Germany has a new defense minister, a position that is particularly exposed in the context of the war in Ukraine. Boris Pistorius was appointed on Tuesday, entering the government.
The 62-year-old social democrat, who is almost unknown at the national level, replaces veteran state MP Christine Lambrecht, who resigned on Monday after a series of blunders. He has been Lower Saxony’s interior minister since 2013 and is a “very experienced, administratively proven politician who has been dealing with security policy for years,” said Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
Thursday and Friday sessions on Ukraine
The reshuffle comes as Germany is under pressure from several allied countries, most notably Poland, to supply German-made Leopard heavy tanks to Kyiv. A decisive meeting on the subject of western defense ministers around the USA will also take place in Germany on Friday. Boris Pistorius will also welcome US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin in Berlin on Thursday, shortly after taking office.
His political opponents in Germany on Tuesday were quick to open controversy over statements made in 2018 questioning Western sanctions against Russia, recalling that the Social Democratic Party has long supported a policy of rapprochement with Moscow. “Here is another member of the Russia connection who is taking his place in the Council of Ministers,” conservative opposition MP Tilman Kuban told the daily Bild.
The person concerned rejected this criticism in the same newspaper. “I have not criticized the sanctions as such or their purpose, but, like many others, have questioned their effectiveness,” he noted. “The current sanctions are not comparable to those of the past and are not effective,” he added.
His appointment actually comes as a surprise because he was not among the group of potential candidates mentioned by the press. Above all, the reassignment of this portfolio to a man, after three women in this office since 2013, calls into question Olaf Scholz’s promise of parity in the government he has led since December 2021 and causes a stir in the coalition parties between social democrats and ecologists and liberals.
A specialist in cybersecurity issues
Like his predecessor, Boris Pistorius is a lawyer and comes from the Chancellor’s Party. He specializes in cybersecurity, homeland security and migration policy issues. He had made no secret of his national ambitions in recent years. However, his attempt to take over the presidency of the SPD in 2019 failed. In 2021, when the government was formed, he was considered a possible candidate for a ministerial post. But even there he got nothing.