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Ursula von der Leyen launches a hunt for the “bad elements” of the German army

Ursula von der Leyen speaking to the press, surrounded (to her left) by General Volker Wieker, and (to his right) General Jörg Vollmer (© LH / B2)

(B2 in Illkirch) The German Minister of Defense, Ursula von der Leyen, arrived at the very beginning of the afternoon in the Leclerc district, in Illkirch-Graffenstaden (south of Strasbourg) for an update on the values ​​of the German army.

It is here that the German soldier Franco A, suspected of wanting to commit an attack, was assigned to the 291st hunter battalion of the Franco-German brigade (BFA) (read: Mix of genres. A German BFA soldier suspected of planning a racist attack). A visit decided on urgently the day before (in the process canceling a planned trip to the United States) in order to reinforce the minister's message, subject to strong criticism on the national scene, particularly among the armed forces. Narrative…

A strong message: internal failures to be resolved

Accompanied by the inspector General Volker Wieker (chief of staff of the German army) and Inspector General Jörg Vollmer (boss of the army), Ursula von der Leyen wanted to send a clear message. If " the vast majority of [German] soldiers have all the respectt” from the minister, “ it is important to dig deeper if something has gone wrong ». « We are at the start of a long process. »  There is " still a lot to come, but it's worth it “Assures the minister. Internally, it will be necessary to explain how the soldier was able to have a career for so long in the ranks of the Bundeswehr, without being worried ". And she plans to get started quickly.

Weaknesses in the leadership of the army

Starting tomorrow, Thursday May 4, she will meet around a hundred senior officers of the German army in Berlin to discuss “ training, in view of recent scandals and their consequences ". In Illkirch, Von der Leyen also announced a revision of the Code of Military Discipline. The Minister also confirmed the remarks made in an interview with the daily Bild, where she denounced " leadership weaknesses” in the army and a misplaced esprit de corps leading to minimizing deviations.

Political communications operation

One of the drawings of the “bunkers”, the relaxation room for German non-commissioned officers, in the Leclerc district, in Illkirch. (© LH/B2)

Von der Leyen came, in person, to get an idea of ​​the progress of the investigation that she herself ordered last week. But the visit was also (and above all) a publicity operation to restore the minister's image, which had been undermined at the start of the electoral campaign (in Germany).

A package review… in detail

Arriving around 14 p.m., the minister only stayed in the base for a few hours. However, the tour was thorough. And the press kept at a safe distance from the minister to avoid any untimely questions. After a first meeting with senior German officers, she insisted on meeting several soldiers. She also visited Franco A.'s workplace as well as the different living areas of German soldiers.

Scenery glorifying the Nazi past

In his room, investigators found a weapon decorated with a swastika, a poster of soldiers of the Third Reich and various documents glorifying the Nazis, the minister announced. In the “bunker”, the non-commissioned officers’ leisure lounge, to which B2 had access, the walls are decorated with drawings of soldiers reminiscent of those of the Wehrmacht… A detail that the minister also “ lso deplored » sharply : « The Wehrmacht has nothing in common with the Bundeswehr. [It] cannot inspire any form of tradition. »

The absent French 

On the French side, the service has been reduced to a minimum. Only General Nicolas Casanova, head of the 2nd Armored Brigade (2nd BB), received the minister upon her arrival at Eintzeim airport and the Leclerc district. But he did it especially in “ his capacity as military governor of Strasbourg ". Moreover, the minister's visit was not announced by French press officials. The French media could barely be counted on the fingers of one hand. On the other hand, on the German side, a good ten television stations and around fifteen journalists, some of whom arrived on the minister's plane, were present.

(Leonor Hubaut)

Leonor Hubaut

© B2 - Bruxelles2 is a French online media that focuses on political Europe (powers, defence, foreign policy, internal security). It follows and analyzes developments in European policy, unvarnished and without concessions. Approved by the CPPAP. Member of SPIIL. Please quote "B2" or "Bruxelles2" in case of recovery Leonor Hubaut is a journalist. Graduated in international relations from the Free University of Brussels (specialization in globalization). She covers for B2 the work of the European Parliament, CSDP missions and African issues. Sahel specialist.