Germany’s defence minister in hot water over New Year’s video

Christine Lambrecht has served as Germany's defence minister since December 2021 [File: Tobias Schwarz/ AFP]

Christine Lambrecht speaks of Ukraine war as New Year’s celebrations go on behind her in an address criticised as inappropriate and tone-deaf.

German opposition politicians are calling for Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht’s resignation over what they say is a series of blunders, the latest of which was a New Year’s Eve speech they describe as an embarrassment.

Lambrecht drew heavy criticism for a video address released on social media and filmed on the streets of Berlin during chaotic New Year’s celebrations. Her detractors condemned her for what they said was its tone-deaf message.

In the speech, posted on her private Instagram account, Lambrecht said 2022 had presented Germany with incredible challenges.

“There’s a war raging in the middle of Europe,” she said, referring to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, her voice barely audible above the sound of exploding fireworks.

“And associated with that, for me, were very many special impressions that I was able to gain, many, many encounters with interesting and with great people,” she said. “For that, I say a heartfelt thank you.”

The Ukraine war juxtaposed with the festive background and remarks about “great people” rankled opposition politicians as well as some media outlets.

Serap Guler, an opposition Christian Democratic Union (CDU) lawmaker, indirectly called on Chancellor Olaf Scholz to dismiss Lambrecht.

“The speech about the war with New Year’s Eve firecrackers in the background just crowns her series of embarrassments,” Guler wrote on Twitter on Sunday. “Therefore, for every additional minute in which the chancellor still holds onto this minister and thus further damages the reputation of our country, he can be held accountable.”

This is not the first time Lambrecht has come under fire.

Markus Soder – leader of the CDU’s partner, the Christian Social Union – had already called for her resignation in December.

“With Ms. Lambrecht, it would simply be better if she quit voluntarily,” he told the Bild newspaper. “Anyone who can’t even manage to order ammunition and struggles to buy some American fighter jets is simply not up to the office.”

Lambrecht, a member of Scholz’s Social Democrats, has faced criticism in the media for her response to the Russian invasion and Germany’s sluggish support for Ukraine.

The minister was mocked last year for an announcement that Germany would send 5,000 helmets to Ukraine, whose government was asking for heavy weapons to ward off Russia.

Germany’s media called her New Year’s speech inappropriate.

In a scathing commentary headlined, “Lambrecht is no longer tenable as a minister”, the Tagesspiegel newspaper wrote that her New Year’s address made the war sound like an “exciting professional experience”.

The minute-long message, filmed on a mobile phone, “shamed” Germany, the Bild daily said.

In the context of the war in Ukraine, the video was “inappropriate and embarrassing”, Spiegel magazine wrote.

German media also questioned Lambrecht’s ability to lead an effort by Europe’s biggest economy to revive its long-neglected armed forces in the wake of the war in Ukraine.

“For this decades-long task, one would like to see a leader who sparks joy and energy in defence policy, who spurs on the ministry and the troops, and who uses public attention to the benefit of the armed forces,” the Sueddeutsche Zeitung wrote.



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