Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday, 7 June, in her first major interview since stepping down from her position six months ago, defended her policy of détente – the easing of hostility towards Russia – and stated that she had nothing for which to apologise.
Merkel insisted that she had not been naive in her dealings with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In an interview broadcast on the Phoenix news channel, the 67-year-old said, "Diplomacy isn't wrong just because it hasn't worked.”
Merkel also recalled her support for economic sanctions against Russia over its 2014 annexation of Crimea and said, "I don't have to blame myself for not trying hard enough…I don't see that I have to say 'that was wrong' and that's why I have nothing to apologise for," news agency AFP reported.
Ukraine War a ‘Turning Point’: Merkel
Further, she added, the invasion of Ukraine was a “turning point” and that there was "no justification whatsoever" for the "brutal" and illegal war of aggression.
She emphasised that Putin had made "a big mistake" and said, “He wants to destroy Europe…It's very important for the European Union to stick together now."
Merkel had blocked Ukraine from joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) back in 2008. Speaking on the decision now, she said that the country was not ready then and that she had also wanted to avoid "further escalation" with Russia – already on edge about the military alliance's perceived eastward expansion.
Instead, she insisted that the 2014-2015 Minsk peace pacts were seen as the best way to end the fighting in eastern Ukraine between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian soldiers.
Merkel also praised Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and said, "The courage and passion with which they are fighting for their country is very impressive."
Nord Stream 2 Pipeline Project
While she has been criticised for developing trade relations with Russia and making Germany more reliant on Russian energy, Merkel insisted that there was no way dealing with Russia could be avoided as, like China, it was too big to ignore.
"We have to find a way to co-exist despite all our differences," she said.
Merkel further said, "I never thought Putin would change through trade," but "having some economic ties makes sense," she added.
The controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline that was to double Russian gas deliveries to Germany was shelved in February by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz – a day after Russia recognised the independence of and sent troops to separatist-controlled Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine.
Merkel has approved of Scholz's decision, saying that strength was "the only language Putin understands."
(With inputs from AFP.)