It's a bitter farewell. The written declaration with which Christine Lambrecht announced her resignation as defense minister by e-mail consists of only five sentences. The central one reads: "The media focus on my person for months hardly allows factual reporting and discussion about the soldiers, the Bundeswehr and security policy decisions in the interest of the citizens of Germany."
In other words, the media is to blame, at least in Lambrecht's world. The outgoing minister would rather have nothing more to do with these media. She refrains from making a statement in front of the cameras – as is usual. Dive down for the first time. A bizarre tenure full of bankruptcies and mishaps comes to a bizarre end.
Scholz first for a beer in the brewery "Gold Ochsen"
For Chancellor Scholz, the failure of the minister, whom he held on to for a long time and whom he even praised as "first class" shortly before Christmas, is both a defeat and an opportunity. A loss because he chose Lambrecht. A second chance, because with the change in personnel, he may be able to get the stalled turnaround in the Bundeswehr going again.
First of all, he doesn't let himself be thrown out of his routine. As planned, he travels to Ulm and treats himself to a full beer in the fermenting cellar of the "Gold Ochsen" brewery - as if nothing had happened. First of all, he lets questions about Lambrecht ricochet off him. He practiced this at the weekend when an LNG terminal was opened in Lubmin.
Succession "will be known to everyone very quickly"
Only when he visits the Hensoldt armaments company does Chancellor Lambrecht show "great respect" and thank her for her work. He then says that he has "a clear idea" of how to proceed. "It will become known to everyone very quickly." Should mean: If possible before the meeting of the SPD parliamentary group on Tuesday afternoon and the next cabinet meeting on Wednesday morning.
The Ministry of Defense is preparing for a handover on Wednesday. The first appointment for the newcomer is on Thursday: US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is in town, preliminary briefing for the weapons summit of Ukraine allies at the US base in Ramstein in Rhineland-Palatinate.
Speculations are not growing yet
The speculation about the successor was not really thickened on Monday. Five names were also mentioned - three men and two women:
- Head of the Chancellery Wolfgang Schmidt, one of Scholz's closest confidants, who has been working with him for 20 years, but is also difficult to dispense with at government headquarters.
- Labor Minister Hubertus Heil, whom Scholz introduced a year ago as an experienced "warhorse" in his cabinet, but who is not considered to be particularly knowledgeable on defense issues.
- Lars Klingbeil, son of a soldier, in top form in terms of defense policy, but just a year ago became chairman of the SPD - also an important job.
- Eva Högl, as defense attorney for the soldiers and preferred candidate for some defense experts.
- Siemtje Möller, now Parliamentary State Secretary in the Ministry of Defense and familiar with the apparatus, but not too long in the business.
Or will it be Mister or Madam X? "Bild" reported in the afternoon that Schmidt, Klingbeil and Heil were out of the running. Other media wrote that Högl will probably not be. So far, Scholz has managed quite well not to let anything leak out prematurely when it comes to his personnel decisions. When he presented his team of ministers after the coalition negotiations at the end of 2021, the decisions were reserved for a small circle until the official presentation. He will want to keep it that way now.
Allies hope for German leadership
In any case, the decision must be right this time. It's war in Europe. Hardly any cabinet post is as important as this one. It is about spending many billions of euros sensibly to make the Bundeswehr fit for the new threat situation.
And internationally, too, expectations of the change at the top of the Ministry of Defense are high. "I hope that your successor will have the necessary caliber to help Germany assume a leadership role within NATO," former commander-in-chief of US troops in Europe, Ben Hodges, told Stern magazine. The first acid test for the new minister is scheduled for next Friday, when the question in Ramstein is whether Ukraine should get Leopard 2 main battle tanks.