Mark Collins – Big Bear Putin and Europe’s Right Nationalists, German Section

The Russian president’s not-so-cuddly approach to many matters is increasingly appealing to quite a few people most unhappy with the way things are trending in their own countries–at Spiegel Online:

Moscow’s Fifth Column: German Populists Forge Ties with Russia
The right-wing populist, anti-refugee Alternative for Germany party is establishing ever-closer ties with Moscow. Now, the AfD’s youth wing has forged an alliance with the youth movement of Putin’s party United Russia. The AfD is also courting Russian-German voters.

Marcus Pretzell is waiting. He’s a member of the European Parliament with the right-wing populist party Alternative for Germany (AfD) and he’s sitting on the podium at the Yalta International Economic Forum, an event hosted by the Russian government at a resort on the occupied Crimean Peninsula. Pretzell has been seated directly next to the moderator. The AfD politician, who is head of the party in North Rhine-Westphalia, its largest state chapter, is the guest of honor from Europe. His presence is intended to send the message that Russia is not internationally isolated.

For the hour and a half during which Pretzell sits on the stage, he’s little more than a wallflower. Through his headphones, he listens to an interpreter translating the words of an illustrious group of top Russian officials who few German politicians would be keen to share a stage with. Five of the eight panel members are on the sanctions lists of the European Union and the United States for their involvement in the illegal annexation of Crimea. They include men like Sergey Aksyonov, prime minister of Crimea, and Yevgeny Bushmin, a close confidant of the Kremlin leadership.

The panel host then finally asks Pretzell to speak. “We at Alternative for Germany represent not only a threat to the Ukrainian government, but also to the German government,” he proudly announces. The audience applauds. He then goes on to say that good economic relations with Russia “are in the interest of the German people” and that sanctions should be lifted immediately. The applause grows. In Russia, the moderator adds, people have the impression that the German people are of the same opinion as Pretzell. “Marcus, you have made 140 million new friends today.”

A Natural Partner

Russia also has many friends in the AfD. Leading party officials are pursuing a clearly pro-Russian path and are trying to establish tight relations with people in President Vladimir Putin’s circle. The right-wing populists are undeterred by the Kremlin’s anti-liberal, anti-American and homophobic ideology. On the contrary: For large parts of the AfD party base, those factors appear to make Russia an attractive partner. At the same time, the AfD, with its critical stance toward the EU and NATO, also appears to be a natural partner for Putin. Now, though, the relationship is advancing past the stage of discussions and conferences: The youth wing of the AfD is forming more formal ties with the youth organization of Putin’s United Russia party.

Leading AfD politicians like deputy head Alexander Gauland have pursued a pro-Russian course since the party’s founding three years ago…

From March:

German state elections: Success for right-wing AfD, losses for Merkel’s CDU
Official results show significant success for the populist right-wing AfD in three key state elections. Chancellor Merkel’s CDU saw losses in two out of three states; attributed to her refugee policies.

AfD supporters celebrate gains in Rhineland-Palatinate
AfD supporters celebrate gains in Rhineland-Palatinate AfD supporters celebrate gains in Rhineland-Palatinate…

Oh, those wild and crazy young Volk.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

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