German defence minister resigns amid Ukraine war backlash

Germany’s Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht has resigned following a series of blunders and public relation disasters as Berlin comes under rising pressure to allow the delivery of German-built battle tanks to Ukraine.

Her resignation comes as Germany mulls whether to approve an increase in military support to Ukraine in order to help Kyiv’s armed forces prevail against the Russian onslaught.

She was mocked for her announcement that Germany was supporting Ukraine by sending 5,000 military helmets and widely criticised for failing to improve the notoriously ill-equipped armed forces despite the provision of €100 billion for that task following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Lambrecht, a member of Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats (SPD), also came in for criticism when it emerged that she had taken her son on a trip in a military helicopter.

The long-running debate over the state of Germany’s defence capabilities intensified last month when several Puma infantry tanks were put out of service during a recent military drill.

But it was an awkward video she posted on New Year’s Eve which triggered widespread contempt and undermined her support within political circles. In the video, Lambrecht talked about the positive personal encounters she had enjoyed during the war in Ukraine, while fireworks exploded around her in Berlin.

“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,” she said in the video that was recorded outside.

Leading German media condemned the tone of the message, with some commentators saying Lambrecht’s position was “no longer tenable”.

In a resignation statement seen by the German national news agency, Lambrecht said: “Months of media focus on me doesn’t allow for fact-based reporting and discussion about soldiers, the army and security policy in the interest of German citizens.”

“The valuable work of the soldiers and many motivated people in the defence area needs to be in the foreground.”

Lambrecht was due to meet other defence ministers from Ukraine’s western allies at the American military base in Rammstein on Friday to discuss further support for Ukraine.

The German government is facing renewed calls to approve the delivery of German-built Leopard 2 tanks. It is not yet clear who will succeed Lambrecht in a job which is considered such a poisoned chalice that many refer to it as “the ejector seat”.

After years of chronic underinvestment, Scholz in September vowed to transform the country’s military into the “best equipped” in Europe.

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