The quote is taken ouf of context, and the wording has been subtly changed.
According to xyldike's answer, the original wording was:
Die 2008 diskutierte Einleitung eines Nato-Beitritts der Ukraine und Georgiens hielt ich für falsch. Weder brachten die Länder die nötigen Voraussetzungen dafür mit, noch war zu Ende gedacht, welche Folgen ein solcher Beschluss gehabt hätte, sowohl mit Blick auf Russlands Handeln gegen Georgien und die Ukraine als auch auf die Nato und ihre Beistandsregeln. Und das Minsker Abkommen 2014 war der Versuch, der Ukraine Zeit zu geben.
Sie hat diese Zeit hat auch genutzt, um stärker zu werden, wie man heute sieht. Die Ukraine von 2014/15 ist nicht die Ukraine von heute. Wie man am Kampf um Debalzewe Anfang 2015 gesehen hat, hätte Putin sie damals leicht überrennen können. Und ich bezweifle sehr, dass die Nato-Staaten damals so viel hätten tun können wie heute, um der Ukraine zu helfen.
English translation, deviation from your quote marked bold:
I thought that the introduction of NATO accession of Ukraine and Georgia, discussed in 2008, was wrong. The countries did not have the necessary prerequisites for this, nor was it fully understood what the consequences of such a decision would have been, both with regard to Russia’s actions against Georgia and Ukraine, as well as NATO and its rules of assistance. And the Minsk Agreement of 2014 was an attempt to give Ukraine time.
Ukraine also used this time to grow stronger, as you can see today. [...]
That is, while Merkel says that the Minsk Agreements bought the Ukraine time, she doesn't say, explicitly, for what. By eliding the word "also" that indicates a shift in topic, your translation creates the appearance that Merkel meant "time to grow stronger". But Merkel didn't say that.
To understand what she meant, let's consult the lengthy interview she gave in June (translation by me, starting at 54:45)
Interviewer: Andri Melnik, the Ukrainian Ambassador sent me an SMS congratulating me to the rare opportunity to ask you questions. And I wrote back, thanked him, and asked him to send me a question he would like to answer to. He sent 4, they all have a similar theme: That you, by following a policy of appeasement towards Russia, have enabled the invasion of 2022.
Merkel: Well, I disagree with that. Thinking back to 2014, and the beginning of 2015, when Minsk II was negotiated: If we had done nothing, Putin could have caused tremendous damage to Ukraine, and those 7 years were crucial for the evolution of Ukraine. In spite of that, this terrible situation still came to occur. But back in 2008, when the NATO membership action plan discussed, my opinion (which you don't have to share, but it is my opinion) is that it would have happened even more rapidly. Back then, Ukraine was even further from being able to offer the degree of resistance it can offer today.
Interviewer: One always gets the impression that everyone wants to hear an apology for everything. [...] Nevertheless, if you had to apologize, would you?
Merkel: Not for this. [...] First, these last weeks have sharpened my awareness of how incredibly lucky we were in Germany, and the whole of Europe, that 1989 happened as it did. I mean, Gorbachev was a communist, member of the communist party, and he has probably, definitely, also brought guilt upon himself in the Baltic nations, but we, in Germany, seized an incredibly opportune moment of history -- and there were a lot of very difficult moments in history during the cold war. For instance when a state of war was declared in Poland, or when Russia, the Soviet Union, sent troops after Dubček in 1968. We were in cold war, and the countries could not be helped, one had to suffer through that, and being allowed to experience 1989 after that was a great luck/happiness. But then, the world situation darkened again, and things were no longer as easy. I sat with baited breath when Helmut Kohl achieved that Germany could join NATO. I didn't take this for granted, at all. I sat with baited breath as these 600 000 Russian soldiers returned home, and I tried to work towards avoiding disaster - and if diplomacy doesn't succeed it doesn't imply that it was wrong. I don't see anything I would consider wrong in retrospect, and therefore won't apologize -- and I don't see what would have been gained if Putin had continued the invasion in 2014, and nobody had interceded. I remember the responsibility I felt for the 6000 people in Debalzewe! [...] What's so tragic about Ukraine is that it was made infinitely harder for Ukraine than for us to follow the path it has decided for itself, and that Ukraine now experiences what Poland experienced, and Hungary in 1956, Germany in 1953, Praque in 1968. And that means it is our responsibility to let this happen as little as possible.
This makes it quite clear that Merkel, who grew up in East Germany under Soviet rule, empathizes deeply with the other former subject nations of the Soviet Union, and seeks to give them a path to freedom the Germans were freely given by Gorbachev. She is not motivated by a desire to harm Russia, but by a desire to protect the people Russia harms.
So when Putin says:
They [the participants – ed.] lied to us, and the only reason for these processes was to pump Ukraine up with weapons and get it ready for military action. Well, we can see that. Maybe we were too late to realise what was happening. Maybe this [the war – ed.] should have been started earlier."
he is wrong. And I'd wager he knows this. But it is politically expedient for him to portray Russia as a victim of nefarious plans so he can justify the war he started.
But back to Merkel. What did she mean when she said that Minsk gave Ukraine time? She talks about this in the same interview, starting from 35:44:
Interviewer: Let us briefly talk about Bukarest. The Americans wished to offer Ukraine kind of a preliminary stage to NATO membership ...
Merkel: It's called the Membership Action Plan.
Interviewer: ... which you were firmly opposed to.
Merkel: First, Ukraine wasn't the Ukraine we know now. Politically, Ukraine was deeply divided between Yanukovych and Yushchenko, and even the reformers Tymoshenko and Yushchenko didn't like each other, meaning it was not an inwardly democratically consolidated nation, and if you want to accept a country in NATO, which the membership action plan is clearly intended to achieve, you have to be willing to defend that country if it is attacked. Secondly, I was certain that Putin would not allow this to happen. From his perspective, this would have been a declaration of war. And sure, you can say I don't agree with this. I don't agree at all that he views the entire west as his enemy, that he thinks he is incessantly humiliated. All that I don't agree with at all. But I knew what he was thinking, and that he saw it that way. And promptly it only took months for war to start in Georgia, which was also a candidate. And it was totally clear that he would not let that happen in Ukraine, because we already knew that in Moldavia and Transnistria he had already created a situation where he always had a foothold in the country, thereby making it impossible for this country to orient itself towards the west, and I didn't want to provoke that. And second, Ukraine had not firmly made a decision, but we needed a decision we could rely on, and third, president Zelensky fights incredibly courageously against corruption, but back then, Ukraine was a land under the control of oligarchs, and it would have been inconceivable to accept it into NATO.
So the things that Ukraine was given time for, were:
- to achieve, through a democratic process, internal political consensus on whether to leave the Russian sphere of influence (with all the difficulties that entails)
- to develop the military capability to survive the period before membership is granted
- to become a truly democratic (as opposed to oligarchic) nation, because NATO is an alliance of democratic nations
No, the point is that Merkel seems to be saying, or at least implying, that the breaking of Minsk II is the positive outcome she wanted
A positive outcome? Merkel, who felt the weight of 6000 lives in Debalzewe weighing on her conscience? Who waited with baited breath what the 600 000 Soviet Soldiers would do? Who felt helpless at the put down of the Prague Spring? Who doesn't wish to apologize for the "failure" of the Minsk agreements, because even though the agreement failed, it was worth making the attempt to avoid "disaster"?
How can anyone read that interview and continue to think that Merkel wanted this bloody war?
But ok, you seem to need more quotes. Here's the beginning of the interview (11:45):
Interviewer: How are you?
Merkel: Personally, I am very well, and I'm happy to be here, but overall ... I didn't anticipate the period after my retirement to be like this. The 24th of february was a turning point, that continues to preoccupy me, but if you ask how about how I am personally, I have retired voluntarily (which is a good feeling) and I planned to do various things (which is also a good feeling), but I remain a political human, and therefore these days find me, like many others, sometimes depressed.
And if you watch her body language during that part, the sincerity of her emotions is obvious.