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Populists are targeting Western democracy

Thurau Jens Kommentarbild App
Jens Thurau
April 19, 2019

Yet again, a member of Germany's far-right populist AfD party has traveled to the Russian-annexed Crimean Peninsula. This is a deliberate provocation of Ukraine and Germany's parliament, says DW's Jens Thurau.

Congress for AfD
Image: Getty Images/R. Hartmann

At first glance, one might be confused why hard-line nationalists from the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party are so chummy with Russian President Vladimir Putin. After all, the far-right populist AfD tends to blame everything bad on foreigners.

But when you taker a closer look, you begin to realize that hard-line nationalists, unlike upright patriots, have always been on good terms with fellow hard-liners abroad. They have always been united in their dislike or even downright hatred of democracy, the rule of law and understanding between peoples. And most recently, of Western democracy.

Read more: Are Russian Germans the backbone of the populist AfD?

Deliberate provocation

As in previous years, a member of the AfD has attended the annual economic conference being held on the Russian-annexed Crimean Peninsula — though officially, he is there on private business. Even so, this visit is a deliberate provocation of Ukraine, and consciously signals support for Russia's official state policy towards its western neighbor.

Jens Thurau
DW's Jens ThurauImage: DW

Indeed, there are close ties between German far-right populists and like-minded figures on the Crimean Peninsula, in Moscow and in parts of eastern Ukraine under the control of pro-Russian separatists. Moreover, the AfD has for a while been openly and successfully courting Russian-born Germans.

Close ties between Russian politicians and German far-right populists in part build on the absurd fear that the European Judeo-Christian world is under siege because feeble democrats have failed to defend it. And that now immigrants from the south are overrunning the continent. Russian and German extremists are united in their loathing of globalization, societal progress, and of recognizing and protecting minorities. They hate the European Union and welcome Brexit as the beginning of the end of the despised bloc, claim climate change is an invention by brainwashed scientists, and dismiss the media as purveyors of lies.

Read more: Euroskeptic, anti-immigrant parties team up for EU election

Stay calm

In light of this, the only thing Western democracies can do is stay calm and rely on the vast majority of people in Europe who reject these populists' positions. And to call out the unsavory alliance that is out to damage Western democracy.

Thurau Jens Kommentarbild App
Jens Thurau Jens Thurau is a senior political correspondent covering Germany's environment and climate policies.@JensThurau