BERLIN - Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel criticized her own government's defense policy and advocated a negotiated solution to the Ukraine war.
In an interview with Die Zeit newspaper published Wednesday, Merkel said the war in Ukraine would "one day" end with negotiations. The ex-chancellor did not want to specify the conditions under which she would welcome a peace agreement, but rejected a "dictatorial peace."
Merkel also said that despite NATO commitments, it had not been possible for Berlin to invest the targeted 2 percent of GDP into the armed forces - something which drew repeated, stinging criticism from former U.S. President Donald Trump. "We have not done enough for deterrence through increased defense spending," Merkel said.
She acknowledged that Germany "should have reacted more quickly to Russia's aggressiveness," and added that, although her conservative CDU/CSU bloc was the only group that had the NATO target in their government program, she herself also "did not make a fiery speech for it every day."
However, Merkel did not want to distance herself from other policies, despite months of criticism. For example, she defended the decision to go ahead with the Russia-to-Germany Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline, which her successor as chancellor, Olaf Scholz, ultimately decided to halt days before Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine began in February.
Merkel said Ukraine had also been very keen to remain a transit country for Russian gas. A decision not to progress with the pipeline in combination with the Minsk peace agreement would have "dangerously worsened" the climate with Russia, she added.
Germany's energy dependence on Russia arose because there was less gas from the Netherlands and the U.K. as well as limited production in Norway, she added. "The decision would have had to be made to buy more expensive [liquefied natural gas] from Qatar or Saudi Arabia, as the U.S. was only available later as an export nation," Merkel said.
Merkel said a move in that direction would have significantly worsened Berlin's competitiveness.