In an interview with the news magazine Focus, Olaf Scholz takes stock of his first year in office as Federal Chancellor. It was a strenuous year, “in which it was necessary to act with determination and prudence”.

After Russia’s attack on Ukraine, he spoke of a turning point “because the dramatic break with everything we had known in the previous decades seemed obvious to me”.

The past twelve months have been intense for him personally. “Any wrong or hasty decision could have had terrible consequences for our country,” Scholz told Focus.

Russia is trying to “expand its territory by force. War and imperialism are back,” said Scholz. He does not want to make any predictions about how long the war will last. “The horrors and cruelty of war make it impossible to speculate,” he says. At some point the time will have to come “when Russia will also be looking for a way out of this fatal situation. “Central is the withdrawal of the troops.”

Scholz promises Ukraine further help “for as long as it will be necessary”. When asked whether the Russian President was a war criminal, Scholz replies: “The war in Ukraine violates all rules of international law and Vladimir Putin is responsible for this war.” Endangering countries turns out to be a mistake. “But we don’t know what conclusions Russia will draw from its failure,” the Chancellor continued.

When asked if Germany is a leading power, he replies: “Germany is the fourth largest economy in the world and the largest country in the European Union. That is why we have a task to perform – and I am taking on this task as Chancellor of our country.”

Regarding Germany’s relationship with China, he explains: “The importance of the Chinese market needs no explanation. At the same time, the goal is not to be dependent on anyone.” An old saying goes: don’t put all your eggs in one basket. He is therefore surprised at how dependent some companies have become on individual markets and have completely ignored the risks.

Scholz rejects the fracking method for extracting domestic natural gas. “Fracking makes little sense for us and has been discussed and rejected several times in Germany,” said the Chancellor. Investors also showed little interest in the deal. When asked if Germany should rather remain dependent on others than take responsibility for itself, Scholz replied: “No, but acting responsibly means not chasing chimeras.”

By the time the gas could be pressed out of the deep layers, Germany would be so far with the expansion of renewable energies that “the cost, risk and return would be far too poorly proportioned”. Germany will phase out the use of fossil resources by 2045. “We should focus our efforts on importing hydrogen and producing it here in Germany by electrolysis.”

Despite all criticism of the former Chancellor’s Russia policy, Scholz assesses her historical role positively: “Angela Merkel can confidently rely on the judgment of the history books.” He continued to exchange ideas with Angela Merkel, but he rejected the former Chancellor’s role as a mediator in the Ukraine war: “Let’s not fool ourselves: there are no communication problems with the Russian ruler. Putin is ruthlessly pursuing goals that we cannot accept.”

The Chancellor is optimistic that the country will overcome the crisis. Germany has a very powerful economy. “We have the strength and the skill to do what is necessary,” says Scholz. Germany has the lowest level of debt among the G7 countries.

“Even after this crisis, we will be less indebted than the other G7 countries before the crisis.” He considers the debt brake “basically correct”. However, the rules of the Basic Law “at the same time offer the necessary flexibility to act appropriately in a crisis situation”.

Chancellor Scholz criticizes the blockades of young climate activists. “I want to say clearly that I consider these actions to be misguided,” says Scholz. When asked whether he would have taken part when he was young, the chancellor replied that this was a question not to be asked of someone in their early 60s. “Because it’s inappropriate to judge a 17-year-old’s perspective from my point of view.”