Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Tuesday there was no justification for Russia’s “brutal disregard” of international law in launching its invasion of Ukraine.
“The attack on Ukraine was a big mistake on Russia’s part and an objective breach of all the rules of international law and everything that allows us to live together in peace in Europe,” Merkel said in an interview with German journalist Alexander Osang.
“If we go through the centuries and say which piece of territory belongs to whom, then we will only have war, and that is absolutely unacceptable.”
Merkel said she did not reproach herself for “not having tried hard enough” to prevent Russia’s actions in the years leading up to the Feb. 24 invasion.
“It’s a great sadness that it didn’t succeed, but I don’t blame myself now for not trying,” she said. “I would feel very bad if we had said, ‘oh with that man you don’t need to talk at all,'” she said, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Russia and Europe being neighbors conditioned certain relations, Merkel said. “You cannot ignore each other. That will not be possible in the future either.”
Ukraine and NATO: Merkel said she was convinced that any plan to make Ukraine a candidate for NATO membership during her time in office would have been tantamount to a declaration of war, from Putin’s perspective.
Merkel also said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is “incredibly courageous in his fight against corruption,” but “at that time Ukraine was a country dominated by oligarchs,” which would have prevented it from joining NATO.
“And that’s why I was strictly against it,” she explained.
Merkel also showed respect for Zelensky’s “will” to fight.
“At the very beginning, not only did Russia make a serious miscalculation about conquering Kyiv, but his answer to the offer that he could leave the country, ‘I don’t need a ride, I need weapons,’ was also very clear and also really inspired my respect,” Merkel said.
“Ultimately, Ukraine is a geopolitical hostage of the West. Putin’s hatred, Putin’s hostility is against the Western model. Putin’s hostility goes against the Western democratic model.”
European unity: Merkel said she was very glad that Germany recently decided to buy armed drones from Israel. “It’s been a very tough struggle to invest in military deterrence. That’s the only language Putin understands,” she said.
“The annexation of Crimea was a deep cut,” Merkel said. “For me it was then perfectly clear that we are not dealing with someone who wishes us well with our way of life. Nevertheless, we cannot get rid of him.”
“Now it is very, very important that the European Union sticks together.”