Der Spiegel is a mainstream German news source with a generally centrist orientation. It has the most prominent English language presence on the internet of any German source. It is most definitely not a radical left wing publication. It is reporting an interesting story about ties between the German National Democratic Party and the right wing Svoboda Party that holds ministerial posts in the present Ukrainian interim government. The NDP has long been described as Germany's leading neo-Nazi party.
Tight on the Right: Germany's NPD Maintains Close Ties to Svoboda
When Holger Apfel showed up at the Saxony state parliament with a "parliamentary delegation" from Ukraine last May, few had even heard of a party called Svoboda. Apfel, who was head of the right-wing extremist National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD) at the time, proudly showed his guests -- Ukrainian parliamentarian Mikhail Golovko and two municipal politicians from the Ukrainian city of Ternopol -- around the parliament building in Dresden.
Speaking to other NPD parliamentarians, Apfel called the nationalist Svoboda party "one of the most important European right-wing parties."
Given such ties, it is astounding that Germany has approached the Ukrainian right-wing extremists in a manner that would be unthinkable with the NPD. On April 29, 2013, for example, Germany's ambassador in Kiev met with Svoboda's parliamentary floor leader Oleh Tyahnybok. During the meeting, Berlin has insisted, the ambassador exhorted Tyahnybok to respect the inviolability of human dignity and human rights.
But the Ukrainian right wing has also received instruction financed by German taxpayers. Party members appeared at events hosted by the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, the German political foundation affiliated with Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives. Examples include the conference entitled "Lessons from the 2012 Parliamentary Elections," the seminar series called "The Higher School of Politics" and a discussion on the 2012 elections.
The shadow of the Nazi past still hangs over Germany. It holds power there that is much more significant than the kind of over the top internet rhetoric that occurs in the US. The fact that Germans are raising concerns about the presence of the far right in the Ukrainian government and the dealings of their own government with that party is a matter that should not be dismissed lightly.
The Russian claims that the entire upheaval in Ukraine that resulted in the ouster of Yanukovych was a fascists directed coup are pretty clearly overblown propaganda. However, the counter claims that there is absolutely no reason to be concerned about the presence of people with demonstrable ties to other neo-nazi organizations smack of denial of what may be significant reality.
Germany is the lynch pin in EU economic policy. It has the largest trading relationship with Russia. At this point polls indicate that a majority of the German public remains opposed to strong economic sanctions against Russia that would likely have a negative economic impact on Germany. Consideration of the right wing influences in the government in Kiev are likely to add to that reluctance.
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