Home WORLD NEWS The American Interest (USA): Putin’s popularizers

The American Interest (USA): Putin’s popularizers


German culture has long been, from Nietzsche and Mann to Merkel, treated Russia with respect.

Among the prominent German figures are enough defenders of Russia. More recently, Horst Teltschik accused the West of being “obsessed” with accusing Putin of all the sins of world politics, thus “cooling” his desire for cooperation. According to jürgen Todenhöfer, the “demonization” of Russia is already notorious. And in the collection of essays entitled “Why there should be friendship and peace between us and Russia” (Why We Need Peace and Friendship with Russia), prominent politicians in the resignation of a variety of views — including conservatives — call for a warmer relationship with the Putin regime.

It is alarming that these Pro-Russian sentiments can be supported by all political forces, especially with regard to Ukraine. Left-wing politicians often justify Russia’s annexation of Crimea in the same manner as the right-wing “Alternative for Germany” (ADH). German nationalists have always seen in the States of Eastern Europe an annoying obstacle, which should deal with the great powers — in this case, Russia and Germany.

Those who indulge Putin, called “Putinversteher”, that is, “Putin’s popularizers.” In some cases, blackmail and bribes worked, and the success of Putinversteher in Germany is facilitated by the huge scale of Russian propaganda and misinformation. The Germans have some sort of irresistible compulsion [to Russia], which makes apologists of the Kremlin portray the authoritarian regime of Putin as a natural expression of the uniqueness of Russia. “We do not need to impose Western values on Russia, — we hear now and then. — Russian culture should be respected for what it is.”
The American Interest (USA): Putin's popularizers
Nothing new.

In the early nineteenth century, several prominent German thinkers created a mythical image of Russia, to which they fed something between fear and admiration. On the one hand, Russia seemed mysterious and frightening, because this vast country was “uncivilized”, controlled by primitive instincts. At the same time, this imaginary backwardness and irrationality often perceived as uncomplicated spiritual and moral purity “of the Russian people”.

Arthur Moeller van den Bruck, (Arthur Moeller van den Bruck) and philosophy, which formed the basis of the right of intellectual currents of the “Conservative Revolution”, saw the Russians and the Germans in the early twentieth century a healthy contrast with the rationalist, materialist-oriented West. For him, both Russia and Germany were ideologically fresh and emotionally modern civilizational forces.

Some of Germany’s greatest minds have also contributed to this idealized image of mysterious Russia. In 1888, Friedrich Nietzsche called Russia “the only force that has a margin of safety that can tolerate and from which you can expect something.” Russia for Nietzsche was the opposite of “European particularism and nervousness”; the “West as a whole” no longer had those instincts” on which its institutions have grown and on which the future can grow”. In 1920, the poet Rainer Maria Rilke said: “Russia has made me who I am.” Rilke believed that he could put “internal roots” in Russia, “the country of unfinished God, wherein every movement of the people poured out all the warmth of its formation, like an endless grace.”

Thomas Mann in his 1918 book “Reflections of the apolitical” came to a certain schematic cultural and historical opposition, where on the one hand was Germany and Russia, and on the other —Western democracies. Since both German and Russian “cultures” opposed “imperialism” and the soulless, rationalistic “civilization” of the West, these two peoples United deep spiritual ties. And therefore, they do not always understand and humiliated by the West. Of course, Mann later changed his negative attitude towards democracy and Western values. But the early sprouts of this worldview can be traced quite clearly.

Moreover, many German right-wing nationalists during the Weimar Republic were convinced that Germany and Russia were United in the fight against the West. “National Bolsheviks”, such as Meller van den Bruck (Moeller van den Bruck) and journalist Ernst Niekisch (Ernst Niekisch), who moved from the extreme left to the extreme right, and then back, saw in the October revolution “people” (“völkisch”) rise of Russian against Western civilization and, therefore, something like a model for their own future “national Revolution”. Similarly, Joseph Goebbels in his early years admired Lenin as a great Russian nationalist leader. After the world war, I, the Red Army and the Reichswehr Worked together to secretly rearm Germany. Hitler’s racist hatred of all Slavs prevented the idea of a Russian-German Alliance against the West from being included in the ideology of national socialism. But in connection with the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 1939-1941, this idea became relevant again.
The American Interest (USA): Putin's popularizers
The dream of a joint confrontation between Germany and Russia and the superior forces of the West was alive after the collapse of the Nazi regime, this time in the form of the desire for the neutrality of both the left and the right. For example, it played an important role in the German Peace Movement, in which hundreds of thousands of people protested against NATO’s nuclear rearmament in the early 1980s. And it has not disappeared since the end of the cold war. In the German ideology and today tend primarily to attribute the merit of reunification, Mikhail Gorbachev and to a lesser extent, the power and attractiveness of Western democracies.


Indeed, one must ask whether Germany’s integration with the West has ever been fully accepted by some parts of German society.

These historical trends sometimes translate into barely concealed anti-Americanism, which has persisted in the Federal Republic since its inception, not only among radical ideologists but also in the political and social center. The justified fear of the expansionist ambitions of Soviet communism and the concomitant dependence on United States protection have curbed the worst of these trends. But even during the cold war, anti-Americanism was also present, albeit indirectly, in the form of cultural contempt for the “superficial” and “soulless” United States with its supposedly unbridled passion for profit and consumption. Russia, according to many Germans, is the opposite: a cultural nation that values the ideals of poets, artists, and intellectuals.

In Germany, the policy of détente of the 1970s and 1980s is still remembered with a kind word, hence the conviction that Russia is a peace-loving power, which is necessary for a stable Europe. In particular, the SPD perceives the call for partnership with Moscow almost as something sacred. Among the social Democrats, there is still a strong desire for harmony in German-Russian relations, despite the aggressive, destructive behavior of Putin’s neo-imperialist mafia state in modern Europe. Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (Heiko Maas) goes against the tide, speaking in the ranks of the SPD for the “new Eastern policy”, which is aimed primarily at protecting the interests of partners from Eastern Europe, not Russia. However, his own party does not support him very much.

The current policy of the German government towards Russia is deeply ambivalent. Thanks to Angela Merkel, the European Union suppressed Russia’s aggression in Ukraine with a single sanctions regime. At the same time, Berlin has always made it clear that its “dialogue” with the Kremlin should remain a priority on its agenda, and that measures such as arms supplies to Ukraine — measures that could jeopardize German-Russian relations – are completely wrong. Moreover, at the Munich security conference in February, Merkel confirmed her support for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project, despite strong opposition not only from the US but also from Brussels and a number of EU partner countries. Merkel justified her position by the need not to “exclude” Russia from European Affairs completely.

One of the most paradoxical aspects of the current situation in Germany is that sympathy for Putin is strongest in the Eastern parts of the country, which once languished from Soviet totalitarianism. This can only be explained by something like the phantom Stockholm syndrome — the attractiveness of the invader, which has long been gone. The more frustration it causes really existing capitalism, the more cheerful seems the authoritarianism of the past.

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This means that although Berlin supports sanctions against the Kremlin, the pressure of the Pro-Russian part of society is increasing. German entrepreneurs and banks — with the support of the Federal government — are doing everything possible to minimize the effects of sanctions, expanding German-Russian relations. At the Grand opening of the new Daimler automobile plant in the Moscow region, German Minister of economy Peter Altmayer (Peter Altmaier) stood next to Putin, and, as you know, said that no one should try to “bring Russia to its knees in the economic sense.” “Russia’s success, — he stressed, — is in Germany’s interests.” Chairman of the Board of Daimler Dieter Zetsche added: “We believe in Russia!»

The Federal government stubbornly clings to Nord stream 2, although the respected German Institute for economic research (DIW) has predicted that this project will not be economically viable. It continues to adhere to the same policy despite the fact that the Kremlin long ago made it clear that it does not intend to continue to cooperate with Ukraine as a transit country for the supply of Russian gas to Western Europe, although Berlin demands it. Germany stands its ground, preferring to isolate itself from the whole of Europe and push away EU partners, such as Poland and the Baltic States, who feel an immediate threat from Putin’s neo-imperialism. By persistently adhering to unilateral energy policy, Germany not only prevents the implementation of EU plans to reduce dependence on fossil fuels but also fails to justify its own statements that it is a consistent supporter of a multilateral approach to world politics.
The American Interest (USA): Putin's popularizers
As you can see, rational considerations do not always come to the fore when it comes to relations with Russia, whether it concerns politics or the economy of Germany. Russia in the minds of the Germans plays the role of an imaginary, subconscious “option”, which can be resorted to if disagreements with Western partners become too serious. Yes, economic, political and social ties with Germany are too strong for Germany to deviate – for now. But it is not necessary to exclude such a possibility.

The final split is unlikely to happen after Angela Merkel will leave the Office, especially since its likely successor, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer), as Merkel herself, is showing its commitment to the Transatlantic partnership and its shared values. Nevertheless, the pressure of Putin’s lobby will almost certainly increase and may well lead to a further easing of the attitude towards the Russian authoritarian regime. If the disintegration of the European Union continues, it is even possible that the demons of German nationalism, who were generally considered defeated, will again raise their heads and will be terrifying.

The coming to power of Donald Trump with his slogan “America first” and an aggressive approach to European partners reinforce the trend towards disunity in the Transatlantic partnership. And then, with what incredible admiration and warmth relate to Vladimir Putin himself trump, only exacerbates the situation: the idea that Washington trump may eventually find a consensus with Moscow behind the Europeans reinforces the desire to establish relations with Russia before others do it.

Involuntarily you think: and what if all this will lead to the actual victory of Moscow in the cold war, albeit belated — the acquisition of sustainable influence in the East, the subordination of the West and the concomitant weakening of inter-Atlantic relations?

And it’s not that incredible.


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