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Boris Pistorius: Is his best man in danger?

Boris Pistorius: Is his best man in danger?

In the Bundeswehr wiretapping scandal, Defense Minister Boris Pistorius initially seemed to have successfully managed the crisis. Now one of his most important men is coming into focus: Air Force Inspector Ingo Gerhartz

Boris Pistorius appeared tight-lipped when the Defense Minister appeared before the press in the Bundestag on Monday evening. He had just had to explain one of the most embarrassing mishaps in the history of the Bundeswehr to the Defense Committee: the publication of a conversation between four high-ranking Bundeswehr military officers on the question of the delivery of Taurus cruise missiles to Ukraine. It was leaked by the Russian propaganda channel RT.

“Are there any new details?” a journalist asked Pistorius. “No new ones, and those that exist were discussed in secret session.” In rhetoric, this is called an oxymoron when you put things together that contradict each other. In this case it happened unintentionally.

Because there was a new detail. Pistorius only admitted this when asked. Yes, not only do I have one, but I still have one. It took another question before he gave the name: Ingo Gerhartz. This hits a man who was previously considered almost flawless.

The “Top Gun General”

Even in the Bundeswehr, which is not lacking in heroic tales, Gerhartz once again occupies a special position. Not just formally – as an inspector of the Air Force, he is the head of one of the three largest branches of the Bundeswehr (along with the army and navy) and is therefore responsible for almost 27,000 soldiers.

The 58-year-old has the nickname “Top Gun General” because he still insists on flying in the Eurofighter fighter jet from time to time. According to the Bundeswehr, he is the only air force chief in all of Europe who still does this. Because you have to be in top physical shape for the flights, after all you are carrying several times your own body weight during such a flight.

Gerhartz is an imposing figure, tall, muscular, shaved bald – in short: a real guy.

An image that he cultivates himself by often appearing in flying gear, even when he is not flying. He is also popular with soldiers because he is seen as approachable and as someone who does not emphasize hierarchical rank. He has that in common with his current boss, Defense Minister Pistorius.

But people in the Bundeswehr also have a lot of good things to say about Gerhartz from a professional perspective. Since he took over leadership of the Air Force, its operational readiness has increased. The number of Eurofighters capable of taking off increased from around 35 to almost 80 percent. This was possible because Gerhartz is in close contact with the arms industry.

Last November he traveled to Israel to show solidarity with the Israeli Air Force after the Hamas terrorist attacks on October 7th and donated blood at the Sheba Medical Center near Tel Aviv.

Gerhartz is particularly valued in Israel. He had already been there in April to take part in the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Jewish state. At that time, one of his Eurofighters was allowed to take part in the Air Force’s military parade, decorated with an Israeli and a German flag. This had never happened before.

Ursula von der Leyen supported him

Gerhartz began his career in the Bundeswehr in 1985 with basic military service. It wasn’t “Top Gun” that brought him to the Air Force, but rather a childhood in Büchel in Rhineland-Palatinate, where there is a German Air Force air base. As a five-year-old, Gerhartz likes to say, he stood at the fence and dreamed of flying there himself.

After his fighter pilot training and various positions, he became a consultant in the Ministry of Defense and military representative for the Eurofighter in 2003. He is known to Berlin journalists from his time as one of the ministry’s spokespersons, back then under Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen. She valued him so much that she gave him a “jump promotion”, i.e. one that didn’t correspond to the pace of the usual career. Since then, Gerhartz has also had many envious people in the Bundeswehr.

In conversation as Inspector General

In June 2018 he took over leadership of the Air Force. When Boris Pistorius was looking for a new inspector general after taking office, Gerhartz was reportedly also in discussion. The post went to Carsten Breuer, but a new perspective was found for the air force chief: from next year he will head the NATO headquarters in Brunssum, the Netherlands, one of the alliance’s two operational headquarters in Europe. Associated with this: promotion to four-star general.

But it is precisely this position that is now in danger. The fact that Gerhartz also dialed in via an insecure line (or rather was dialed in by an employee) damaged his reputation internationally. The British in particular scoffed at the Bundeswehr’s susceptibility to espionage. What is more dangerous for Gerhartz is that the Americans were also not amused that German generals allowed themselves to be wiretapped so carelessly. They could prevent NATO personnel.

Boris Pistorius sticks by his officers

It would be the first brush with Gerhartz in an otherwise flawless career. And it would also be an embarrassment for Pistorius.

For now, he continues to hold on to his people. His statement that he would not sacrifice any of his best people to “Putin’s games” still applies, he told journalists on Monday evening: “We are waiting for further investigations.”

Source: Stern

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