Defense Minister Pistorius exclusively: Bundeswehr must become the strongest army in Europe politics

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As the new minister, he had to get off to a cold start on Thursday: Fifteen minutes after official roll call at the Ministry of Defence, Boris Pistorius (62, SPD) met his American colleague Lloyd Austin (69) and spoke to him about arms deliveries to Ukraine.

Warm welcome: US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin (69) and his Ukrainian colleague Oleksiy Resnikov (56) welcome Pistorius to their group

Photo: Hannes P Albert/dpa

Pistorius flew to Ramstein on Friday, where the West coordinated its aid for Kyiv at the US base in Rhineland-Palatinate. BILD am SONNTAG reached Pistorius in the car on Friday evening. He was on duty for just 32 hours.

BILD am SONNTAG: Mr. Pistorius, what was your first thought when the chancellor offered you the job of defense minister on Monday?

Boris Pistorius: “I was very pleased. What a leap of faith. A war is raging in Europe. The importance of the office is huge. That instills respect and humility in me.”

Is there anything you dread as Secretary of Defense?

Pistorius: “I have great respect for the task, but no jitters.”

Is your cell phone now on loud at night next to the bed?

Pistorius: “Yes. Even as interior minister, I had to make sure that the situation center and the state police chief could reach me at night, for example. For everyone else, the phone was on mute. It does not work anymore. Now I just leave my phone on loud. As Secretary of Defense, I’m on duty 24 hours a day. That’s okay too. There is a war in Europe.”

What does the Bundeswehr need most urgently?

Pistorius: “Everything has to happen at the same time now: the procurement of weapons and equipment, the modernization of the barracks, the recruitment of personnel. And: The troops have to feel that you trust them and are grateful for what they do.”

Does the Bundeswehr get the respect it deserves from the Germans?

Pistorius: “I’m committed to that. The Bundeswehr belongs in the middle of society. There she was. And that’s where she belongs again.”

What is your goal for the squad?

Pistorius: “Germany is the largest economy in Europe, so it should also be our goal to have the strongest and best-equipped army in the EU. However, this cannot be done in three years, it will take a few more years. My job is now to set the course for the turning point to succeed.”

What has changed since your military service 42 years ago?

Pistorius: “So much, it’s hard to list. But what I noticed right away on the first day: that I am still familiar with the language and the way the troops work. That makes it easy to arrive emotionally and mentally.”

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Photo: BILD

Do you remember the ranks?

Pistorius: “Most yes. I’m memorizing a few that are less common. At the Ministry we have agreed to call each other by name. But when visiting troops, I will address the men and women by their rank.”

Do you already know where you will travel to first?

Pistorius: “It’s not final yet. What is certain, however, is that I will soon travel to the Ukraine. Probably even within the next four weeks. On Friday I met my Ukrainian colleague in Ramstein for an intensive exchange. Oleksiy Resnikov is a very approachable, open man who knows exactly what he wants.”

What Ukraine urgently wants are Leopard 2 main battle tanks. But at the meeting in Ramstein, the decision on a delivery was postponed. The chancellery is still waiting, not yielding to pressure from Poland, among others. Pistorius at least ordered that his ministry now count how many German Leos are operational in the Bundeswehr and industry.

When will the leopards be decided?

Pistorius: “We are in very close dialogue on this issue with our international partners, above all with the USA. In order to be well prepared for possible decisions, I instructed my company on Friday to check everything so that we don’t lose any time unnecessarily should the worst come to the worst.”

How much training time do you have?

Pistorius: “None. I have to learn and do at the same time. For the time being I will hardly be at home in Osnabrück. On Saturday I just pick up fresh clothes for the next week.”

This article comes from BILD am SONNTAG. The ePaper of the entire issue is available here.

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