In Germany, dialogue with Russia is anti-democratic
The popular party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) is under coordinated attack from the mainstream media for alleged Russian contacts, mainly through the NGO 'German Center for Eurasian Studies' and it’s head Manuel Ochsenreiter. In an exclusive interview with FWM, Mr. Ochsenreiter points out that although the media had been researching the alleged connections for months, they can’t present the slightest evidence, and he exposes the driving forces behind the smear campaign.
Mr. Ochsenreiter, in middle of August, several mainstream newspapers launched a campaign against the AfD party, your “German Center for Eurasian Studies” and you personally. The whole adventurous story is about Russian influence on the AfD and how your Center allegedly serves as an element of a pro-Russian network in Europe. The German mainstream media presented their researches as a huge media scoop. Was that the case?
– What “researches”? The whole story comes along with almost no content at all – as usual with this topic. Mainstream media doesn’t work with facts, it works with blurry allegations. The newspaper journalists are criticizing my assistance in organizing electoral and crisis observation missions on the territory of former Soviet Union, activities the Center is very open with. Some parliamentarians of the AfD party took part in missions in Ukraine, the two Donbass Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk and in the Republic of Artsakh (known as Nagorno-Karabakh) during the last years. Our mainstream media doesn’t like that, and that’s their whole story.
Why are these missions so controversial?
– They are not controversial – just to a group of liberal journalists they might be, and of course to the governments of Ukraine and Azerbaijan – on their former territories exists today the Republics of Donetsk, Lugansk and Arzach. The German government doesn’t support such missions of course as well. But it is not forbidden to go to these territories, neither for journalists nor for politicians or even tourists. Arzach for example is a beautiful country with a wonderful landscape, old Armenian monasteries and countless breathtaking landmarks. European tourists who are interested in culture and hiking are going there since many years.
But why are especially politicians of the AfD party joining such missions?
– Even that is not true. Many European politicians from different political camps visited Donbass and Arzach during the last years to get their own impression about the situation. Arzach was even visited by former high ranking German diplomats and a Bundestag politician of Merkels CDU party.
Organized by your Center?
– Of course not! We are not a travel agency. I am just proposing from time to time candidates for such missions. That’s all.
But why are not OSCE, EU or UN conducting such missions?
– For these organizations such missions are problematic.
– Let me give you an example: Let us say the OCSE would have observed the Crimean referendum in March 2014, and let us say the OSCE observers would have reported that the referendum was conducted in a correct way respecting international standards. In that moment the international community wouldn’t have had any choice but to accept the reunification of Crimea with Russia as a result of a legal democratic decision of the population of Crimea.
But what is the problem about that?
– The so called “international community”, which is dominated by Washington, Brussels, London and Paris, is far from accepting results of democratic processes which doesn’t fit in their geopolitical patterns. They want Ukraine as a type of “anti-Russia”, as a Western front-line-entity. In the eyes of the West, the change of Crimea from Ukraine to the arch enemy Russia is absolutely inacceptable. Today Crimea suffers under the special Western sanctions, no business with EU countries is permitted, nothing. Of course the West did everything possible to prevent the process of the Crimean reunification with Russia, but that failed. When it was clear that neither the OSCE nor any other huge international body would be willing to observe the referendum, another international observation was organized within a short time. Many politicians from Europe came to Crimea to witness and review the procedures of the referendum. Most of these politicians come from Eurosceptic groups and parties from the right and the left. Again: Neither the Crimean nor the Russian authorities refused an OSCE observation, in contrary – they invited them. But after OSCE refused, an alternative international observation mission was organized.
The media campaign against your Center claims that you are affiliated with the AfD party…
– That’s not true as well. I am not member of the party. There is no connection between our German Center for Eurasian Studies and any political party.
But some AfD members are as well members of your Center…
– So what? When in a local or regional sports club there are some members of a certain party – is it then affiliated with their ideology? I don’t think so. Otherwise members of political parties couldn’t join any organization without bringing the suspicion of a party affiliation on the NGO. Precisely here the German mainstream media is trying to construct a connection which doesn’t exist. The press speaker of the AfD confirmed that, I confirmed that. We are politically independent.
If there is no real content at all in this campaign – why did that massive media attack take place then?
– What is important: The aim of this campaign is not my Center or my person. The real aim is the AfD party. In September there are federal elections in Germany, the AfD will enter the Bundestag for the first time, they can expect around ten percent of the votes if we can trust the latest opinion polls. The established political parties and the mainstream media are fighting with all means against the AfD. So we have to see this campaign in this context, there is an aim behind it and why it comes now. Literally every couple of days another “scandal” is published in the mass media. “Our” scandal is just one of many.
The articles about your Center say that German intel agencies are having an eye on your activities.
– They quote “anonymous sources” and “documents” no one else ever saw but this little group of journalists. In months of researches and work they didn’t find one single German intel speaker confirming that?
You don’t believe that?
– Why should I? And even if: We are not doing anything wrong or forbidden. We are not breaking any law. Our activities are open and well documented by ourselves. The Center is working by democratic means in ways the German government don’t like, I would be surprised if they hadn’t ordered the intel to keep an eye on what we do.
Meeting Prime minister Sergej Aksionov during a visit to Crimea in April 2017. Photo: Supplied
But why is mainstream media writing that?
– Because it is a part of the character assassination business. You simply say that someone is under observation of intel agencies; you make that person “toxic” for others by that. It’s supposed to make people believe that you do something wrong, something dirty, something forbidden. It puts a stigma in your forehead. And the story is also meant to increase Russophobia in Europe.
How do you mean that?
– The key messages are: 1) Don’t deal with Russians, it is dangerous for you because you face a media campaign. 2) Everybody dealing with Russia in a cooperative and positive way is suspected to be an agent or at least to work with Russian intel. 3) All people in Europe who are objecting the anti-Russian politics of their governments are not simply having a different political opinion, they are manipulated or paid by Russian intel. This is a totally undemocratic approach. In the end it is about the criminalization of not just people, but of oppositional political opinions.