Boris Pistorius will lead efforts to modernize Germany’s military and steer policy on the war in Ukraine.
Germany has appointed a new defense minister as pressure mounts on Berlin to allow European nations to send German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government named Boris Pistorius as defense chief on Tuesday to replace scandal-hit Christine Lambrecht, who resigned a day earlier.
Pistorius, from Scholz’s ruling Social Democratic Party (SPD), will leave his post as the interior minister of the state of Lower Saxony. He gained a national profile during the refugee crisis in 2015 and is known for taking a hard line on security issues.
“Pistorius is an extremely experienced politician who has been tested in administration. [He] has been dealing with security policy for years,” said Scholz.
“With his competence, assertiveness and big heart, he is exactly the right person to lead the Bundeswehr [armed forces] through this turning point,” he said in a statement.
Pistorius’ appointment comes ahead of a meeting planned for Friday at the United States’ Rammstein Air Base in southwestern Germany, where Ukraine’s allies are expected to discuss increasing military support for Kiev.
His predecessor Lambrecht has been criticized for months for her perceived failure to modernize the German military fast enough, her stance on the Ukraine war and her public image.
Until now, Germany has been wary of approving the shipment of heavy Leopard tanks over fears that such a move could escalate the war.
In a statement seen by the Reuters news agency, German Economy Minister Robert Habeck said: “There are important decisions to be made in the short term, especially the urgent question of how we continue to support Ukraine in his right to self-defense.”
“Germany bears a responsibility here and has big tasks to carry out.”
While other European countries have stocks of the coveted German tanks, they can only be sent to Kiev after they have been approved by Berlin.
Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, told Al Jazeera on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos: “I have said since the beginning of the war that we must give the Ukrainian armed forces the military equipment that they need and what they can handle. . If it’s advanced technologies, I still have the same position, and I think there will be important discussions in Rammstein on January 20, and I hope good decisions will be made.”
On Monday, the UK confirmed the first delivery of 14 Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine.
In his speech to parliament, the British defense minister, Ben Wallace, said that Germany would not be alone if they sent tanks to Kiev.
In response, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the British tanks would “burn just like the rest”.