‘Cold War never ended’: Merkel says she should have armed Germany to deter Russia

Key points

  • Former German chancellor Angela Merkel has said “the Cold War never ended” and admitted she didn’t do enough to deter Russian President Vladimir Putin.
  • Merkel said Germany “should have reacted more quickly to Russia’s aggressiveness” in the years before Putin staged a full invasion of Ukraine.
  • She conceded Germany’s lacklustre defence spending has weakened her ability to negotiate with Putin in the years before he fully invaded Ukraine in 2022.
  • Merkel continued to defend her policies which led to greater German reliance on Russian gas, particularly through pipelines under the Baltic Sea.

Berlin: Angela Merkel has said “the Cold War never ended” as she admitted she should have spent more on Germany’s military while she was chancellor.

Merkel conceded that “we should have reacted more quickly to Russia’s aggressiveness”, saying she took responsibility for “not making impassioned speeches about it every day”.

Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel.Credit:Getty Images

The recognition that she should have built a compelling deterrence “preoccupied” her, Merkel told Die Zeit.

“The Cold War never really ended because Russia was basically not satisfied,” she said.

After the annexation of Crimea in 2014 Germany raised military spending but never hit a NATO target of 2 per cent of GDP under her watch.

She conceded that this had weakened her ability to negotiate with Vladimir Putin, saying she “didn’t do enough” to deter the Russian president.

However, the former chancellor refused to repent for policies which led to greater German reliance on Russian gas, particularly through pipelines under the Baltic Sea.

Arguing that alternative sources of energy would have been too expensive, she said buying elsewhere would have been “a massive political decision” that “wouldn’t have been accepted”.

She added that blocking Nord Stream-2 would have “dangerously damaged” relations with the Kremlin at a time when Berlin was trying to mediate a ceasefire in the east of Ukraine.

Any admission of fault would be disingenuous, she said, claiming that it would be “pathetic” to show contrition “just to have peace of mind”.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin.Credit:AP

Merkel left office after 16 years a year ago, handing over to Olaf Scholz of the Social Democrats.

Her approval ratings were high when she left.

Since then much of her legacy has fallen apart. Wolfgang Schäuble, her long-time finance minister, said last month that he found it remarkable that “even now she cannot say that we made mistakes”.

“We didn’t want to see it, that was true for everyone,” Schäuble said of German dependence on Russia.

Putin’s invasion of Ukraine left Germany scrambling to find new gas supplies.

Telegraph, London

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