Angela Merkel says she has no regrets over handling of Putin and claims Ukraine's NATO bid would have been 'declaration of war'

The Former German Chancellor claimed her move to prevent Ukraine from joining NATO in 2008 benefitted the country in the long-term

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Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel defended her handling of Vladimir Putin during her time in power, stating she has "no regrets".

Mrs Merkel argued the Russian President would have perceived a 2008 NATO membership plan for Ukraine, which her government blocked, as a "declaration of war".

She claimed that an oligarch-run and democratically immature Ukraine would have been substantially less prepared for a Russian invasion then, than it is now.

At an onstage interview at the Berliner Ensemble on Monday, Mrs Merkel said: "I would feel very bad if I had said: 'There's no point talking to that man [Putin].'"

The Former German Chancellor has 'no regrets' after blocking Ukraine from NATO in 2008
The Former German Chancellor has 'no regrets' after blocking Ukraine from NATO in 2008

In her first public appearance since leaving office half a year ago, she added: "It is a great tragedy that it didn’t work, but I don’t blame myself for trying."

When probed on whether she regretted opposing the American-led membership action plan for Ukraine and Georgia in 2008, Mrs Merkel replied: "Ukraine was not the country that we know now.

"It was a Ukraine that was very split … even the reformist forces [Yulia] Tymoshenko and [Viktor] Yushchenko were very at odds.

"That means it was not a country whose democracy was inwardly strengthened."

Angela Merkel has been accused of 'appeasing' Russian President Vladimir Putin
Angela Merkel has been accused of 'appeasing' Russian President Vladimir Putin

She said Ukraine at the time was "ruled by oligarchs".

While she refrained from sharing Putin's perspective, Mrs Merkel said she "knew how he thought" and "didn't want to provoke it further".

The former German Chancellor blocked Ukraine from joining NATO in 2008, claiming Kyiv had not met political conditions.

She stood by her decision, claiming: "You cannot become a member of NATO from one day to the next

"It's a process, and during this process I knew Putin would have done something to Ukraine that would not have been good for it."

Former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko signed the Minsk agreements in 2014 and 2015, in order to achieve a political settlement in east Ukraine, but have since faced criticism for forcing concessions while the country was on the military back foot.

Defending her decisions, Mrs Merkel said her government bought Ukraine time: “It calmed down the matter and bought Ukraine time to develop into the country that it has become now.”

She praised President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for his wartime leadership, saying he represented a new Ukraine.

Her comments follow an invitation from the Ukrainian President earlier this year, to "see torture with own eyes" in the wake of an accusation of appeasing Putin.

Mr Zelenskyy invited former German Chancellor to visit Ukraine after accusing her and ex-French President, Nicolas Sarkozy of "appeasing" the Russian President.

Speaking in a video address in April, discussing the ongoing Russian invasion, Mr Zelenskyy aimed a dig at some politicians he claimed “hid” during a NATO summit in 2008, when allies decided against providing Georgia and Ukraine with a NATO Membership Action Plan.

The Russia-Ukraine war entered its 100th day last week.