She stressed that, for this to be possible, "there must be a minimum of common values, translated into concrete policy," a newspaper quoted her as saying.
"I am convinced that in the medium and long term, a close partnership with Russia should continue," Merkel told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
She warned that for now, in terms of values, Russia has "a different emphasis, as we see not only in the Ukraine crisis".
Asked about her reported comment to US President Barack Obama that Putin "lives in another word", she offered no denial but said diplomatically that "Putin has a different view of some problems than I, the (German) government and a majority of our partners".
Merkel – who has often spoken by phone with Putin throughout the crisis – said Germany sees no military solution to the conflict but continues to bank on diplomacy and the threat of further sanctions.
"Especially this year, as we commemorate the start of the First and the Second World War, people rightly expect that we act differently than was done back then and that we remain ready to talk, including with Russia," she said.
The German leader stressed that in dealing with Moscow "sanctions are not an end in themselves, but if they should become unavoidable, then we will decide on them together" with other countries.
Merkel rejected the notion that the EU bears part of the blame for sparking the Ukraine crisis, as recently suggested by several prominent German politicians.
Her deputy, Social Democratic Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, said this week Brussels had forced Kiev to choose between Europe and Russia when it offered it an association agreement last year.
Merkel recalled that it was Ukraine's ousted former president Viktor Yanukovych himself who had sought such a pact, before backing away at the last moment.
"During the entire period of negotiations, the EU repeatedly made offers of cooperation to Russia," she said.
The chancellor said it was right to view the events with self-criticism but said "this does not change the fact that Russia has no justification to take action against the territorial integrity of Ukraine".