Heeding what Moscow says is “political wisdom” and not a sign of weakness, the former German chancellor said
Western countries should take Russian President Vladimir Putin and his statements seriously, former German chancellor Angela Merkel said on Tuesday. Her remarks came after the Russian leader issued a warning to the West last week, noting that those who use nuclear blackmail against Moscow “should know that the wind rose can turn around.”
In a rare public appearance at the opening of the Chancellor Helmut Kohl Foundation in Berlin on Tuesday, Merkel noted that Vladimir Putin’s words should not be ignored.
“Not dismissing them as a bluff, but taking them seriously is by no means a sign of weakness,” she said. On the contrary, “this is a sign of political wisdom, which helps to preserve room to maneuver or, no less important, even to develop a new one,” the former chancellor added.
She was apparently referring to Putin’s statement last week, in which he signaled that Moscow would use “all means to defend Russia and our people” if its territorial integrity is threatened.
Merkel was also asked what she thought former chancellor Helmut Kohl would have done against the backdrop of the Ukraine conflict.
According to Merkel, he would “make every effort to protect and restore the sovereignty and integrity of Ukraine” as Kiev sought to fight off Russian troops. However, she added that Kohl would look to “the day after” and keep an open mind about something “unimaginable” now – “how relations to and with Russia could one day be redeveloped” after the conflict ends.
Merkel, who is widely considered to have been Kohl’s protege, served as Germany’s chancellor for 16 years and established working relations with Putin. During her tenure, Germany was also heavily reliant on Russian gas imports. She was criticized for her relations with Moscow despite supporting anti-Russia sanctions imposed by the West after the Crimean Peninsula broke away from Ukraine and rejoined Russia.
In June, Merkel said her resignation last year might have influenced Putin’s decision to start the military operation in Ukraine in late February. At the time, she also acknowledged her failure to create “an additional European-Russian discussion format about a European security order alongside the Normandy format,” referring to a framework that paved the way for the 2014 and 2015 Minsk agreements, which sought to establish a ceasefire between pro-Russia and pro-Kiev forces.