Kremlin influencing antiwar coalition in Germany

Picture by Emily Sabens/The Washington Post; Steffi Loos/Getty

The Kremlin is using far-right and far-left parties in Germany – “Alternative für Deutschland” (AfD) and “Die Linke” to weaken support for Ukraine in Europe. This is according to The Washington Post, which refers to secret Russian documents obtained by the intelligence service of a European country.

This documents record meetings between Kremlin officials and Russian political strategists, and the Kremlin’s orders for the strategists to focus on Germany to build antiwar sentiment in Europe and dampen support for Ukraine. The plan was first proposed by senior officials in Moscow in early September.

According to the newspaper, on February 25, 13,000 demonstrators gathered at the Brandenburg Gate to call for an end to arms supplies to Ukraine. The “protest” was led by Sahra Wagenknecht, a member of parliament from the left-wing German party Die Linke.

According to her, the crowd’s demand was that Germany should not be drawn into the war. Wagenknecht called for the creation of a new peace movement and condemned the bloodshed in Ukraine, without mentioning the Russian invasion.

Among the crowd in Berlin were the editor of a far-right magazine, Jürgen Elsesser, and dozens of members of the far-right party Alternative for Germany (AfD), who cheered Wagenknecht’s slogans.

The magazine published by Elsesser recently declared on its cover that Wagenknecht is the best chancellor, calling her “the candidate for the left and the right.” German officials call the publication a Kremlin propaganda outlet.

The documents document meetings between Kremlin officials and Russian political strategists, as well as Kremlin orders for strategists to focus on Germany to create anti-war sentiment in Europe and weaken support for Ukraine.

The files also chronicle the efforts of strategists to implement these plans and their reports to the Kremlin. The documents do not contain any materials that would record communication between Russian strategists and their allies in Germany. But interviews show that at least one person close to Wagenknecht and several AfD members were in contact with Russian officials as the plans were being developed.

WP writes that the details of the documents indicate direct attempts by the Kremlin to interfere in German politics, trying to create a new coalition between Wagenknecht, the far left and the AfD, as well as to support the protests of extremists on the left and right against the German government.

It is noted that the use of peaceful protests to split the West repeats tactics that were honed in Soviet times and came to the fore again after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

The Kremlin’s proposed strategy would unite two German factions with long-standing pro-Russian positions. Wagenknecht, 53, is a former communist who grew up in East Germany and has clashed several times with the more traditional Die Linke leadership, particularly over her populist stance. She is openly considering forming a new party.

The AfD, described by some in Germany as the party of “those who understand Putin,” shares the Kremlin’s view that the war in Ukraine was allegedly provoked by the United States and that Russia is “simply defending itself” from NATO encirclement by protecting the Russian-speaking population in eastern Ukraine. According to documents and interviews, Moscow has long cultivated dozens of AfD members, especially through luxury, all-expenses-paid trips to Russia.

The documents do not make it clear how political strategists working with the Kremlin tried to inform AfD members or other potential German allies of Moscow’s plans. But shortly after the Kremlin ordered the alliance between Wagenknecht and the far right, AfD MPs began to speak in her support in parliament, and party members chanted her name at rallies.

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