End in sight for the German defense minister?

Christine Lambrecht, the German defense minister, is under heavy pressure. The reason is some blunders in her department, in the middle of a global defense crisis.

Why is this important?

The war in Ukraine is immediately a test for the Western armies. It now seems that they are not well prepared for a major conflict, and above all: the weapons stockpiles are smaller than expected. Germany, the European military superpower for decades, is also in trouble.

In the news: The German government is not the most drastic in the field of defense.

  • First there was the issue of defense spending. Germany now spends 1.44 percent of its GDP on defense, while within NATO it was agreed that each member state should spend 2 percent on this.
  • Germany hesitated for a long time, but after a few months of war in Ukraine decided that more budget should be spent on defense. At the same time, Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced that he would allocate 100 billion euros to the modernization of the army. So far, however, no concrete plans have been laid on what the modernization should look like.

The planes: Normally, Germany will buy new F-35 for the air force. Although Lambrecht has his reservations.

  • This modernization would extend to the various branches of the army. For example, a lot of work is being done on FCAS, the Future combat air system. It is a new combat aircraft that the Germans are developing together with France and Spain. The FCAS is not expected to be delivered until 2035; the German Eurofighter Typhoons, the most modern aircraft in the fleet at the moment, will then turn 32.
  • In order to have more modern aircraft available in the meantime, in July Germany signed an agreement with the American company Lockheed Martin for the purchase of 35 F-35 aircraft.stealthfighter aircraft. These are to replace the Panavia Tornados, which have been in service since 1979.
  • However, the agreement is not yet final: Germany has until the end of this year (late December) to sign the contract, which is worth ten billion euros. Right now, Christine Lambrecht seems to be blocking the deal: She sent a secret letter to parliament expressing her concerns about the deal.
  • The German newspaper Picture, who could see the letter, writes that Lambrecht is concerned about possible delays in the case and extra unforeseen costs. At the same time, the Büchel air base also needs to be renovated, Lambrecht also fears that the infrastructure works will not be finished in 2026.

The drop: Germany barely has enough ammunition for the army.

  • It has been known for years that the ammunition stores of the German army are very empty. The war in Ukraine itself does not do much good: Germany already supplied a lot of heavy vehicles with corresponding ammunition. Tens of millions of cartridges were supplied for small arms, mainly handguns.
  • This naturally puts pressure on its own supplies and on the general combat readiness of the German Army. For example, the German army would only have enough ammunition to wage war for two days.
  • Ammunition shortages are not a new problem. This has been known for years, and when Lambrecht was appointed it was therefore thought that she would address this. In the end, it was only last week that Lambrecht announced that they would invest in munitions stores. Olaf Scholz’ Zeitenwendespeech in which he announced that he would release $100 billion for the army, including for the purchase of additional ammunition, dates back to February 27.

Underlying: The question arises whether Christine Lambrecht is the right person to be Minister of Defence.

  • Lambrecht is a more than experienced politician. After her career in the legal profession, she was elected in 1998 as a member of parliament for the socialist SPD. She would eventually become a minister for the first time in 2019 under Angela Merkel. Lambrecht first became minister of justice, later minister of families.
  • Now, however, the commentary on her skills is growing:
    • “Can we please appoint a minister who is up for the job?” said Viola von Cramon, MEP for the Greens. “It’s starting to get embarrassing on all levels – for the Bundeswehr (the German army, ed.), for Germany, but also for the EU and NATO. Too much china has broken in a short time.”
    • It is striking that the criticism therefore comes from within: The Greens are part of the German coalition. The Green Members of Parliament in the Folketing, the The Bundestaghold back, to keep the peace in the coalition.

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