Merkel defends her policy on Russia

No apologies, barely a hint of self-criticism: for the first time since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, ex-German chancellor Angela Merkel has spoken at length about her former foreign policy. While in office she put consistent effort into preventing an escalation with Moscow, the CDU politician said in an interview on Tuesday evening. What do the media think of her stance?

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Helsingin Sanomat (FI) /

The queen of compromise

Helsingin Sanomat laments the fact that Merkel didn't admit that her Russia policy was wrong:

“Merkel is shocked by the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine. But she doesn't feel her own political mistakes are to blame. During Merkel's time in office there was one crisis after another, and she was the queen of compromise. Merkel's motto in politics is still that politics is what is possible/ in the moment. According to this logic one can always argue that the compromises made prevented an even worse outcome. However, it would have been important for her to recognise and admit mistakes. Europe, and especially Ukraine, are paying a high price for Germany's decidedly pro-Russian course and energy policy.”

Wiener Zeitung (AT) /

Powerful people less likely to admit mistakes

There is method in the ex-chancellor's refusal to admit her mistakes, writes the Wiener Zeitung:

“Merkel's term in office won't go down in history as quite so unblemished when it comes to her dealings with Russia. ... Being right, making the right choices, knowing what the future holds: that has always been the key task of the men and women at the top. Those who make the wrong decisions, which then become public, see their power end. ... The more powerful a politician, the less able he is to openly admit his own mistakes. Nevertheless, exposing these mistakes is the job of a critical public, first and foremost the media. ... The same applies for the media as for politics: the more opinionated, the more edgy, the higher the quota of errors and confusions.”

De Standaard (BE) /

She's Merkeling again

Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel has lived up to her reputation again, De Standaard puts in:

“She did not ask whether we shouldn't have put a stop to Putin's geopolitical ambitions as early as 2008, or certainly after 2014. ... Merkel showed herself from her best side: she Merkeled. She didn't ask any fundamental questions, she didn't present a vision. For 16 years she looked for quick solutions to unexpected events. She always prided herself on not being the type to proclaim voluntaristic visions with big words. It's idle to speculate what Ukraine would look like now if Merkel had banged her fist on the table ten years ago.”

El País (ES) /

No admission of responsibility

Writing in El País, columnist Lluís Bassets is disappointed by Merkel's words but respects her pragmatism:

“Merkel's explanation distributes the responsibilities, shifting them to everyone who should have helped to build a collective security system in Europe to prevent atrocities like those in Ukraine. ... If there was something she could have done to prevent the war, she didn't admit it. Nor did she admit that she was not astute enough when it came to reducing energy dependence on Russia. ... From Merkel's words we can deduce that she shares Emmanuel Macron's ideas. Russia is not about to disappear from the map ... There is little to discuss with Russia now, but it must not be humiliated. The time for dialogue will arrive, but this dialogue must not be conducted without Ukraine.”

Mediafax (RO) /

Ex-chancellor not being honest

Former Chancellor Merkel was unable to admit that her policy towards Russia was misguided, historian Marius Oprea writes in Mediafax:

“Merkel picked the right moment. The shock [over the Ukraine war] has faded to such an extent that her excuses and justifications for serious political miscalculations are now plausible and accepted as such - no one can be bothered with splitting hairs any more. Aided by these premises, Angela Merkel is lying - both by omission and by re-interpreting the facts. Like many politicians she can't bring herself to admit that, as a human being, she might have been mistaken.”