Angela Merkel, 67, stepped down last year after serving as chancellor of Germany from 2005 to 2021.
Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that she tried hard to prevent the situation in Ukraine from developing into a full-blown conflict.
Speaking in her first interview since leaving office, she said she felt "great sadness" that German-French efforts around the Minsk peace accords with Russia didn't work out, but she does not blame herself. "Diplomacy isn't wrong just because it didn't work," she said, speaking in the interview broadcast on ARD on June 7. "So I don't see why I should have to say that it was wrong and I won't apologize for it." The Minsk peace accords reached in 2014 and 2015 aimed to resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine between Kremlin-backed separatists and Ukrainian government forces. The leaders of Ukraine, Russia, Germany, and France met under the so-called Normandy format to seek an end to the conflict, but the accords became hamstrung by differing interpretations of their contents and the process for implementing them.
Live Briefing: Russia's Invasion Of Ukraine
RFE/RL's Live Briefing gives you all of the major developments on Russia's invasion, how Kyiv is fighting back, the plight of civilians, and Western reaction . For all of RFE/RL's coverage of the war, click here .
While never fully successful, the peace process "brought some calm" that gave Ukraine several years to develop as a nation and strengthen its military, she said.
Addressing the current situation, Merkel said there was no justification for Russia's "brutal disregard of international law." She said the attack was a big mistake and asks herself what could have been done differently. "Could we have done more to prevent this, what I'm now calling a great tragedy. And that's why you ask, why I'm still naturally asking these questions." She said she had been against a plan to let Ukraine into NATO because she wanted to prevent an escalation with Russia and because Ukraine was not ready to join the alliance. She also said that she had not been naive about Russian President Vladimir Putin's "hate" of the Western democratic model, saying she had warned her colleagues several times that he wanted to tear apart the European Union. During her tenure, Merkel made a point of maintaining communication with Putin as she championed a commerce-driven, pragmatic approach toward Moscow.
But her handling of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline to deliver natural gas from Russia to Germany was heavily criticized for deepening Germany's dependence on Russian energy. The pipeline was under construction during Merkel's time in office, but it has been blocked from going into operation since Russia's invasion.
Merkel, 67, stepped down last year after serving as chancellor of Germany from 2005 to 2021, representing the Christian Democratic Union (CDU).
In recent months, she said she did not wish to speak publicly as a retired leader who should not interfere from the sidelines with the work of her successor, Olaf Scholz of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD).
Last week she finally said that she supported all efforts by the German government, the European Union, the United States, NATO, the Group of Seven, and the United Nations to "put a stop to this barbaric war of aggression by Russia."