German Chancellor defends Merkel over Russia stance
Angela Merkel’s policy of maintaining good relations with Moscow during her tenure as the German chancellor was by no means wrong, her successor, Olaf Scholz, told the news agency dpa on Sunday.
He admitted, though, that he considered Germany’s over-reliance on Russian energy supplies to be a mistake.
When asked if Germany had been too friendly to Russia under Merkel, Scholz defended his predecessor’s position by saying that his own stance on the issue was “close” to hers. “An attempt to [achieve] reconciliation can never be wrong and neither can an attempt to get along peacefully,” he said.
Scholz, who was finance minister and vice-chancellor in Merkel’s fourth – and last – government, still criticized Germany’s energy policy, which had been too heavily reliant on Russian supplies, in his opinion. “It was a mistake of the German economic policy that we focused too much on our energy supply from Russia, without building the necessary infrastructure so that we could have reorganized [supplies] quickly if the worse came to worst,” he said.
As the mayor of Hamburg between 2011 and 2018, Scholz pushed for the construction of liquified natural gas terminals on Germany’s northern coast. However, when asked if that means that he did not make any mistakes, whereas Merkel did, Scholz responded that such a statement would amount to taking his words out of context.
“I have always worked well with the former chancellor [Angela Merkel] and I do not see any reason to question this [work] afterwards,” he insisted.
On Friday, Merkel herself commented on her policy towards Russia in her first interview since leaving the chancellor’s position. She denied she hoped to “change” Russia through trade – something the German media speculated about and something they criticized her for when Moscow launched its military operation in Ukraine. Instead, her policy was about building ties with “the second most powerful nuclear-armed [nation] in the world,” Merkel pointed out.
Merkel first commented on the ongoing conflict in Ukraine in early June when she said she stood “in solidarity with Ukraine” and condemned Russia’s actions, but she did not address her own policies towards Moscow.
In her interview with Germany’s RND news network, she admitted, though, that her decisions might have influenced Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to launch the military operation. According to Merkel, Putin was “no longer ready for a Normandy-style summit.” The former chancellor was referring to the four-way meetings involving Germany, France, Russia, and Ukraine on the Donbass crisis. Merkel has also admitted that she failed to create any other “European-Russian discussion format” to deal with security issues.