BERLIN — Pressure on German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht increased dramatically on Thursday after her two government coalition partners, including the finance minister, criticized her for her inability to procure ammunition.
Lambrecht, who belongs to Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democratic Party (SPD), has previously been criticized for the slow rollout of defense spending despite a brand new special arms fund of 100 billion euros.
Critical voices grew this week after it emerged that nine months into Russia’s war in Ukraine and Scholz’s bold announcement of a “Zeitenwendeor a turning point in German defense and security policy, it had failed to procure enough new ammunition for the German armed forces, the Bundeswehr.
Given that these shortages have been known since Lambrecht took office in December last year and only intensified when Germany donated weapons such as the Panzerhaubitze 2000 howitzer and grenades to Ukraine, the minister’s apparent inaction raises pressing questions about her leadership – not just from the opposition but also from within government ranks – at a crucial time when Germany is seeking to take on more of military leadership in Europe.
Media reports suggest that for some weapon systems, Germany may only have ammunition for a few hours of combat should war break out.
In an apparent last-minute attempt to address critical shortcomings, Lambrecht wrote to Finance Minister Christian Lindner on Tuesday, urging him to “provide substantial budgetary funds immediately” for the purchase of new ammunition.
Yet Lindner, who is from the Liberal Democratic Party (FDP), rejected that request on Thursday in a spicy letter, sent on his behalf by State Secretary for Finance Steffen Saebisch, who suggested that Lambrecht should first make his own homework before applying for financial aid.
In a rather cynical tone, Saebisch wrote that he “must state” that Lambrecht never mentioned the need to purchase additional ammunition during budget debates in recent months.
Adding insult to injury, the Secretary of State argued that, according to defense industry officials, “the low availability of ammunition and equipment…is not caused by a lack of budget funds, but by complicated, partly non-transparent and inconsistent bureaucratic planning and ordering”. process.
The Greens, the other coalition partner of Scholz’s SPD, strongly criticize Lambrecht: the party’s defense spokeswoman Sara Nanni and budget spokesperson Sebastian Schäfer issued a press release on Thursday common, saying that it had long been known that Germany was “far from meeting” the ammunition targets of the NATO military alliance.
“It’s unclear why ammunition wasn’t high on the Department of Defense’s to-do list after [Russia’s invasion on] February 24 at the latest,” the lawmakers said.
Scholz sought to defend Lambrecht on Thursday, telling reporters she was “very determined” to close gaps in Bundeswehr ammunition stocks.
“I can assure you that she is doing everything she can to make this work, and it will work,” the Chancellor said.