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ANALYSIS Germany's controversial far-right party seeks inroads with Russia By Peter Spinella, dpa

Europe
26.09.2017
By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
The far-right German party AfD has made overtures to Russia, but will it have enough power to shape foreign policy? Analysts doubt it.

Moscow (dpa) - Now Germany‘s second strongest opposition party, the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) has entered parliament on promises of dismantling liberal doctrines and rebuilding frayed ties with Russia.

But the party, controversial and crippled by infighting, appears more likely to push the limits of political debate than actually shape policymaking, analysts told dpa.

"The party will be rather isolated," as "other parties strictly rule out any form of coordination or cooperation with the AfD," said Sabine Fischer, an expert in bilateral relations with the German Institute for International and Security Affairs.

AfD shares some positions with the hard-left Die Linke (The Left) party, Fischer said, "but the latter will make a strong effort to avoid overlaps."

"After all, the leaders of Die Linke already announced that one of their main goals in the next four years will be to minimize the impact of the AfD," she said.

The populist AfD, which entered parliament over the weekend for the first time with a powerful showing that put it in third place behind the two previous governing parties, has expressed the intention to get rid of sanctions against Russia and recognize Moscow‘s 2014 annexation of Ukraine‘s Crimea region.

The AfD has a firm support base in the former east Germany, which before 1990 was a member of the Warsaw Pact under the Soviet Union‘s influence. Russia has benefited from a surge in far-right political sentiment in many Western countries as rising populist contenders seek to undo the political status quo.

Earlier this year, one of the AfD‘s leaders at the time, Frauke Petry, met with senior Russian lawmakers, including Parliamentary Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin, in Moscow in a bid to bolster relations.

French populist Marine Le Pen visited Russian President Vladimir Putin in a public display of strong ties in March, a few weeks before her failed attempt to win the French presidency.

US President Donald Trump has expressed personal admiration for Putin, calling him a leader who has "very strong control over his country."

Such populist politicians share an "anti-EU and anti-immigration disposition," as well as a "joint dislike for Western and liberal organizations, institutions and rules," positions that coincide well with those of Russia‘s leadership, according to Klaus Segbers, director of the Centre for Global Politics at the Free University of Berlin.

But infighting has crippled the AfD. Within days of the vote, Petry threatened that she would leave the party to pursue her own agenda in parliament.

The AfD "will only be a signal to Chancellor Angela Merkel that there are also Russian-friendly currents in Germany," said Vladislav Belov, head of the Centre for German Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences. "Merkel will continue to determine the Russia policy."

Merkel has led European efforts to pressure Russia into giving up Crimea, which Russia annexed in retaliation at Ukraine ousting its pro-Russian president.

Merkel has also been a major broker in negotiations between Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in an effort to end a simmering conflict in Ukraine‘s two eastern-most regions, which border Russia.

But despite appearing at odds with Merkel, "Putin needs a stable Germany for good cooperation," Belov said.

The AfD has been mired in controversy as the strongest far-right party that the country has had since the Nazi era.

Referring to the AfD, Belov said, "right-wing extremist statements are also unacceptable in Russia."

 

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