Germany’s new defense minister takes office, meets US’ Austin

Germany's newly appointed Defense Minister Boris Pistorius reviews an honour guard during his welcoming ceremony at the Defence Ministry in Berlin on January 19, 2023. (JOHN MACDOUGALL / AFP)

BERLIN / STOCKHOLM – Germany's new Minister of Defense, Boris Pistorius, took office on Thursday, who stressed that "the meaning of security is different than it was a year ago" due to the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

"These are not normal times," Pistorius said in his inaugural address. Although Germany is not part of the conflict, the country is affected by it, he said.

Taking over his predecessor, Christine Lambrecht, he inherits the task of rehabilitating an aging army long affected by austerity measures. "The armed forces, it has to be said, unfortunately, have often been neglected in recent decades," Pistorius said.

In order to tackle the issue, Germany already set up a special defense fund of 100 billion euros ($108 billion) last year. With this, the country also aims to achieve the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) target of spending 2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) on defense in the future.

There are concerns, however, that the additional budget will not be sufficient for the task. According to Bundestag Defense Commissioner Eva Hoegl, it could take three times the 100 billion euros in special defense funds approved last year to correct the deficiencies.

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"The biggest part of these times of change is still ahead of us," Pistorius said, adding that his job would be to "get tangible progress done now."

Immediately after taking office, Pistorius met with his US counterpart, Lloyd Austin, to discuss further support for Ukraine.

Sweden will provide Ukraine with the Archer artillery system, its tenth and the largest military aid package so far, Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said on Thursday

Lambrecht resigned from office on Monday following growing pressure after she posted a New Year's speech on social media, in which she referred to the Russia-Ukraine conflict in a manner that was perceived as inappropriate. 

Sweden to send Archer artillery system to Ukraine

Sweden will provide Ukraine with the Archer artillery system, its tenth and the largest military aid package so far, Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said on Thursday.

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The package is worth around 4.3 billion Swedish kronor ($415 million) and also includes around 50 CV-90 armored vehicles with ammunition, NLAW anti-tank missiles, disposable anti-tank weapons, and mine clearing equipment, the government said at a press conference here.

Ukraine has repeatedly requested that Sweden provides them with Archer, a vehicle-mounted howitzer with a range of up to 50 km.

The Swedish government has tasked the Swedish Armed Forces with preparing for deliveries of the system including ammunition.

Sweden will also assist Ukraine with their own arms procurement through cooperation and co-purchases with the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration (FMV), the government said, adding that it would speed up arms deliveries to Ukraine.

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Before Thursday's announcement, Sweden had already pledged to provide Ukraine with military equipment worth approximately 5 billion kronor in total, Swedish Television (SVT) reported.

Russia has said that the supply of Western weapons to Ukraine does not help resolve the conflict but prolongs the suffering of the Ukrainian people, and that Western arms convoys to Ukraine would be considered "legitimate targets" for the Russian armed forces.