Kai Arzheimer on “To Russia with love? German populist actors’ positions vis-a-vis the Kremlin”

Arzheimer, Kai. (2023). “To Russia with love? German populist actors’ positions vis-a-vis the Kremlin.” In: The Impacts of the Russian Invasion of Ukraine on Right-wing Populismin Europe. (eds). Gilles Ivaldi and Emilia Zankina. European Center for Populism Studies (ECPS). March 8, 2023. Brussels. https://doi.org/10.55271/rp0020

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Russia’s attack on Ukraine and its many international and national repercussions have helped to revive the fortunes of Germany’s main radical right-wing populist party, the “Alternative for Germany” (AfD). Worries about the threats posed to Germany’s traditional export-led industries by spiking energy prices, the country’s historical anxieties over becoming involved in armed conflict in Europe, and hundreds of thousands of refugees arriving in Germany seem to have contributed to a modest rise in the AfD’s poll numbers after a long period of stagnation. However, the situation is more complicated for the AfD than it would appear at first glance. While many party leaders and the rank-and-file have long held sympathies for Putin (and for Russia more generally), support for Ukraine among the German public remains strong, even if there is some disagreement about the appropriate means and the acceptable costs. At least some AfD voters are appalled by the levels of Russian violence against civilians. Like on many other issues, there is also a gap in opinion between Germany’s formerly communist federal states in the east and the western part of the country. The AfD’s leadership has responded by blaming the government and unspecified external actors for the economic crisis, calling for a “diplomatic solution,” and demanding a “return to normal.” While this policy has helped to keep the AfD’s base mobilized, the stated approach is scarcely feasible and has not led to a surge in support for the party among the general population.

Keywords: Germany, Alternative for Germany (AfD), Pegida, energy security.

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