“As far as the agents from among the citizens of West Germany is concerned, Reitschuster says, “information about them was taken back to Russia, something Putin has openly acknowledged. One is speaking about several thousand people including politicians and generals. According to some, up to 20,000 residents of Western Germany were Stasi informers.”
Unmasking these people is more difficult in Germany than elsewhere, he continues. On the one hand, there isn’t a special program to do so as there is in many east European states like Lithuania. And on the other, anyone found to have cooperated with the Stasi can be charged with treason, something that makes it easier for Moscow to put pressure on them to this day.
As a result of this, Reitschuster says, Russia has an agent network in Germany far larger and more influential than in any other country. It continues to penetrate the political parties and the economy, with Russian firms increasingly owning large shares of formerly purely German ones and pushing for projects like North Stream.
The Stasi-origin agents mostly operate on the left, but Moscow has also elaborated an agent network among the far right of the political spectrum. Its operatives have close ties with the Alternative for Germany (AfD) and often host that party’s leaders in the Russian Federation. Not surprisingly, that party opposes sanctions against Moscow.
According to the journalist and researcher, “Russia’s agents of influence are strong not only in the economy and political system but also in the information space of Germany.” That has been made easier, Raitschuster suggests, by the disappointment many Germans feel in the US under the presidency of Donald Trump.
Moreover, he says, “over the last 70 years, [Germans] have not been responsible for their own foreign security and this has led to a definite infantilism among out politicians. Not long ago, for example, left radicals from among the so-called ‘anti-fascists’ … wrote on a wall in Hamburg an appeal calling for ‘saving the residents of the Donbass from the Ukrainian army.”
In general, Reitschuster says, the notion that “’Ukraine attacked Eastern Ukraine’ is quite popular” in Germany. “Many believe that Putin although ‘not entirely a democrat’ is nonetheless ideally suited for the Russian people.” And despite history, they accept Russia’s seizure of Crimea as legitimate because it supposedly has belonged to Moscow from time immemorial.