The longer Putin’s war against Ukraine lasts, the more pressing the question of how Europe’s politicians could have so misjudged Vladimir Putin. Even during Angela Merkel’s term of office. FOCUS Online wanted to confront the old chancellor – and received a bizarre rejection.
Hardly any other country in the West has had such close contacts with Russia over the past two decades as Germany. And hardly anyone had such a special and direct connection to Putin as Angela Merkel (CDU) during her 16 years in the Chancellery. On her farewell in 2021, the head of the Kremlin praised Merkel’s “significant contribution to the development of Russian-German relations”. Merkel played a major role in many important decisions regarding Russia. And these, in turn, play an important role in the analysis of how the Russian war of aggression came about and also the West’s dependence on Russian energy.
This also applies, for example, to the “Minsk 2” agreement. Merkel negotiated it in 2015 alongside former French President Francois Hollande between Vladimir Putin and then-Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. The agreement was a broad package of measures intended to immediately end the war between Russia and Ukraine after Russia’s annexation of Crimea through political channels. And seven years later it culminated in a new, much larger one.
FOCUS Online therefore asked Merkel for an interview to talk about her Russia policy and also about possible misjudgments.
This was followed by a rejection by Merkel’s longtime office manager Beate Baumann. The refusal is less surprising than the reasoning: “The former Chancellor D. receives a large number of interview and media inquiries of all kinds from all over the world, which she cannot respond to for reasons of equal treatment. I ask for your understanding that this also includes your request.”
The former Chancellor no longer gives interviews because she can’t talk to everyone who wants to talk to her? That sounds absurd.
We do not want to withhold from our readers the questions that we asked the former Chancellor in the question and would have liked to have discussed with her. And briefly explain why they are relevant for political analysis.
Madam Chancellor, in 2008 you spoke out with the then French President Nicolas Sarkozy against Ukraine’s admission to NATO. From today’s perspective, was your “no” a mistake?
Background: Many experts from well-known research institutes believe that the Ukraine war could have been avoided if Ukraine joined NATO in 2008. But Merkel was against it. Among other things, because she didn’t want to irritate Putin. But one thing is clear: if Ukraine had already become a member at the time, the NATO states would have been obliged to provide military support to the country from then on. Would that have deterred Putin?
With Sarkozy’s successor, Francois Hollande, you mediated very actively in the Ukraine conflict and in 2015 you negotiated the follow-up agreement “Minsk II”. Are there any serious mistakes that you see in the contract today? What caused the agreement to fail?
Background: Both Moscow and Kyiv had committed themselves to achieving a peace of various goals. This included, for example, a mutual solution to the Russian minority problem in the Donbass region, which is one of the main battlefields. But why didn’t this agreement prevent the war?
Minsk 2 gave Ukraine time to rearm its army. At the same time, however, you refused arms deliveries. And despite the annexation of Crimea in 2014, the door to Ukraine’s NATO membership remained open. Many see this as an accelerant for war. How do you see it today?
Background: Some top military and pundits say it was a grave mistake to let Ukraine believe it had a real chance of joining NATO, at the latest after the annexation of Crimea. Main argument: In contrast to 2008, the USA alone would never have allowed this, because after the annexation of Crimea this would have resulted in a direct military confrontation between Russia and NATO. According to some observers, Russia was provoked by this option. However, the argument that one was provoked is also put forward by Russian propaganda as a justification for the war. What does Merkel think about this?
With the “Nord Stream 2” gas pipeline project, which you defended until the end of your term of office, Germany’s dependence on Russia in the energy sector would have become even greater than it already was. Are you still convinced that the project had no geopolitical significance?
Background: Even in her own party, there were several politicians who criticized Merkel for vehemently defending “Nord Stream 2”. It seems particularly inexplicable how Merkel, who is regarded as a shrewd foreign policy strategist, insisted that the pipeline was a “purely economic project”.
There are leading German Russia experts who say that because of your socialization in the GDR and your special connection to Putin, you know the Russian President better than any other head of state in the West. How do you explain that Putin could deceive you like that?
Background: With this question, too, it is interesting why Merkel dismissed concerns about Putin from her own party. And shortly before the end of her 16-year term in office, the alarm bells were ringing: According to information from FOCUS, the outgoing federal government was informed of Putin’s warlike intentions as early as October.