No Regrets: Ex-German Chancellor Angela Merkel Rejects Blame for Enabling Putin’s Russia

Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) and German journalist Alexander Osang react as they arrive on stage for Merkel's first public talk since stepping down, at the Berliner Ensemble theatre in Berlin on June 7, 2022. (Photo by John MACDOUGALL / AFP) (Photo by JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP via Getty Images)
JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP via Getty Images

An unrepentant Angela Merkel has refused to accept any blame for failing to prevent, or indeed actually enabling the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

In her first major interview since leaving office in December of last year, former German Chancellor Angela Merkel declared that she did all she could to prevent the war in Ukraine and skirted any blame for her government’s role in funding Vladimir Putin’s regime by increasing German dependence on Moscow-supplied energy.

“I don’t blame myself for not having tried hard enough,” Merkel said per DW in response to what Germany could have done to prevent the escalation in tensions between Ukraine and Russia. “I tried sufficiently. It is a great sadness that I did not succeed.”

The former chancellor, who left power just over two months before Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, went on to defend her role in approving the now-scuttered Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia, claiming that due to Germany’s regional proximity necessitated trade with the geopolitical antagonist. Merkel went on to deny that she believed trade would have stabilised the region, however.

The former chancellor then attacked the Trump administration for deciding to levy sanctions against the pipeline, saying: “Basically, they sanctioned us as allies because of a different political opinion.”

“What we have learned is Putin attacked Ukraine even though Nord Stream 2 was not yet in operation. So he didn’t wait, but that this was a geopolitical goal of preventing a country on his doorstep from choosing another model, which he describes as Western-influenced.”

Though the ill-fated pipeline project was ultimately cancelled in February, Germany under and after Merkel has been a major financier of the Putin government — and consequently, perhaps, the Russian military — as its top foreign purchaser of natural gas and oil.

Germany and Merkel were long criticised by former President Donald Trump for this dependence, with Trump warning that their reliance on gas imports from Moscow would leave them nothing more than “captives” of Vladimir Putin.

“It is very sad when Germany makes a massive oil and gas deal with Russia, where we’re supposed to be guarding against Russia, and Germany goes and pays out billions and billions of dollars a year to Russia. We’re protecting Germany, we’re protecting France, we’re protecting all of these countries,” Trump said in 2018.

The poor state of the military of Germany, which consistently failed to meet its NATO spending obligations under Merkel, forced her successor Olaf Scholz to announce a 100 billion euro investment into its armed forces to finally meet the 2 per cent of GDP spending requirement.

Germany has also been left scrambling to secure new sources of energy, such as signing a deal with the Islamist kingdom of Qatar for natural gas, due to Merkel’s insistence on denuclearising the economy and over-reliance on so-called green energy.

Even after measures were taken to lessen the dependency on Russian energy following the invasion of Ukraine, Germany still receives around 35 per cent of its gas imports from Russia.

The dependence on Russia has left the country vulnerable to potential recession and gas rationing this summer should Vladimir Putin follow through with his threat to shut off the taps if Germany fails to pay Moscow in Russian roubles, as has already happened in Finland, Norway, and Denmark.

The failure of Merkel to take responsibility for the war in Ukraine or indeed the desperate state of Germany is perhaps unsurprising given her previous refusals to admit that her decision to open up the borders of Europe to millions of migrants during the 2015 crisis.

Despite leading to social unrest, violence, and economic hardships for the native German population, Merkel said last year that she would “make essentially the same decisions” and allow millions to flood into the country.

Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here @KurtZindulka

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