BERLIN — Germany’s defense minister, Christine Lambrecht, has resigned after enduring a year of heavy criticism over repeated public blunders, her response to the Ukraine war and her government’s slow rollout of a military buildup.
Ms. Lambrecht is the highest-ranking member of Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government to resign, and her departure is likely to be seen as a blow to his reputation. The chancellor had repeatedly defended the record of Ms. Lambrecht, a former justice minister and a fellow member of his party, the Social Democrats.
“The monthslong media focus on me as a person hardly allows for objective reporting and discussion about the servicemen and women, the German armed forces and security policy decisions in the interest of the citizens of Germany,” Ms. Lambrecht said in a statement released on Monday morning.
Since taking up the post when Mr. Scholz’s government entered office last year, Ms. Lambrecht had been dogged by criticism. She had no previous experience of the military and opposition leaders accused her of lacking interest in heading the Defense Ministry. According to Germany’s best-selling daily, Bild, Ms. Lambrecht had been unable to name the different ranks of the German military in an interview with the paper.
Ms. Lambrecht began facing public scorn at the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. As Germany debated sending weapons to Kyiv in the early days of the invasion, Ms. Lambrecht trumpeted a delivery of 5,000 helmets. She was the face of the government’s repeated foot-dragging over sending weapons, though it is likely she was carrying out a policy largely driven by the chancellery.
Criticism ramped up last summer when it emerged that Ms. Lambrecht had used a government helicopter to take her son on a family vacation.
More recently, opposition parties in Germany have argued Ms. Lambrecht is responsible for the slow rollout of a 100 billion euro ($108 billion) defense fund, part of a plan by the government to significantly bolster its military in response to the war in Ukraine. Germany’s limited stores of basic ammunition mean it has stocks for only hours or days of combat.
The final straw appears to have been an awkward video released on New Year’s Eve on Ms. Lambrecht’s personal Instagram account. In it, Ms. Lambrecht discussed the war in Ukraine and offered seasonal greetings amid a raucous backdrop of fireworks in Berlin. Critics called it distasteful, and even her own ministry distanced itself from the video, saying it was a personal statement.
In her statement, Ms. Lambrecht said that she hoped her resignation would put the public focus back where it belonged. “The valuable work of the soldiers and the many motivated people in the area of operations must be in the foreground,” she said.
A successor has not been announced.