German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht resigns amid backlash over war in Ukraine

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German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht formally resigned on Monday.

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German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht resigned on Monday, amid an investigation into Berlin’s response to the war in Ukraine.

“Today I asked the chancellor to be released from the position of defense minister,” Lambrecht said in a statement, according to a CNBC translation.

Her step down comes as Germany considers whether to agree to an increase in military aid to Ukraine to help Kyiv’s armed forces fend off a Russian offensive.

“The media’s focus on my husband over months has hardly allowed for a reasonable report and debate about the soldiers, the armed forces and the course of security policy for the benefit of German citizens,” Lambrecht said.

“The precious work of the soldiers and the many inspiring people in the industry must be at the forefront. So I decided to give up my post,” she said. “I thank everyone who gives of themselves for our security every day and sincerely wish them all the best for the future.”

Lambrecht, a senior lawmaker in German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democratic Party, had faced constant pressure over her credibility to lead the country’s armed forces.

Several media reported over the weekend that Lambrecht’s retirement could be imminent, after a series of mistakes.

It is not yet clear who will succeed Lambrecht as defense minister.

A government spokesman said Germany’s Scholz had accepted Lambrecht’s resignation as defense minister, according to Reuters, with a replacement to be proposed shortly.

German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, citing government sources, said Lambrecht’s replacement would be announced on Tuesday. Some of the possible contenders, Reuters reported, include Germany’s Parliamentary Commissioner for the Armed Forces, Eva Hoegl, junior defense minister Siemtje Moeller, SPD party leader Lars Klingbeil and Labor Minister Hubertus Heil.

Controversial new year video

The defense minister has been heavily criticized for a New Year’s Eve message posted on social media. In a minute-long video, she talked about the war in Ukraine and appeared to reflect on personal events, while struggling to be heard over fireworks on the behind.

Opposition lawmakers criticized the message as inappropriate in the context of Russia’s nearly year-long war.

Serap Guler, a lawmaker of the Christian Democratic Union, at the time named Scholz responsible for “every extra minute” in which Lambrecht retained her position. Guler has since welcomed Lambrecht’s resignation, saying via Twitter on Monday that the move was in the interest of the country and Berlin’s armed forces.

Lambrecht had previously faced media criticism for Germany’s response to the war in Ukraine.

Last year, Lambrecht sparked an international uproar after announcing Germany’s offer to supply Ukraine with 5,000 helmets, at a time when President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s administration wanted heavy weapons to defend itself against the Russian forces.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko dismissed the offer as a “joke” at the time, telling German newspaper Bild that the gesture left him “speechless.”

— CNBC’s Sophie Kiderlin contributed to this report.

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