The Brief — New German defence minister is a surprise hit
Many were surprised when Boris Pistorius was announced as the new German defence minister, but only five weeks in, he already seems to live up to the task and has won over most of his former critics.
Managing the German Defence Ministry is not a job to envy. After decades of underfunding and neglect, the Bundeswehr is in quite a desolate condition.
Turning Chancellor Olaf Scholz’ Zeitenwende – a strategic turnaround, including a reform of the military – into a success is not an easy feat and is full of stumbling blocks that could potentially end a political career – as Pistorius’ predecessor Christine Lambrecht had to painfully experience first-hand.
However, despite his lack of experience in the defence sector, Pistorius has already surprised many with his professionalism and eagerness to drive the reform of the Bundeswehr forward.
In only about five weeks in office, he has already managed to outperform all his colleagues in the German government in approval ratings, now ranking as the most popular politician in the country.
His recent appearance at the Munich Security Conference has also been largely praised by experts.
“Pistorius, after seven days in office, looked as if he had been in office for seven years, whereas Lambrecht, after one year, looks as if she has only been in office for seven days,” Frank Sauer, a political scientist at the University of the Bundeswehr Munich, commented in the podcast Sicherheitshalber following the conference.
Pistorius also brings something to the table that many of his predecessors lacked: leadership and vision.
While Lambrecht was seen as someone standing in the shadow of Scholz, Pistorius clearly has his own agenda he is pushing for.
Where Scholz announced already last year that Germany would spend an additional €100 billion in the coming years to bring the Bundeswehr back on track, Pistorius is going one step further.
This year’s military budget is currently set at around €50 billion, but Pistorius wants to have an additional €10 billion to fully implement the reform of the Bundeswehr.
The push for more money has already divided his party colleagues.
While some in the SPD worry that an additional increase would leave the federal chests empty and unable to fund the many social projects of the coalition, other high-ranking SPD officials, like Andreas Schwarz, said such a move would be necessary to make a “noticeable” change.
It is even unclear whether Pistorius has the blessing of the chancellor for his advance. However, asked at the Munich Security Conference whether Scholz would be on board, he showed little concern.
“My post is the defence minister of Germany and I have to announce very clearly what I think is necessary for our obligations regarding the Bundeswehr and NATO,” Pistorius stated confidently.
It remains to be seen if his performance will match his ambition but so far, he has not disappointed.
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