Udo Stein: Novorossiya Wants Peace
Udo Stein is a young but quite famous politician not only in Germany but in the whole world. Elected in spring to the regional parliament of Baden-Württemberg as a member of the Alternative for Germany Party, the first initiative he chose to undertake was demanding that the sanctions against Russia be lifted. Although he certainly knew that such issues concern the federal, not the local level, through this statement he and his party have launched a countrywide wave of protests against the ruinous policy of sanctions.
Stein has just returned from Donbass where he went as an observer for the local elections. “The holding of primaries in the DPR was an absolutely transparent and democratic event. We can see that the country has everything necessary to hold elections on the highest level,” he concluded. In the following interview, he recounts some details of his trip to Donbass and shares his assessment of the current situation in German and European politics.
– You just visited a real hot spot, Donbass. What are your impressions from the trip to Donbass?
Udo Stein (S): For me, as a young deputy, it was very interesting to go there for my first foreign trip. My impressions?.. For the people who live there, the situation is severe. I have experienced it. In Donetsk, you can hear the explosions of bombs and grenades at night.
– Were you a witness to shelling of Donetsk?
S: During my second night at the hotel, it was hot so I left the windows open at night. While I was lying in bed, I heard the sounds of explosions.
– Have you talked with the citizens of Donetsk? How are they?
S: I visited all of the Donbass region and talked to different people whose homes had been shelled. It was very hard for me as a father to listen when fathers said that they sleep in clothes every night because they don’t know whether they will be shelled and have to leave immediately when it starts. The situation is very sad for people. And I am sad that we have such a situation in Europe today.
– Did you see any of the Russian troops which Western media like to write about so much?
S: I didn’t see any Russian troops there. I saw men in uniform who were just returning home by public bus. I didn’t have the impression that Russia is so disproportionately present there. I couldn’t see any Russian soldiers. In Donetsk, I saw people in military uniform. I cannot say that Russia is present there in a military sense.
– So they were local military?
S: Yes, they were just local military.
– What did people talk about the most there?
S: The situation. Of course, the main topic was the election for which we came as observers. For me, it was impressive how people go to dinner in the evening. People’s lives continue. They live, they go out to eat, they go to bars to drink something…
I met a UK TV team there which did a report on nightlife in Donetsk. And on the same night, I heard the city being shelled! I admire the way people handle what they’ve been forced to deal with. And I regret the political situation, in particular the fact that the German government is not doing its part to solve this conflict. Moreover, I was even criticized for the fact that I visited there.
– Did you talk with people about where they would like to go: Ukraine, nowhere, or back to Russia?
S : I talked with the person sitting next to me on the plane. He was from Odessa and asked my why I was going to Eastern Ukraine through Russia. And I told him that I did not want to go through the front line for the sake of my own safety. Making a trip via Kiev is, unfortunately, impossible.
– What about the people who reside in Donbass, live, and exist there…Did they tell you what they want now and what they want in the future?
S: People want peace. This is first and foremost. They are preparing to hold democratic elections. We observed the elections. I saw a meeting in Lugansk and Donetsk which united voters from every region, every city, every village, and from the surrounding areas. This is a real democracy when all of the regional, small villages elect the people who then make policy for the region.
– During your visit to Donetsk, Germany experienced new terrorist attacks. What do you think about this? What is the reason for them and who is responsible?
S: I have to say quite clearly: when you watch as these attacks occur (not only in Germany because this morning in European news I saw what happened in France), it is clear that Islamic extremism is responsible for this. And we are dealing with a literal invasion. Germany has no border control, nothing! Anyone can come to us regardless of whether he is friendly or not. We have laws, and these laws must be respected. That’s why, despite being so young, I became a politician, because we live in a state with the rule of law, and those laws must be respected. If our government is not capable of ensuring this any longer, then a part of the population – and for that part I stand with my party – must ensure that rights and the law are respected.
– At the same time, there are laws that encourage the arrival of migrants. Are these laws working against the population of Germany and Europe in general?
S: We can not host the whole world in Germany. Many of the refugees are ordinary economic refugees who come to us because they live in economically poor regions, because their lives are not as good as in Germany. And we have to manage this influx for our well-being too.
– Does this mean that Frau Merkel and the whole coalition’s policies have failed?
S: I am convinced that Frau Merkel will not win the next election. Our party appeared only three years ago. We have passed many elections. We climbed out of 5 - 7 percent to about 25 percent in Germany. Our path has been very successful and we have a lot of support among the population. I am convinced that we can change policies in Germany for the better and in a peaceful sense for the whole of Europe.
– Your party opposes the anti-Russian sanctions. What is your main demand in this regard?
S: My first action in the Parliament of Baden-Württemberg when I was elected was to request that the government reveal just how harmful the economic sanctions have been for the region. We have large enterprises, and Porsche and Mercedes are but one example of the growing domestic companies that we have in the region. But since 2014, we have lost 47% of exports due to sanctions against Russia. This policy is very, very damaging to our population. So my party and I are for establishing friendly relations with Russia. Why should we Germans be the ones who should bear the brunt of sanctions? So we are categorically against the policy of sanctions against Russia.
– Is it true that your party is for Germany withdrawing from NATO?
S: This is not quite true. We discuss this a lot. NATO is a defensive alliance, but in modern politics, we can see that NATO is transforming into more and more of an aggressive alliance. With great criticism we are witnessing the situation and we very sharply criticize such behavior of NATO.
– What do you think will happen next? Relations between Russia and NATO, Russia and the West, are becoming more and more aggravated. What will this lead to? Some people say that we are even faced with war between Russia and NATO, Russia and the West?
S: That would be the worst thing that could happen to us. And for this reason, I, as a German, also went to Eastern Ukraine. I witnessed with my own eyes the situation there. We in Germany have recently brought a lot of war into the world. And I think that we Germans are responsible for Europe and for its peaceful coexistence. In my opinion, the current policies of NATO are inconsistent with what we Germans should be pursuing today.
– What would you like to wish to the German and Russian peoples?
S: I would wish for my people to watch the media with open eyes, follow what is happening in the world, promptly obtain information, and hear not only one opinion, but both sides. Then they can objectively decide for themselves what corresponds to reality. For Russia I wish much strength and peace in enduring the provocations coming from the West. I wish both of our peoples a peaceful future for all of Europe in which we can live in harmony.