Similarities between Germany’s left and the right-wing AfD may seem hard to find, however when it comes to Russia and President Putin, both appear to possess shared ideas and sentiments.
Are the AfD and the Left Really Polar Opposites?
Germany’s right-wing party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) and The Left are easy to distinguish in daily politics. Both sides make sure of it by slandering one another on an almost daily basis by calling each other “Nazis” and “Communists.” And those are just the friendlier exchanges.
The recent assassination attempt on Aleksej Navalny, however, once again displayed how the contours of German politics are blurred when Russia is involved. The latest example of this was provided by the AfD’s foreign policy spokesman Hansjörg Müller. Asked about the Navalny case and Russia’s involvement he stated that the US could have committed the crime because of Nord Stream 2.
Previously, after the MH17 passenger plane was shot down by a Russian rocket over Ukraine, Müller speculated that, from the American perspective, “the wrong plane crashed in the right place at the right time.” He claimed that a Ukrainian fighter aircraft had shot down the passenger plane for the benefit of America. The pattern of blaming the West without evidence was repeated in his comments on the assassination attempt on Navalny.
Blame the West Whenever Possible
As preposterous these accusations may appear, such tactics are the modus operandi of Germany’s left and have been so for decades – after all, the party is the successor of the GDR’s SED: the Stasi party. Their credo? Defend Russia at all costs and blame the West whenever possible.
The Navalny incident is only the tip of the iceberg. Both parties unanimously defended Russia’s annexation of Crimea and demanded a stop to Europe’s sanctions against Russia. Even the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter in London was not condemned. Furthermore, both are on Russia’s side in Syria, too, which includes a negation of the regime’s use of poisonous gas against Syria’s civilian population.
An illiberal understanding of politics often explains the AfD’s affection for Putin’s Russia. The left’s closeness to Russia, on the other hand, is often blamed on the history of the SED. In Eastern socialist biographies, the Soviet empire played a more culturally pleasing role than America, and SED cadres were taught not to anger Moscow. Both parties are the most relevant in the former East German states and they tend to cater to voters that have traditionally had a relationship to Moscow.
Geostrategic Objective: Undermine Germany’s Ties to the West
However, both parties also share a geostrategic goal: undermine Germany’s ties to the West. The AfD seeks to reduce the US’s influence on NATO, while the left seeks to dissolve NATO entirely. Instead, both seek a security alliance with Russia. Müller, for example, advocates in favor of a “transformation” of NATO, a “new security system,” which, naturally, was only “possible with the Russians. ”
Both parties are nonetheless not uncomfortable with their shared ideas and beliefs regarding the Kremlin. The AfD’s leader in the Bundestag and honorary chair Alexander Gauland is not concerned regarding the overlap, and moving away from Russia in order to differentiate oneself from a political opponent is clearly out of the question for both parties. The topic is too important for them and their voters.
However, while the German left remains vastly dependent on East German voters, the AfD still seeks to move the party into a more moderate West German direction.
Whether the proximity to Russia helps the cause can be doubted even though resentment against the US is increasing in Germany. However, skepticism must not be equated with being impervious to facts and reason, particularly regarding Russia’s conduct and meddling in Western affairs. Russia’s malign behavior is not an opinion it’s a fact and it’s reasonable that one expects German political parties on both sides of the aisle to accept reality.