German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht has resigned after persistent criticism of her handling of military modernization programs and weapons deliveries from the country to Ukraine.
She asked Chancellor Olaf Scholz to remove her in a written statement and added that “months of media focus on my person” had hampered realistic discussion about Germany’s military and security policy.
A spokesman for Schultz said the chancellor had accepted Lambrecht’s resignation.
Lambrecht, 57, has been defense minister since Schultz became chancellor in December 2021. Critics have long portrayed her as out of her depth. But Schultz stood by her, last month calling her a “Secretary of Defense of the First Class.”
Lambrecht also faced a fresh wave of criticism after a poorly judged New Year’s video message on her Instagram account.
It showed a barely audible Lambrecht speaking against the backdrop of loud fireworks on New Year’s Eve in a Berlin street.
“There is a war raging in the middle of Europe,” she said. “And in connection with this there were so many special impressions for me that I managed to get – many, many meetings with wonderful, interesting people.”
Lambrecht’s resignation comes at a sensitive moment, as Schultz faces mounting pressure to take another significant step forward in German military aid to Ukraine by agreeing to deliver Leopard 2 battle tanks.
Earlier this month, Germany agreed to provide 40 Marder armored personnel carriers and a battery of Patriot air defense missiles to Kyiv.
Germany has provided Ukraine with significant support in recent months, including howitzers, Gepard self-propelled anti-aircraft guns and the first four IRIS-T surface-to-air missile systems.
But critics, some within Germany’s ruling coalition, have long complained about Schultz’s perceived reluctance to increase aid.
Lambrecht was overshadowed by the chancellor on the issue, making most of the major announcements.
Lambrecht was then deputy finance minister before being appointed justice minister in 2019. She was also minister for families and women in the final months of then-chancellor Angela Merkel’s government.
She was respected in those roles, but was widely seen as one of the weakest links of the Schulz government at the Department of Defense.
The notoriously difficult department has a history of diminishing the reputation of ministers.
Its importance increased with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This prompted Schultz to announce a special fund of 100 billion euros to modernize the German army, the Bundeswehr, which had suffered from years of neglect and, in particular, from outdated, poorly functioning equipment.
Last month, Lambrecht dismissed suggestions that the government was too slow to move forward with its spending campaign. She said officials moved quickly but that “projects like this have to be negotiated carefully – that’s tax money”.
Watch the video in the player above.