In Russia the police are looking for him, in Germany they are greeted with a standing ovation; in Russia, a criminal case was initiated against him for involving minors in street actions; in Germany, he delivers a 10-minute speech on behalf of convicted opposition leader Alexei Navalny, gives interviews and jokes about the remuneration allegedly announced for his capture. And all this takes place in the presence of the Mayor of Potsdam, the leader of one of the parliamentary parties of the Federal Republic of Germany and a large number of German media, within the framework of the international media congress.
How Navalny’s colleague was awarded the prize in Potsdam
In such an atmosphere, on October 6, 2021, Potsdam Mayor Mike Schubert personally presented Alexey Navalny’s closest ally Leonid Volkov with the prize for his contribution to the development of freedom of speech and protection of democracy, which this year was awarded to convicted Russian opposition leader Navalny and his Anti-Corruption Foundation ( FBK), officially declared an “extremist organization” in Russia.
The speech at the awards ceremony was delivered by Christian Lindner, chairman of the Free Democratic Party (FDP) and a candidate for one of the key posts in the country’s future government. The very appearance of the likely future minister in the company of Navalny’s “right hand”, coupled with his fiery speech (in which he called the Russian oppositionist a “hero”), allows us to make the first guesses about what the course of the new German government towards Moscow might be.
Leader of the German Liberals: We must not forget about the opposition
The head of the German liberals, Lindner, began his speech with a joking quote from a certain Internet resource in Russia, which claims that his party allegedly uses Navalny to get the post of foreign minister, and the Greens – in order to block Nord Stream – 2 “. When laughter died down in the audience, Lindner said that such publications by Russian “troll factories” are one of the clearest examples of how important the fight against disinformation on the Internet is. And he added that it is time to think about increasing funding for the Russian-language media from the budget – another hint at the possible foreign policy steps of the new government.
Lindner himself once a week reminds his half-million audience on Twitter about Navalny’s fate, posting a post with the hashtag FreeNavalny and the number of days he spent in prison.
Christian Lindner, Leonid Volkov, Mike Schubert (left to right)
“We liberal democrats have no right to forget about the fate of the opposition in authoritarian countries,” Lindner said. He met with Navalny at the end of 2020, when the opposition leader had already decided to return to Russia. Lindner describes Navalny as “hero”, admires his courage and marvels at the pettiness of German complaints about life against the backdrop of human rights violations in Russia.
According to him, the repression of the Russian authorities against Navalny and his supporters speaks of their self-doubt and doubts about their own legitimacy. Lindner calls for the expansion and promotion of personal sanctions against specific individuals involved in human rights violations. At the same time, he points out that the persecution of corrupt and illegitimate rulers should not cut off Germany’s ties with ordinary residents of the country.
In his response, Leonid Volkov emphasized the importance of awarding the prize not only to Navalny personally, but to the entire FBK. And although the main task of the liquidated fund was defined as the fight against corruption, it was directly related to election fraud – according to Volkov, the corrupt authorities cannot afford to lose elections, therefore, they begin to oppress the opposition and independent media. “Therefore, the fight for human rights begins with the fight against corruption,” Volkov said.
The audience gave him a standing ovation.
The new government of the Federal Republic of Germany: who wants to become foreign minister?
The award ceremony for Navalny’s comrade-in-arms in Potsdam is the most recent example of how determined the representatives of the German liberals are in supporting the Russian opposition (among the organizers of the award ceremony was the Naumann Foundation, close to the Free Democratic Party).
Liberals and Greens, who received two more votes in the elections to the Bundestag than the Social Democrats who won first place, differ on many issues, but are united in their strong rejection of repression of the media and opposition in Russia and their criticism of Vladimir Putin. The question is whether the Social Democrats, known for their traditionally good connections in Russia (and Russian business), will yield to the onslaught of two small parties.
The morning after the award ceremony in Potsdam in Berlin, preliminary negotiations began on the formation of the future ruling coalition. About their content – in particular, whether foreign policy differences between partners in a possible coalition were discussed – at the time of publication of this material, nothing was known.
The German Foreign Ministry is traditionally considered the fiefdom of the liberals – as part of the ruling coalitions, the Free Democratic Party received the post of vice-chancellor and foreign minister. This time everything is different: first, the country for the first time can get a coalition not from two, but from three parties; and secondly, the liberals are much more interested in the finance ministry, while observers are touting Annalena Baerbock of the Soyuz 90 / Green party for the post of head of German diplomacy. But she also calls for a tougher policy towards both Russia and China, as well as to pay more attention to the themes of human rights, democracy and the climate in international relations.
Omid Nouripour, a member of the Greens faction in the Bundestag and a member of the international affairs committee, has already entered into an absentee discussion with the Social Democrats who won first place in the September 26 elections.
“We are facing a tough battle over the right course towards Russia,” he told the Rheinische Post newspaper. According to him, the coalition partners will have to return to the issue of the operation of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. In general, the politician believes that relations with Russia are a key factor in European unity, and calls on the future government of Germany to more closely coordinate positions with the Baltic and Eastern European countries.
Lindner advocates stronger personal sanctions
The leader of the German liberals Lindner, as an instrument of influence on Russian politics, proposes the expansion of personal sanctions against officials and businessmen involved in human rights violations. From the future government, he expects a “smart” foreign policy that balances economic interests on the one hand, and liberal values on the other.