Federal Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (CDU) has sharply condemned the derailments of Bundeswehr soldiers in Lithuania.
Berlin - The soldiers had "committed completely unacceptable misconduct," she said on Friday at a performance in the command academy of the Bundeswehr in Hamburg.
"With their behavior, these soldiers are frivolously jeopardizing the reputation of the entire Bundeswehr. With their misconduct they damage the work and performance of all their comrades and endanger the good reputation of our country."
Regarding the specific incidents, Kramp-Karrenbauer said: "We hear of sexual coercion and systemic bullying, of irregularities in the use of ammunition. We hear of anti-Semitic remarks, of songs from the Nazi era. These are particularly grave misconduct and they will be with the utmost sharpness be prosecuted and punished. "
The incidents in Lithuania had become public at the beginning of the week through a report by "Spiegel".
In the meantime, the entire affected train has been ordered back to Germany and replaced.
Many in the Bundeswehr, including themselves, were "deeply disappointed," said Kramp-Karrenbauer.
"These soldiers did something that could hardly be more unsoldier and more unfriendly. They are you, they stabbed us all in the back" - and that in a situation in which the ministry and many members of the Bundestag "are fighting for more money for important armament projects ".
Addressing future Bundeswehr executives, the minister said that they would be "our first line of defense against extremist activities and other misconduct" in the troops.
"I appeal to all of you: Take a close look. Be consistent. Don't let anything get away and don't hide anything."
The actual topic of Kramp-Karrenbauer's keynote address at the leadership academy was the question of how Germany and the Bundeswehr should position themselves for the future.
She said that Germany must "absolutely master the technologies of the future".
"Our security, our prosperity, our social system and our political creative power will depend crucially on Germany and Europe having a technological leadership and shaping role."
It is also important that Germany accept "its role of responsibility in Europe", said Kramp-Karrenbauer.
"We really have to lead as a large, high-performance country in the middle of the continent that everyone is looking to and building on."
cne / jp