirens as Berlin’s infamous New Year’s Eve pyrotechnics went off.

Johann Wadephul, deputy parliamentary leader of the CDU, described the video as “disturbing” and told the Süddeutsche Zeitung it shows that she does not have the right “attitude” for her post.

German magazine Der Spiegel called the video “inappropriate and embarrassing”.

The Chairwoman of the Defense Committee of the Bundestag, Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, member of Scholz’s coalition partner FDP, described the general conditions as “rather unfortunate”.

When asked on Wednesday whether Lambrecht still had Scholz’s trust, a spokesman for the Chancellor said: “Yes, of course” and added: “The Chancellor works well with – and trusts – all cabinet colleagues. And of course that also applies to the minister mentioned.”

A Defense Department spokesman had previously stressed that the video is a “private” video posted on Lambrecht’s personal Instagram account and that “no official resources” were used in the production.

Lambrecht has had a difficult time as defense secretary since being appointed to the post just over a year ago when Scholz unveiled his cabinet after forming an unprecedented tripartite coalition with the Greens and FDP.

In January 2022, when Volodymyr Zelenskyy was begging the West to send heavy weapons, she was met with derision and dismay in Kyiv when she announced that Germany would send 5,000 helmets. A few months later, she was forced to defend a decision to put her 21-year-old son on a military helicopter.

It has also had to grapple with arms procurement problems and bureaucratic delays that have overshadowed the government’s promised €100 billion move to modernize the Bundeswehr following the invasion of Ukraine.

Last month, 18 German-made Puma tanks malfunctioned during a training exercise and had to be returned to their manufacturers.

https://www.ft.com/content/2941dc8d-4b01-4260-9463-6ec4c499d252 Olaf Scholz under pressure for “embarrassing” defense minister

Adam Bradshaw

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