Federal government: Boris Pistorius becomes defense minister

By Georg Ismar, Oliver Klasen and Mike Szymanski

The previous Interior Minister of Lower Saxony, Boris Pistorius (SPD), will become the new Defense Minister and thus succeed Christine Lambrecht.

Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz took the decision, which the SZ and other media had previously reported on, officially announced at noon. Pistorius is an “extremely experienced politician who has been tried and tested in administration, has been dealing with security policy for years and, with his competence, his assertiveness and his big heart, is exactly the right person to lead the Bundeswehr through this turning point,” said Scholz.

Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht announced her resignation on Monday after just over a year in office. Government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said that Scholz then consulted closely with the SPD party and parliamentary group leadership about the successor and then decided on Pistorius as the new defense minister.

The designated minister: experienced and with a broad cross

Pistorius, 62, has worked his entire political life in Lower Saxony, but has often been traded for federal political offices. In his federal state, he made a name for himself as a specialist politician and advocate for internal security. Although he has been interior minister for ten years and is therefore a very experienced politician, he is still not a risk-free choice for the chancellor. And according to SZ information, Pistorius was not the first choice either. The Lower Saxon is considered to be assertive, media-savvy and a politician with a broad cross. And he is considered to be someone who is likely to have a dispute with the chancellor when it comes to better equipment and more money for the Bundeswehr.

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Pistorius has done military service and should be well received by the Bundeswehr with his kind. In his environment, reference is also made to the challenges posed by cyber attacks and the development of better civil and disaster protection, where he brings a lot of experience. Like Olaf Scholz, Pistorius ran unsuccessfully for the SPD party chairmanship in 2019.

Eventful days are coming soon: US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is coming to Berlin on Thursday. On Friday, Austin invited the so-called Ukraine contact group to meet at the US base in Ramstein in Rhineland-Palatinate to discuss further arms and tank deliveries to Ukraine. There is great concern that Russia could further intensify its attacks. More than 40 people were killed in an airstrike in the eastern Ukrainian city of Dnipro.

The situation of the troops: hardly any time to get used to it

The Polish government is insisting that the federal government make a speedy decision on the delivery of Leopard-2-Main battle tanks falls. Since they come from German production, this approval is required.

Germany has already promised NATO a fully equipped army division for 2025. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also attended the meeting in Ramstein. It will be the premiere for Pistorius on the international stage. He won’t get much time to adjust.

The surrender of tanks, artillery pieces, rocket launchers and ammunition has significantly weakened the Bundeswehr’s operational readiness in recent months. At the same time, the new defense minister must ensure that the Bundeswehr can meet its growing alliance obligations. Officially, Lambrecht is the owner of command and command authority until she has received her certificate of dismissal from Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

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In the first year of the turning point, only a fraction of the special fund of 100 billion euros was spent on the Bundeswehr. Due to the price increases as a result of inflation, fewer purchases can be made with the money than initially thought. The military commissioner Eva Högl (SPD), who herself was traded as one of the candidates for the Lambrecht successor, recently brought an investment requirement of 300 billion euros for the Bundeswehr into play.

Scholz thanked Lambrecht for her work on Monday and announced a quick decision about her successor. She’s hit now. Actually, Pistorius was considered the favorite for the office of Interior Minister Nancy Faeser, if, as is likely, she goes to Hesse as the top candidate for the state elections. In a few weeks, a new personnel decision should be made. Another problem for Scholz is that a man is succeeding Lambrecht and the gender parity in the cabinet that the chancellor promised at the beginning of his government is no longer maintained.

Reactions: Congratulations from Lindner, criticism from the Union

Federal Finance Minister Christian Lindner congratulated Pistorius. “Congratulations to my new cabinet colleague Boris Pistorius,” wrote the FDP leader on Twitter. With the implementation of the Bundeswehr special fund of 100 billion euros, there is a major task that he wants to tackle together with the Ministry of Defense, said Lindner.

The deputy chairman of the Union faction, Johann Wadephul, criticizes Pistorius’ appointment. “The Chancellor is showing that he doesn’t take his own turning point seriously. Once again, expertise and experience with the Bundeswehr are irrelevant.” The CDU/CSU parliamentary group will critically monitor the work of the new minister and offer to work together. Given the situation, according to Wadephul, Pistorius will not be able to have 100 days of training.

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