Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel has defended her policy towards Russia before the invasion of Ukraine in February, saying she had no power left to influence Vladimir Putin.
She said she had tried to hold European talks with the Russian president and French President Emmanuel Macron in the summer of 2021.
“But I didn’t have the power to achieve it,” she told Spiegel news.
“Really everyone knew: In the fall she’s going to leave,” she said.
After four terms as chancellor, Merkel left office in December. She last visited Moscow in August 2021 and told the German news magazine that “the feeling was very clear.”
“For Putin, only power matters.”
It was significant that, for their final meeting, Mr. Putin brought along Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, she said. They had met face to face before, she noted.
In light of President Putin’s invasion, preceded by weeks of massive military training on Ukraine’s borders, many have argued that Merkel and other EU leaders should have adopted a tougher approach to the Kremlin. BBC.
A foreign policy expert in her Christian Democratic Party (CDU), MEP Roderich Kieseetter, is among those who say she knew Putin was trying to divide and weaken Europe, but she believed “soft power” was the right approach. .
She argued before the invasion that Germany was too dependent on Russian gas.
In the Spiegel interview, Mrs Merkel said her stance on Ukraine at the Minsk peace talks had given Kiev time to better defend itself against the Russian military.
A ceasefire agreement was reached in Minsk after Russia’s 2014 annexation of the Crimean peninsula and during its war in the Donbass region. But key points, including disarmament and international supervision, were not implemented.
Mrs Merkel said she did not regret leaving office in December because she felt her government was failing to make progress not only on the Ukraine crisis but also on conflicts in Moldova, Georgia, Syria and Libya, all of which involved Russia. .
She and Putin both had first-hand experience of life in communist East Germany, she grew up there and he served there as a Soviet KGB officer, doing secret intelligence work. Putin speaks fluent German and Mrs. Merkel speaks a little Russian.