Boris Pistorius is the new German defense minister

Boris Pistorius is the new German defense minister

He expects a swift and “excellent personnel decision” on his successor as Lower Saxony’s interior minister from Prime Minister Stephan Weil (also SPD). The 62-year-old said he would approach his new role with humility and respect. It is a great honor for him. He wants to dedicate 150% to work from day one. He testified to the dismissed minister Christine Lambrecht (SPD) that he had initiated the reorganization of the Bundeswehr.

Lambrecht had resigned on Monday. His successor, Pistorius, will receive the certificate of appointment from German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Thursday and be sworn in to the Bundestag.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is convinced the Bundeswehr will get along well with Pistorius. “I am convinced that this is someone who can work with the troops and who the soldiers will really like,” he said on Tuesday in Brandenburg an der Havel. He is therefore very grateful that the former Minister of the Interior of Lower Saxony has said yes to the task.

Pistorius has a lot of experience in security policy, Scholz emphasized. In his previous position, he had already worked openly and closely with the Bundeswehr. Furthermore, Pistorius is someone “who also has the strength and calm he needs for such a huge task given the current turning point”.

Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens) also stressed that she was looking forward to working with Lambrecht’s successor. She “trusts and is based on the fact that we will continue to do what we have done together between the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a spirit of trust in these past difficult times,” she said in Brandenburg an der Havel.

The former defense minister announced her resignation after a year in office. In recent days, several other names have been touted as possible successors, including Chancellor Wolfgang Schmidt, SPD leader Lars Klingbeil and Military Commissioner Eva Högl. Pistorius was now a surprise.

The Minister of the Interior of Lower Saxony is considered to be an experienced political manager. In recent years, Pistorius has gained a reputation as an expert and experienced politician among federal and state interior ministers. Although he always remained in Lower Saxony, he was also involved in the internal political positioning of the federal SPD in election campaigns and coalition negotiations.

At interior ministerial conferences, Pistorius, who is considered a pragmatist, has always visibly enjoyed arguing with conservatives such as former German interior minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) on an open stage, insightful, with pointed but never disrespectful comments. Perhaps Pistorius’ age also makes him an ideal candidate for the post of defense minister. At age 62, a politician can finally move into the executive office in the Bendlerblock, which is generally considered an ejection seat and therefore also a potential career killer.

SPD partners in the traffic light coalition praised the personnel. Finance Minister Christian Lindner immediately congratulated Pistorius. In a tweet, the FDP leader spoke of his “new cabinet colleague Boris Pistorius”. “We have a big task ahead of us, especially with the implementation of the special fund,” he wrote. He hopes for good cooperation between the finance and defense ministries.

FDP faction leader Christian Dürr also praised the decision. “I am convinced that he is the right man for the post of defense minister,” he told the t-online news portal. He knows him from his time in the Lower Saxony state parliament and has always valued him there as Minister of the Interior. “Mr Pistorius has many years of experience with the structure of our security authorities, and he has also been in the Bundeswehr itself. I am convinced that he is the right man for the post of defense minister and that he can fill the turned with life,” said Dürr.

Economy and Climate Protection Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) welcomed Lower Saxony’s appointment. “Boris Pistorius is a very experienced politician who has the nerves of steel needed in difficult situations.” Pistorius will take over the defense department “at very crucial times”. “Important decisions must also be taken in the short term, especially the urgent question of how we can continue to support Ukraine in its right to self-defence. Germany has a responsibility here and has to master important tasks,” explained Habeck.

The criticisms of the personnel came from the Union. “The chancellor is showing that he is not serious about his own turning point,” Union faction vice-chairman Johann Wadephul (CDU) told the German Press Agency. “Once again, knowledge and experience with the Bundeswehr is irrelevant,” Wadephul criticized. The personnel is a “B-team cast”. With that, Chancellor Scholz “was in for a real surprise. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a good one.” To advance the Bundeswehr, you need not only money, but also experience. “Given the situation, Boris Pistorius will not be able to have 100 days of training,” emphasized Wadephul.

The head of the CSU regional group, Alexander Dobrindt, also recalled the time pressure due to projects that were left behind. Lost time must be made up for,” Dobrindt said on Tuesday in Berlin. Pistorius is taking on a challenging task, in which the CSU wishes him success.

Lambrecht leaves Pistorius with a whole series of construction sites. The modernization of the Bundeswehr, among other things with the help of the €100 billion special fund, has just begun. So far, only contracts worth a good ten billion euros have been concluded. Chancellor Scholz announced rearmament after the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February last year.

It is also not yet clear how arms deliveries to Ukraine will continue. After the Berlin government decided for the last time to supply Marder armored personnel carriers, current debates revolve around making Leopard main battle tanks available to the attacked country. A meeting with Ukraine’s Western allies at the US air base in Ramstein in Rhineland-Palatinate is already planned for the new minister on Friday, at which more support for Kyiv will be discussed.

Pistorius was repeatedly said to have ambitions for political office at the federal level. For example, there were rumors that he could become Germany’s interior minister if Nancy Faeser ran as the SPD’s leading candidate in state elections in Hesse.

With Pistorius’ decision, Scholz undermines his own claim to fill his ministerial staff equally. Before there were eight men and eight women, now there will be nine men and seven women – not counting the chancellor himself. SPD leader Lars Klingbeil stressed on Tuesday that the issue of parity between men and women remains important – for both the chancellor and the SPD leadership.