In an interview with ARD, quoted by the BBC, Merkel said she had nothing to apologize for her reaction to Russia's annexation of Crimea, when she supported anti-Russian sanctions, or for opposing Ukraine's accession to NATO, which she considered premature.
Ukraine has asked for a "NATO Membership Action Plan" under President Yushchenko and has been close enough.
However, at the Alliance's Bucharest Summit in 2008, it was rejected due to the position of Germany and France.
The former chancellor explained that she understood what Putin was thinking and did not want to provoke him.
"It's a huge tragedy that it didn't work, but I don't blame myself for trying," Merkel said.
She also said that in those years Ukraine was not ready to join NATO because, according to her, it was still an immature democracy and ruled by oligarchs.
"So we couldn't say, 'Okay, we'll take her to NATO tomorrow,'" Merkel said.
- Ukraine was not the country we know it now.
It was a very divided Ukraine ... there were differences even between the reformist forces - Tymoshenko and Yushchenko.
This means that she was not inside a country with a strengthened democracy. "
In 2008, polls of Ukrainians showed that 20-30% of respondents supported NATO membership, while about 40-50% opposed it.
The situation with support changed radically in 2014 after the annexation of Crimea and the start of the war in the Donbass.
"You can't become a NATO member in one day," Merkel said.
- I was absolutely sure that Putin would not allow this to happen so easily.
From his point of view, it would be a declaration of war. "
According to Merkel, this way we managed to gain time: "It calmed down the situation a bit and gave Ukraine time to develop into the country it has become now."
A few months after the Bucharest summit, Russia attacked Georgia, and in 2014 its troops annexed Ukrainian Crimea.