Game of Chancellors? Merkel gives protege AKK ‘mixed blessing’ with defense ministry appointment
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Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer’s unexpected appointment as Germany’s new defense minister could be a career-ending blunder – or a politically savvy ploy by Angela Merkel to maintain her party’s control of power, analysts have told RT.
Germans were rightfully puzzled when Kramp-Karrenbauer, who currently leads Merkel’s center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, was picked by the chancellor to replace Ursula von der Leyen, who is leaving the defense ministry to become the president of the European Commission.
Kramp-Karrenbauer, often shortened as AKK, has no notable expertise in military affairs, and even said that she would not seek a cabinet post in Merkel’s government because she wanted to instead focus on revitalizing the politically-battered CDU. The appointment has thus immediately made headlines and raised questions.
‘Ejector seat’ of chancellors
The prestigious post offers new political horizons to Kramp-Karrenbauer, while also placing formidable, career-killing dangers in her path, Dr. Werner Patzelt, chair of political science at Dresden University of Technology, told RT.
According to Patzelt, taking the reins at the defense ministry will be a “mixed blessing” for the CDU chief. The appointment would mean that AKK is “no longer confined to her role as a quite powerless party chairperson. She now has a political stage.”
He cautioned, however, that leading the Bundeswehr is “one of the most dangerous political positions” in the country, warning that even one scandal could bring an end to her political ambitions. Known as the “ejector seat” of German politics, the job has brought political ruin to numerous past ministers who’d once had high hopes of becoming chancellor.
But despite the perils of the post, the appointment is also viewed as a smart move by Merkel, who appears to be pitching AKK as Germany’s next chancellor. It provides the new CDU chief with “an ideal condition to head the newly-formed government in the event of victory,” Vladislav Belov, vice-principal of the Institute of Europe at the Russian Academy of Sciences, told RT.
It’s Merkel’s game. She offered AKK the same model Merkel herself had – an experience in government work, which will be taken into account in the framework of the election campaign: no one will be able to criticize her for the lack of cabinet work.
With questions being raised about Merkel’s health, having AKK in a powerful cabinet position “might be the best way to prepare for a transition of power,” Patzelt believes, agreeing that it would be harder for the CDU’s political rivals to oppose her bid for the chancellorship if she already had tangible high-level government experience.
More of the same minister?
Whatever the reason for her appointment, Kramp-Karrenbauer is likely to maintain the status quo, Patzelt predicted, adding that there is no reason to suspect that she will change Germany’s standoffish approach to Russia, followed by her predecessor. But while she’s not expected to make it fiercely anti-Russian either, unlike her predecessor von der Leyen, AKK is “a clean sheet” with a “complicated heritage” to sort through, Belov warns.
AKK will be charged with making a number of key decisions for Germany’s armed forces, including the procurement of new weapons and the bolstering of recruitment. For now, little is known about what AKK intends to do as German defense minister – or how she will fare.
“We will have to assume a wait-and-see attitude,” Patzelt said.
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