November 24, 2015
That thing that I said was going to happen has now happened: Russia has become a global symbol of old Europe, and is being looked to by all those opposed to new Europe (Merkeldom) as a natural ally. And possibly something more.
Possibly, Russia will serve as a light to lead those who do not wish to perish out of the darkness.
The square in front of Dresden’s famous opera house – the Semperoper – was full. Three days after the terrorist attacks in Paris, the regular Monday event saw 10,000 people come to protest the German government’s refugee policies. That’s a few more thousand that the week before, but only half as many as during PEGIDA’s high point in January in the wake of the “Charlie Hebdo” attacks.
“Merkel must go,” the demonstrators – primarily male – grumbled before the Baroque backdrop of Saxony’s capital. As protesters shouted their cries of hate into the evening sky, flags waved over the square. Many of them were German, but about half a dozen were Russian.
Evil racists… cries of hate… Russian flags…
Shut. It. Down.
One gray-haired man in his 60s carried a particularly large flag. He said he wants a policy of detente toward Moscow, and that he is scared of a war between Russia and the US. He likes Russian President Vladimir Putin, because he’s a “doer” and “takes action, while our politicians just talk.”
The man has never met Putin personally, but his boss did once – back when East Germany still existed, he told DW, while refusing to give his name. Putin worked as a KGB officer in Dresden during the 1980s.
Experts, like the Dresden political scientist Christian Demuth, haven’t ruled out the fact that “many people” at the PEGIDA demonstrations “had specific roles in the East German regime, in the Stasi or the Socialist Unity Party (SED).” However, he notes that this is a hypothesis.
What is true is that most of the people carrying Russian flags at the PEGIDA marches are older men.
Yes, just claim that they are secret agents working for Russia, even while it is an obvious fact that any single individual opposed to the Merkelization of Europe is going to feel naturally close to a country which is trumpeting old European values and civilization.
Since its emergence in October 2014, PEGIDA has been Islamophobic, xenophobic and, also, pro-Russian. One of working points is a call for the “immediate normalization of Germany’s relationship with the Russian Federation and the end of any type of war mongering.” In February, one woman was introduced at the Monday-night gathering as “Anastasia from Russia.” She was campaigning for the recognition of the Russian annexation of Crimea and for an end to Western sanctions.
PEGIDA-founder Lutz Bachmann also met with the members of the Night Wolves, a motorcycle gang with close ties to the Kremlin.
He accompanied the bikers to a wreath-laying in a Russian soldiers’ cemetery in the northwestern Saxon town of Torgau. Posing behind a PEGIDA banner, he and the group had their picture taken.
More than anybody, Putin has a high regard among PEGIDA followers. Bachmann has worn a T-shirt bearing Putin’s portrait to a demonstration, and it’s common to hear calls like “Ship Merkel off to Siberia and Putin to Berlin” or “Help us, Putin.”
And this isn’t just desperation. It is also logic.
It is a reality that Russia is expanding its influence. Russia has become a pole in a now multi-polar world, and people would rather be under the influence of Russia than the West.
It is an obvious fact that an alliance with Russia would not involve being forced to accept millions of Moslem terrorists and welfare leeches into your base.
The pro-Russian side of PEGIDA remains unclear even though research about the group’s Islamophobic and, to some extent, anti-democratic attitudes has already been conducted. Experts told DW that three factors are driving the affinity toward Moscow: the former East Germany (GDR), anti-American sentiment and the attraction of Putin and his system of power.
That is dumb. Denying the obvious.
Those three factors are presumably factors, but they are minor factors in comparison to the major factor which – once again – is that Russia has become a symbol for old Europe, Putin himself an avatar of our historical greatness as a people.
But no, German media and government, go ahead and act like Putinists are just stupid children.
This is something that Kerstin Köditz can confirm. She belongs to the Left Party, which has the second-largest number of seats in Saxony’s state parliament.
“Very few people attending PEGIDA rallies actually know about the situation in Russia,” said Köditz.
“What they perceive is a strong man. They see the pictures of him, shirtless, riding a horse. Those are pictures that the PEGIDA supporters love,” she added.
Again, there may be some factual basis to this – Putin is a strong man, and that does have appeal. But what is appealing more than the strength itself is the way he uses the strength for just ends. And people want connected to that power.
This fire hasn’t even begun to rise. Over the next year, you are going to see Russian flags flying across Eastern and Central Europe. Mark my words.
This is happening.