Ex-German chancellor says her policy bought Ukraine time to prepare for conflict with Russia
Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel has once again defended her 2008 decision to prevent Kyiv from joining NATO, insisting that Moscow would see the decision as an opening “declaration of war.” Speaking from a theater stage in Berlin on Tuesday, she claimed a German-brokered peace initiative had failed “bought” Ukraine has plenty of time to prepare politically and militarily to face Russia.
“I don’t have to blame myself for not having tried hard enough” Merkel said in her first major public appearance since stepping down last year. “Diplomacy isn’t bad just because it didn’t work.”
The US-led military bloc formally recognized Ukraine and Georgia’s NATO aspirations in the 2008 Bucharest summit declaration, agreeing that the two countries would eventually become members of the alliance, but did not actually put these plans into motion due to objections from France and Germany.
“My assessment is quite clear: if the Membership Action Plan had come back at the time, [the Ukraine conflict] would have happened even faster,” Merkel said, adding that “Back then, Ukraine was a country ruled by oligarchs, so there you can’t just say ‘Okay tomorrow, we’ll take them into NATO’.”
After the 2014 coup in kyiv, the Merkel government, alongside France, became the guarantor of the Minsk agreements, signed to regularize the status of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions within the Ukrainian state. In 2019, the so-called Steinmeier formula was signed, under which the breakaway regions were supposed to hold elections under Ukrainian legislation and under the supervision of the OSCE, after which they would receive a special status of autonomy and return control of their borders with Russia in kyiv.
“This agreement has been incorporated into a resolution of the UN Security Council, so it has the character of international law”, says Merkel.
This calmed things down and gave Ukraine plenty of time, seven years, to become the country it is today.
Citing kyiv’s refusal to implement the terms of the peace initiative, Moscow eventually recognized Donetsk and Lugansk as independent states and sent troops to Ukraine on February 24, 2022. Russia has now demanded that Ukraine officially declares itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military alliance. kyiv insists the Russian offensive was unprovoked and has denied claims it planned to retake the two republics by force.
Merkel condemned the attack as “a big mistake on Russia’s part” and one “brutal aggression in defiance of international law”. She accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of trying to “destroy Europe” insisting that she was never naive in her interactions with Putin and saying that strength was “the only language” He understands.
“It is very important that the European Union remains united now”, Merkel added, while nevertheless emphasizing the need to “find a way to coexist despite all our differences”, because countries like Russia or China are too big to be isolated or “ignore.”