Alternative for Germany: strategic threat to Russia
In early February, a group of representatives of Germany's Alternative for Germany (AfD) party arrived in Crimea on a six-day visit, which was covered in detail in the Russian press. The delegation included the lawmakers from the legislatures of three federal states – Berlin, Baden-Wurttemberg and North Rhine-Westphalia.
Despite the difficult political relations with Germany, there is a rather positive attitude towards AfD in Russia - last year the former leader of the party Frauke Petry was hosted in Moscow by State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin and other influential Russian politicians. It's no accident that the alternative for Germany party, which is in strong opposition to the federal government, headed by Angela Merkel, is received at a high level in Russia. This party, which became the third German political force, stands for the lifting of anti-Russian sanctions and supports the Russian point of view in the Crimean issue. During the February visit to Crimea, an MP of the Landtag in North Rhine-Westphalia, Roger Beckam, said: "I’d like to state in clear terms we don’t see any kind of ‘Russian occupation’ here. I met people here who told me they wanted to be in Russia. But the problem is that sanctions complicate their lives." Co-leader of AfD Alexander Gauland last year identified Crimea as historical Russian territory and called for lifting sanctions imposed on Russia.
Can we consider AfD as Russia's ally in the matter of promoting its foreign policy interests? An analysis of the Party's internal political activity shows that, despite the congruence of certain tactical goals of the Alternative for Germany and Russia's European policy, a long-term alliance with Germany's far-right party presents strategic risks for Russia. At least, in the context of Russian President Vladimir Putin's statement that "attempts to rewrite and falsify the history of World War II are aimed at undermining the authority and power of modern Russia." In order to better understand what the party is made of, and what its members think about the rewriting of history, one can do no better than refer to certain symptomatic statements of its high-ranking functionaries.
Chariperson of AfD Thuringia Björn Höcke said during one of his pre-election speeches: "Germans are the only people in the world who plant a monument of shame in the heart of their capital... We need nothing other than a 180-degree reversal on the politics of remembrance." Thus, Höcke referred to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in the center of Berlin, calling to forget about the crimes of fascism.
His party colleague Wilhelm von Gottberg said described the Holocaust in its modern interpretation as"Jewish truth", "myth" and "effective tool to criminalize Germans and their history." By the way, one of the directions of von Gottberg's activity is the return of "East Prussia", which includes the modern Kaliningrad region, to Germany.
Bundestag deputy, co-leader of AfD Alexander Gauland, in turn, called on to be proud of the Wehrmacht, saying literally: "We have the right to be proud of the achievements of the German soldiers in two world wars."
If we talk about racism and xenophobia associated with the modern period, we can note the statement of high-ranking party official Andre Poggenburg about the Turks: "These caraway traders have the genocide of 1.5 million Armenians weighing them down, and they want to tell us something about history and homeland? These camel drivers should go off to where they belong."
Jens Mayer, a judge from Dresden and Bundestag member from AfD, wrote it about the son of the German tennis star Boris Becker on his Twitter page: "It seems the little half-negro simply got too little attention – that’s the only explanation for his behaviour." Is there any need to recall that none of these statements led to expulsion from the party or resignations?
Dr. Jens-Christian Wagner of the Lower Saxony Memorials Foundation, speaking with journalist Felix Steiner, noted that the revisionism of the history of German fascism, along with xenophobia and nationalism, is inscribed in Alternative for Germany's DNA. The members of this party, sitting in regional parliaments and municipalities today, make every effort to eradicate the memory of Nazi crimes in the country. For example, the AfD faction in the Brunswick City Council demanded to stop financing the memorial located at the local Schillstraße Concentration Camp. In Wolfsburg, AfD blocked the erection of a similar memorial in the former Laagberg concentration camp. The Valentin Bunker Memorial in Bremen has been targeted by the AfD youth wing campaign for months.
When the co-leader of AfD Alexander Gauland speaks about Russia's historic ownership of Crimea, one should not be deceived about the sympathies of the right populists towards Russia. The right-wing populists calling to be proud of the Wehrmacht today, will not miss the chance to declare the "original German Koenigsberg" tomorrow, at the same time calling the USSR the aggressor in World War II. The desire to abolish anti-Russian sanctions is also due not to their sincere sympathy for Russia, but to specific domestic political calculations: East Germany, where AfD positions are extremely strong, traditionally supports closer economic contacts with Russia - that is, the party fulfills the specific economic interests of local business. The right-wing populists in opposition and in power are two completely different things. Suffice it to recall the expectations of Russian-US relations immediately after the election of US President Donald Trump and compare it with today's realities. Finally, it is appropriate to recall the moral side of the question: Russia, together with all the peoples of the USSR, which has made a key contribution to the victory over Nazism, must unequivocally demand an explanation from Gauland and his adherents, for the merits of the Wehrmacht unconditionally surrendered Hitler Germany should be proud of.
In the long term, the strengthening of extreme right-wing sentiment in Germany poses a direct threat to Russia's strategic interests, since they contribute to historical revisionism and revanchism. However, the Alternative for Germany cannot be effective in advancing Russian interests in the short term as well, because of its limited possibilities of influencing Germany's federal policy.