The German publication Bild reported , citing several sources, that German Defense Minister Christina Lambrecht is resigning. Since the beginning of the war, she has been criticized for insufficient support for Kiev (at the beginning of the war, she announced that Germany could supply Ukraine with five thousand helmets), the lack of reforms in the army, and at the end of last year she released an extremely unsuccessful video greeting . “War is raging in the middle of Europe. And during this time I received many new impressions and many, many meetings with interesting, wonderful people, ”said the head of the Ministry of Defense on New Year's Eve. In an interview with The Insider , Berlin political scientist and member of the Social Democratic Party of Germany Alex Yusupov spoke about the reasons for Lambrecht's possible resignation and about her likely successors:
Lambrecht is a professional politician, before being appointed to the post of head of the Ministry of Defense, she was the Minister of Justice. In the German federal government, it is normal for top-level politicians to change portfolios without being subject matter experts. She has no experience in dealing with defense issues, and this is normal, but it must be borne in mind that she took up the post in peacetime. And now, when in Germany there are revolutionary processes of change in consciousness, in political culture, in matters of defense and support for Ukraine, such peacetime personalities have become inadequate. In peacetime, no one would pay attention to her. In wartime, it became clear that the cabinet in power (this can be said about all the ministers of the team of Olaf Scholz and the three ruling parties) are politicians who won elections on peaceful topics and came to deal with domestic issues. The reason is not the New Year's speech, but that for the EU and NATO allies, as well as for the public, a minister like Lambrecht is not enough, it does not fit into the serious topics of defense, Bundeswehr reform and plans to bring it to life, because he is in bad shape.
As for possible successors to Lambrecht, there are three options. Within coalition governments, ministries usually remain with the party that has reached an agreement, and politicians from the ranks of the Social Democrats must be considered. The most obvious candidate could be the co-chairman of the party Lars Klingbeil, in the party logic he is generally the first politician of the entire party. He is young, but he has a certain background, he has experience in a constituency where there are a lot of soldiers - in Munster, where one of the main bases of the Bundeswehr is. He comes from a soldier's family and has a very obvious ministerial ambition, but he will not become a successor, most likely because it will cause complex, if not destructive processes in intra-party relations. Because, becoming a minister, he becomes accountable to the chancellor, who is now essentially the representative of the party in the government. On the one hand, he would have become higher than Olaf Scholz according to party logic, and according to ministerial logic, he is a member of his team, invited to work. This is an irresolvable contradiction, and therefore he will not be a successor.
In addition, one must understand that in addition to party quotas, when the ministry remains with a specific party, there is also regional quota. Especially among the Social Democrats, it is important when drawing up a ministerial team to pay attention to the fact that the different parts of Germany are adequately represented.
Germany is a federation, it has strong regional roots, including within the party, so the number of people from a certain land cannot exceed a certain threshold. Klingbeil from the state of Lower Saxony also does not get there according to this principle, because he is a man, and now he is a woman in this post, and Olaf Holz promised to maintain a gender balance in the cabinet, plus there is already a very popular Minister of Labor Hubertus Heil.
Therefore, we can rather talk about two likely successors - this is either Cynthia Möller or Eva Högl. Cynthia Möller is now Secretary of State at the Ministry of Defense, in the German table of ranks she is a member of the Bundestag who comes to the political leadership of the ministry. That is, she is a vice minister on the party line, but at the same time she is 100% of the time working inside the Ministry of Defense. Unlike Christina Lambrecht, she has a profile - she was involved in investigating the potentially corrupt practices of previous governments when Ursula von der Leyen, who is now the President of the European Commission, was Minister of Defense.
Möller is originally from Emden, and her constituency includes cities like Wilhelmshaven, which is a major fleet base and where a new LNG offloading terminal has been built as an alternative to Nord Stream. There are no questions about her work and qualifications. In addition, she is one of the leaders of the informal association of right-wing Social Democrats within the party. The Social Democratic Party is large and there are left, right, and centrist movements there. Olaf Scholz and most of the team are right wingers now, ie. social democrats, who are further from socialist ideas and closer to "bourgeois" ideas, for whom it is easier to be the party of the majority. She is one of the strongest representatives of this right-wing Social Democrats who have no fear in working with Bundeswehr themes, because for leftists all military topics are alien because of their pacifist background.
Eva Högl is an older Berlin politician. Unlike Möller, she did not have a clear background in defense matters. She is more of a politician with complex domestic affairs. She was investigating the activities of the police and law enforcement agencies, which at one time failed to uncover the National Socialist underground, this right-wing terrorist organization. She has such a track record for a security officer, but on the police line, and not on the military line. This makes her an attractive candidate, because she currently holds the post of commissioner for the Bundeswehr. This is a unique German institution, where there is a separate office with its own apparatus and budget, independent and derived from the Bundestag and the ministry, with a specific person who is engaged in the normal activities of the Ombudsman.
On the other hand, Högl is the main advocate for any member of the Bundeswehr, whether she is a rookie or a general. She is the person they can turn to if they see corruption, supply shortages, complex administrative stuff, scandalous conditions in the barracks, or whatever. She has access to all these objects and can be accessed anonymously. This is a legacy of Germany's Nazi authoritarian past, because the supreme authority is the parliament, not the chancellor. It is the Bundestag that should make decisions about the fact that the Bundeswehr goes on some kind of mission outside of Germany, be it Afghanistan or Kosovo. The Minister of Defense cannot decide anything on his own. One of the hallmarks of parliamentary supremacy in matters of defense is the Parliamentary Commissioner Institute, which Högl is in charge of and therefore has a high reputation in the Bundeswehr. So she is also a good candidate who continues the tradition of previous ministers. She is not a member of this conservative movement of the Social Democrats, she is even a centrist in some ways. Early in her political career, she was an active member of the Young Socialists. Högl is from a different sect, and this could play a role in deciding who will be the next minister.
Andreas Umland, an analyst at the Stockholm Center for East European Studies , is also inclined to believe that Eva Högl will become a possible successor to Lambrecht. In a conversation with The Insider, he noted that for Germany the last couple of decades, the post of Minister of Defense has always been "ungrateful" and there have been similar resignations before. According to Umland, it's not about the personality of Lambrecht and the quality of her work:
The ministers in this post all faced a lack of funding, the army had big requests, plus there was a structural problem, because the German state and the defense sector are very bureaucratic, so it is not easy to reform the Bundeswehr army. There have been such disgraceful resignations before. The current president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, was once in office and treated badly then, but now her image is much better. This is due not to these people themselves, but to the complexity of this ministry.
It is superimposed here that the challenges are different now, although it must be said that the Bundeswehr is not directly involved. The responsibility of the ministry has grown - the issues of supplying weapons to Ukraine are being resolved, but even this is at a higher level, i.e. the chancellor makes these decisions. Moreover, apart from this structural problem of the ministry, Lambrecht unsuccessfully communicated her activities. Maybe she was not such a bad head of this ministry, she just had a bunch of unsuccessful public appearances. On New Year's Eve, she made a shameful announcement, just like at the beginning of the war, when she announced that Germany could supply Ukraine with five thousand helmets. A series of such unfortunate statements, and many have the impression that she is simply not suitable for this. Requests to the Minister of Defense in these times are very high.
Now the name of a woman from the Social Democratic Party who dealt with defense issues in the Bundestag is circulating - Eva Högl. I don't think it will take long. Almost simultaneously with the resignation will be the appointment of a new minister.