Germany’s conservative Alternative for Germany (AfD) party is facing internal party conflicts over Germany’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with some politicians, particularly those from what was formerly East Germany, asking for Germany to stay out of the conflict and reminding of Russia’s decision to peacefully withdraw from communist satellite countries at the end of the Soviet Union.
This position — somewhat sympathetic to Russia — was delivered by a leading figure in the AfD party during a special session of parliament. AfD co-chairman Tino Chrupalla‘s speech at the special parliamentary session on the Ukraine war drew sharp criticism from some within his party, especially those from the west of Germany, according to a federal official in the party speaking with German newspaper Junge Freiheit.
“It must not be our goal these days to identify the one culprit. Right now, we must not forget Russia’s contribution to Germany and Europe,” party leader Chrupalla said during his Sunday speech.
“This also made German unity possible for 32 years, underpinned by the withdrawal of Russian troops in 1994. We have to show respect for that. I say that quite consciously also as an East German. We thank Russia for that to this day,” he added.
Chrupalla addressed German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s decision to arm Ukraine in the conflict, saying, “Unfortunately, with your speech you have reactivated the Cold War, I have to say that so clearly. The good thing is that an apparently clear position for freedom and democracy sometimes turns out to be a dead end.”
Parliamentary group leader Alice Weidel also spoke of “hardliners” who were “caught in a completely outdated logic of the Cold War, rigidly clinging to the prospect of Ukraine joining and at the same time arrogantly denying Russia’s great power status.” This is “the historic failure of the West.” It does not change anything “the reprehensibility of the Russian invasion, but understanding all the causes is a prerequisite for the search of solutions.”
Foreign policy expert Petr Bystron accused Scholz of irresponsibility. According to him, Germany has funded Ukraine for eight years and Scholz has not once made these payments conditional on Ukraine complying with the Minsk II agreement.”
Criticism of Chrupella
“Besides the historically perverse thanks to Russia for the reunification, he positioned the party in the vicinity of communist splinter groups. He completely negated the Ukrainians‘ heroic will to resist. The speech came across as a clumsy gallop of apologies for aggression that is already characterized by war crimes,” an AfD source at the federal level told Junge Freiheit.
Chrupalla has also rejected the weapons package announced by Chancellor Olaf Scholz, which runs counter to the AfD basic program of strengthening the military.
“Not many people are now doubting the horizon and suitability of the current federal spokesman,” the official said regarding Chrupalla.
When asked by the Junge Freiheit news outlet, several members of the Bundestag spoke of a loss of trust. At the parliamentary group meeting on Sunday morning, the decision was clear: condemnation of the Russian war of aggression and restraint as far as understanding Russia was concerned. They argue that Chrupella should have talked instead about the poor state of the German army, the Bundeswehr, which is a common theme for the AfD. Chrupella had also not wanted to reveal the content of his speech before he delivered it, and also deceived the federal executive board regarding its contents.
Chrupalla defends himself
Chrupalla defended his speech. He said he “represented the position that has always characterized his party.” The AfD stands up “for German interests and for overcoming Cold War ways of thinking.”
“It was this very confrontation between West and East that elicited the war in Ukraine. The last few days have shown that unilateral and collective recriminations and further escalation are increasingly putting Germany in the danger of war,” Chrupalla stated, continuing to call for dialogue and peace.
“As a result of the Russian attack on Ukraine, the crucial issues of the AfD automatically come into the focus of the German public,” Rüdiger Lucassen, who himself gave a speech in the Bundestag on Sunday, warned.
An operational Bundeswehr and the reactivation of conscription are in the AfD basic program. As the opposition party, they allegedly must now ensure that this announcement is implemented and that the money is invested sensibly. According to Lucassen, therein lies their chance as a national-conservative, rule-of-law party.
AfD MP Peter Felser told Junge Freiheit that he “rejoiced that on Sunday we came to the majority position that we were dealing with a war of aggression that violated international law.” The AfD then missed an opportunity during the speeches.
“Far-reaching AfD demands were accepted or even exceeded by the government in a 180-degree turn that day. AfD is working — that would have been the message that day. On that day, it would have been good for us to also show emotions. Ukrainian and Russian mothers are mourning their fallen sons at the moment. Families mourn the death of their loved ones,” the Bavarian politician added.
“Resolutions are not compatible with inappropriate content of individual speeches”
AfD politician Jürgen Braun made a similar statement. After the invasion of Russia, “Germany was brutally brought back to reality.” The federal government takes over the main demands of the AfD.
“All speakers in the special session should have emphasized this real political confirmation of the AfD through the current situation. Only Rüdiger Lucassen did that appropriately. The parliamentary group and the federal executive have taken a position against Putin’s war of aggression,” he emphasized to Junge Freiheit.
“These unambiguous resolutions are not compatible with inappropriate content of individual speeches in the Bundestag. The world situation is different than ten days ago,” warned Braun.
“Whoever does not understand this historical situation and does not express it clearly in his speeches, anyone who does not adequately express their support for the innocently suffering Ukrainian people is doing massive damage to the AfD,” the politician concluded.