Vilifying Vladimir Putin and Russia has become an argument of last resort for German politicians unable to cope with the immigration crisis.
This post first appeared on Russia Insider
RI correspondent in Germany:
- The German minister of Justice demonizes Germans who think well of the Russian President decrying them as radicals
- Wants to prosecute hate preachers of the PEGIDA movement while preaching hate against Vladimir Putin
- Obviously hates Putin for “annexing” Crimea while forgetting the past of his own country
Not long ago I wrote about the German magazine DER SPIEGEL and its recent magical transition from a Russia friendly paper to a mass medium full of hatred towards Russia. It can be read here in Russian.
It doesn't happen too often that German politicians contribute content to this, or any other, outlet. But this time around DER SPIEGEL decided to invite a prominent member of the German government to its pool of Russia hating writers - the Minister of Justice, Heiko Maas.
Mr. Maas has reason to be concerned as of late with the rallies of the PEGIDA movement taking place in Dresden, in the federal state of Saxony, almost every Monday. At the very beginning this movement was mainly comprised of middle class Germans, dissatisfied with the government’s policy over handling of the refugee crisis, chiefly people against the Islamization of the Occident. As well, they are criticizing its antagonistic policy towards Russia with some people waving signs denouncing the agitation against the Russians. Very much tied at the hip with this is their anger with the German mass media for their systematic, willful dissemination of lies for public consumption (a.k.a Lügenpresse). People have been marching through the center of the city week after week shouting “we are the people“ - the exact same slogan used in Leipzig, during the peaceful protests that took place there, shortly before the Berlin Wall came down in 1989.
Now, with the refugee crisis raging all over Europe, and especially in Germany, the movement, it seems, is becoming ‘in vogue’ with people with a more ‘far right’ mindset, contributing to its radicalization.
At a rally held on Monday October 19th some PEGIDA protesters ratcheted up the tensions by carrying posters with slogans and images clearly directed against the top members of the current German government, Chancellor Merkel and Vice Chancellor Gabriel among them. Even gallows could be seen, expressing the desire of some to have the two aforementioned persons hung. So far, so bad.
Did Mr. Maas fear that, as far as gallows are concerned, the next PEGIDA marches could be entirely dedicated to him? I don’t know. In any case, he felt personally compelled to pen an article for DER Spiegel headlined:
The introductory section reads as follows:
"We have an integration problem in Germany. Our problem are people who are at odds with our democratic values. They listen to hate preachers and radicalize themselves on the internet, they hate gays and doubt gender equality. They bring violence into politics and every Monday they march with PEGIDA. They are Germans, however they are foreigners within their own country.“
I don't want to delve too deep into the nitty gritty of Mr. Maas' article for which he‘s received many negative comments. But the primary goal of his literary work was to denigrate PEGIDA as a pool of radicals and hate preachers. Does this defamation campaign hold water under scrutiny? The enactment of tightened asylum rules allowing the authorities to deport asylum seekers quicker, hastily pushed through parliament clearly proves that it doesn't. Besides, the chairman of the Bavarian CSU (part of the current Grand Coalition and sister party to Chancellor Merkel’s own CDU) - Horst Seehofer, threatened to sue the government for its unconstitutional actions related to the refugee crisis by which Bavaria was struck the hardest.
Whether the German government realized the utterly skeptical attitude of its electorate towards their asylum policy or accepted the fact that Germany can't just take in a million refugees every year, I have no way of knowing. But it's hard to rid oneself of the feeling that Mr. Maas is committing a foul, decrying PEGIDA as radical whilst, as Justice Minister of the German government, partly fulfilling its demands.
RI readers may wonder how Mr. Maas is being critical of Russia? Well then, get this little gem in his piece:
"And it's not about the 2,6 % share of foreigners in Saxony. Our freedom, diversity and tolerance are alien to them. They are stuck in the mental transit zone between dictatorship and democracy. No wonder many of them think that Vladimir Putin is a smasher."
Now, we even have official confirmation by the German Minister of Justice that there are some “Putinversteher” (someone who understands Putin) spending their leisure time with PEGIDA. At this point though, we could pose the question as to whether Mr. Maas has in any way verified if all these Putinversteher are also radicals? The answer should be clear to all! Of course he hasn’t!
But let’s assume for a moment that Mr. Maas is right and imagine following conversation between him and Mrs. Merkel:
Merkel: Mr. Maas, in my capacity as the Chancellor of Germany I command you to see to it, by all means necessary, that my subjects aren’t influenced by Putinversteher! We have far too many of them already marching with PEGIDA!
Maas: Sure, my Iron Chancellor! God forbid should all these “I think Mr. Putin is a smasher“ believers – this brown plague from the East - in an attempt to conquer Ukraine and then half of Europe and Germany – set themselves in motion! Then we would have to come up with something even bigger and longer than the Berlin Wall. To the complete satisfaction of Mr. Seehofer I propose a preventive measure of building a “German Wall“ on our Eastern border, similar to the one we had two millennia ago, protecting us from the Romans.
Merkel: Hold on my Minister of Justice! Haven’t we heard that somewhere already? Oh yeah, I remember! Wasn‘t it in Yats‘ “history for beginners“ lesson?
Let us have faith that events didn’t really unfold like that. Otherwise Mr. Maas must be someone, and probably the only one, who remained totally untouched by the happenings of the last two years. Doesn’t he know that Mr. Putin, as a chairman of a club named Russia, can boast of insignificant 80%-90% support of its members?
Why is Mr. Maas so upset with the Russian President and the values advocated by him? Why are some Germans denigrated for being critical of the actions of their government? And I am not referring to those Germans who attack and even set on fire future homes for asylum seekers, which has happened over 500 times in Germany this year alone. Is it not a basic right in a democracy, so adamantly defended by Mr. Maas, to speak up or just to utter one‘s opinion?
Or is it even because of Russia‘s “annexation” of Crimea last year? You bet! What other political event caused so much uproar in the EU parliament, resembling a scene of a fox visiting the henhouse. As someone who grew up in the federal state of Saarland he must be aware that in October 1955 the people there rejected the Saar statute by referendum (its 60th anniversary was solemnly celebrated a couple of days ago in Saarbrücken with Chancellor Merkel in attendance) and as a consequence of this referendum Saarland reunited with Germany in 1957. And what about the reunification of East with West Germany? Is Mr. Maas just being oblivious of his country‘s past or is he just applying double standards? There is no third option on this issue!
It seems to me the tongues of German politicians are frequently unhinged by someone or something. Mrs. Merkel's "criminal“ statement this year, Mr. Schäuble‘s “Hitler“ comparison last year and now Mr. Maas' attempt to vilify the Russian president, and by extension the overwhelming majority of the Russian people by linking them to the radical part of the German PEGIDA movement, once again shows the hostile approach of the current German government towards Russia. For this reason alone it truly deserves to get the boot from its electorate.
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