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Here are five reasons why many Germans support Putin

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Although the Russian army targetting Ukraine, pro-Russian tones can still be heard in Germany. What are the reasons for the country’s sympathy?

It was especially obvious after Russia’s 2014 annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea: despite the fact that this clearly violated international law, various voices in Germany defended or at least placed the Russian policy into context. The Russian army’s war crimes in Syria did not appear to have harmed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s standing among Germans. The same is true with attacks on political opponents, such as the Tiergarten murder in Berlin.

Sympathy, if not outright enthusiasm, for Russia,

appears to be widespread in Germany, spanning all educational levels and age groups. Geographically and historically, it is more apparent in the republic’s east, but fervent supporters of Russian President Vladimir Putin can also be found in the republic’s deep south-west.

This mindset is motivated by five primary factors:

Lobbyists and propaganda shape public opinion.

Moscow is actively attempting to manipulate German public opinion. The German-language television station RT Deutsch debuted in November 2014. However, it is insufficiently credible to attract a wider audience. The station’s status as a Kremlin propaganda vehicle is all too clear.

The viewpoints of the largely right-wing AfD, which, along with the Left Party, is the most pro-Russian political party in the Bundestag, are frequently reflected in RT Deutsch stories. Numerous AfD lawmakers maintain relations with Russian officials; in 2020, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov hosted an AfD delegation in Moscow led by party chairman Tino Chrupalla.

The impact of the Russian gas lobby on politicians from other parties in the Bundestag is more significant than the AfD’s and the left’s pro-Russian stances, which are on the edges of the political spectrum. This is most noticeable among the ruling Social Democrats. Former SPD Chancellor Gerhard Schröder now works for Nord Stream AG and is the chairman of the Russian oil corporation Rosneft’s supervisory board.

Despite party colleagues criticizing Schröder’s efforts, Olaf Scholz, the next Social Democratic Chancellor, is also in support of commissioning the Nord Stream 2 project.

Russia is seen as a crucial partner.

In a recent lecture in Delhi, German Vice Admiral Kay-Achim Schönbach stated that Germany and India require Russia as a strategic partner in their fight against China. Schönbach’s Indian hosts may recall that during the Cold War, their country collaborated closely with the Soviet Union, and that it is still entangled in boundary disputes with China.

The senior officer’s argument is based on a simple but powerful logic: the enemy of my enemy is my friend. While Russia is declining, advocates of the concept say that China is growing. Anyone who offends Moscow risks pushing it into Beijing’s arms. In contrast, a Russia that can only expect to keep what it has is simpler to work with than a China that is constantly trying to expand its sphere of influence.

The argument may be valid, but it overlooks the fact that Russia has been on an expansionist path for some time, even if it is currently limited to former Soviet Union countries. While it is true that a long-term European peace order cannot be built without or against Moscow, Russia is currently actively working against such an arrangement.

Russia is a major trading partner.

For Germany, which is a big exporter, Russia is an important trading partner. The two countries have more business ties than other European countries. However, a look at the facts on foreign trade puts the idea of close economic relationships into context.

According to the Federal Statistical Office, Russia ranked 15th among international trading partners in terms of exports in 2020. Russia accounted for just under 2% of overall German exports. In contrast, 8.6% of German exports went to the United States, the most important sales market. However, China, a number of EU member states, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland all purchased more from German enterprises than the Russians.

In terms of imports, the situation is similar: in 2020, Russia ranked 14th with a share of over 2% of total German imports. With a share of 11.4%, China was the most important supplier. The composition of Russian imports, on the other hand, is diverse. Germany imports over half of its natural gas through pipelines from Russia. This sum would be difficult to replace in the short term in the event of a conflict. Price changes for these energy sources also contribute to substantial fluctuations in German imports from Russia, due to the high concentration on oil and gas.

Putin is portrayed as the antithesis of the Western mainstream.

The image of Vladimir Putin riding across the taiga of Siberia, shirtless and wearing a cowboy hat, has become iconic. It stands for a number of things, including an uninhibited display of male strength, which is unusual for today’s Western audiences.

Many Germans see Russian President Vladimir Putin as a role model for a politician who is unconcerned with the complexities of Western social discussions. On the contrary, he mocks them while portraying them as a danger to “traditional,” conservative, and national-patriotic principles. Some Germans, who are irritated by gender asterisks and immigration, are impressed by this, as well as a muscular political style with purportedly unambiguous leadership. They regard Putin as a politician who opposes these arguments and opposes the United States and its political and cultural influence, in contrast to their own political personnel.

While other elements on the left contribute to the left’s kindness toward the Russian president, anti-Americanism contributes to leftists’ liking Putin as an anti-mainstream leader. Putin’s propaganda station, RT Deutsch, capitalizes on this. The fact that some things in Russian reality appear to be different does not appear to disturb the Putin apologists’ image.

German guilt for WWII

Given the background, Vladimir Putin’s speech in German in front of the Bundestag in 2001 was likewise very symbolic. Every German who visits Russia for the first time is astounded by the openness and friendliness shown to a representative of a people who caused untold pain to millions of Soviet Union citizens during WWII. Particularly since World War I commemoration is significantly more prevalent in the United States, even among families, than in Germany.

Many Germans sense an obligation to establish a particular, understanding, and caring connection with today’s Russia as a result of their profoundly felt shame and thanks for the unprejudiced, often enthusiastic attitude toward Germans born afterwards. This viewpoint is bolstered by decades of interest in Russian culture and the apparently unique “Russian soul,” which is also characterized by the immensity of the landscape and long-standing historical-political ties.

The exterminationist campaign of the National Socialists was not just directed at Russians, but also against all peoples of the Soviet Union, including Ukrainians and Belarusians.

Image Credit: Getty

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