The mountain gave birth and gave birth: a marten. 40, actually. After an agonizingly long debate, Chancellor Olaf Scholz decided to equip the Ukrainian armed forces with German infantry fighting vehicles.
At the end of March, the martens, war equipment from the days of the bloc confrontation with the Soviets, were to be delivered. The Ukrainians’ pleas were answered, late but perhaps not too late to stave off the expected spring offensive by the Russians.
The federal government regards the military aid as evidence of the turning point in foreign and security policy proclaimed by Scholz. Germany is now one of the most important arms suppliers after the USA and Great Britain.
The question is therefore why Brussels and Washington persistently doubt that the German turning point will keep what it promises. The tedious decision-making process in the Chancellery, the procrastination and hesitation that characterize Scholz’s government actions, is only part of the explanation.
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The US government is also struggling with decisions about which weapon systems should be made available to Ukraine. The Americans do not want to take the risk of a direct military confrontation with the nuclear power Russia.
Ministerial service as required
The main reason for the doubts of the alliance partners, as made clear by talks with diplomats in Brussels, has a name: Christine Lambrecht. As long as the luckless and powerless Social Democrat holds the post of Federal Defense Minister, the turning point has a credibility problem – and remains, to put it in the words of the Chancellor, politically without a bang.
Not only since their embarrassing New Year’s Eve video has Lambrecht been openly blasphemed in Brussels. In conversations with her counterparts, the lawyer not only stands out because of her ignorance, a deficit that could perhaps be excused after a year in office. It is above all their lack of interest that irritates the Allies.
Diplomats report that Lambrecht goes through her appointments dispassionately, evading all attempts to loosen up discussions with a little small talk and stubbornly clinging to her discussion guides. That sounds like ministerial service according to regulations, the exact opposite of a turning point.
High-ranking defense politicians who have important matters to discuss with Berlin avoid Lambrecht’s ministry and go directly to the chancellor’s office. Scholz cannot agree with that, even if it may be an instinctive impulse for the chancellor to make central government initiatives a top priority.
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The turning point will shape Scholz’s term of office, he is a crisis chancellor, the first head of government in the Federal Republic to lead the country through a large-scale war in Europe. Neither he nor the country were prepared for this challenge, let alone the neglected Bundeswehr. The Chancellor cannot manage this task alone.
The Defense Ministry now needs someone who can give Germany’s allies the impression that the Federal Republic is serious about strengthening the continent’s defenses. Someone who relieves the chancellor of work instead of stumbling from one breakdown to the next.
Why Lambrecht is not enthusiastic about her task remains her secret. But at least that is certain: Germany’s partners have lost patience with her.
More: Lambrecht, Lauterbach, Schulze – How Olaf Scholz struggles with his own ministers