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Merkel defends her legacy on Russia and Ukraine – POLITICO

BERLIN — Angela Merkel on Tuesday defended her diplomatic legacy as German chancellor, dismissing accusations that her policy leading Europe’s largest economy for 16 years was indirectly responsible for Russia’s continued attack on Germany. ‘Ukraine.

In her first public interview since leaving office in December, Merkel claimed that Russian President Vladimir Putin would have completely invaded his neighboring country much sooner if she and other allies had not made controversial decisions such as such as the blocking of Ukraine’s candidacy for the NATO military alliance in 2008, or the negotiation of the Minsk peace agreements in 2014 and 2015, which Ukraine considered detrimental to its own security.

“I don’t blame myself,” Merkel told an audience at the sold-out Berliner Ensemble theater in the German capital. “I tried to work in the direction of harm prevention. And if diplomacy does not succeed, that does not mean that it was therefore wrong. So I don’t see why I should say, “That was wrong. And so I will not apologize.

However, Merkel – who condemned Putin’s invasion as “a brutal aggression in defiance of international law for which there is no excuse” – was also cautiously self-critical: she said she had failed during his tenure “to create a security architecture that could have prevented this [war] to occur.

In April, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called Merkel and former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, arguing that their long-standing policy of “concessions to Russia” and their opposition to putting Ukraine and Georgia on the path to Membership of NATO had encouraged Moscow to think “that they are allowed to do whatever they want” with Ukraine and are committing “even the most horrific war crimes” like in Bucha.

Yet Merkel on Tuesday defended her decision not to grant Ukraine the so-called NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP) at the alliance’s 2008 Bucharest summit, citing two reasons. : first, she said that Ukraine “was not a democratically consolidated country”, then, still strongly influenced by the oligarchs and plagued by corruption. Second, Merkel said she was convinced that such a step would certainly have led to war.

“I was very sure that Putin would not just let [Ukraine’s NATO membership] occur. It would have been… a declaration of war for him,” she said, arguing that the Russian leader would have used the NATO membership process, during which Ukraine would probably not yet have benefited from the mutual security guarantees of the alliance, to “do something”. ”

“My assessment is quite clear: if the Membership Action Plan had come back at the time, [the war we are facing now] would have happened even faster,” Merkel said.

She used a similar argument to defend her legacy over the ultimately failed Minsk Accords, intended to secure peace in eastern Ukraine, where Russian-backed separatists had engaged in armed conflict with troops Ukrainians since 2014.

If these peace agreements had not been negotiated, “Putin could have caused enormous damage in Ukraine” in 2014, she argued, adding that the seven years since then had been “very important” for that Ukraine is growing both democratically and militarily, now able to resist Russian troops more effectively than it could have done in 2008 or 2014.

Merkel also said she had “never given in to any illusions” that Germany Wandel durch Handel (change through trade) would really change Putin’s behavior. “I was not naive,” Merkel said, saying she had repeatedly warned that Putin “wants to destroy the EU because he sees it as a precursor to NATO.”

Still, she said she considered it right to pursue “at least some business relationships” with Russia, including the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline (which her successor Olaf Scholz eventually shelved before the invasion of Ukraine), saying, “You can’t completely ignore yourself.


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