Several AfD members of the Bundestag have visited the Armenian-occupied Nagorno-Karabakh region. The party is part of the right-wing currents that show solidarity with Armenia and propagate the conflict with Azerbaijan as a clash of civilizations.
Since the outbreak of fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh on September 27, the Armenian side has been spreading the narrative of a clash of civilizations. Armenia is trying to give the conflict a religious dimension and portray it as a war between Christians and Muslims. The favorite phrases repeated like a prayer wheel by the Armenian leadership and society, such as “the last bastion of Western civilization” or “a base against the growing Turkish-Islamic caliphate” not only distort the essence of the confrontation, but also distract international attention from the fact of the occupation of the Azerbaijani territories.
The concept of “clash of civilizations”, which is considered pseudo-intellectual and racist, finds sympathy and support among extreme right-wing and populist groups throughout the European continent. In recent weeks, expressions of solidarity with Armenia have come mainly from the most controversial political figures and parties in Europe.
The leader of the extreme right-wing front in the Dutch political spectrum, Geert Wilders, tweeted his support for the “Christian Armenian friends” against the “Islamic aggression from Azerbaijan” on September 27. Later he repeated his position on Facebook with similar wording. Known for his xenophobic statements, Wilders was repeatedly accused of inciting discrimination and hatred against various ethnic and religious groups.
On the same day, the far right Rassemblement National (RN), led by Marie Le Pen in France, issued a statement in support of Armenia. The more radical RN predecessor party, Front National, was once founded by her father Jean-Marie Le Pen, who is known for his Holocaust denial and Islamophobia. Because of opaque connections to extreme right-wing groups and the Kremlin, these two parties have already triggered controversy in French and European politics in the past. Marie Le Pen herself makes no secret of her support for “rattachism”, a marginal irredentist movement that claims Wallonia as part of France. Her closest advisor, Emmanuel Leroy, was part of a controversial European delegation of mainly right-wing extremist politicians who participated in the 2015 celebrations of the first anniversary of the “independence” of the so-called People’s Republic of Donetsk, a Russian-backed breakaway region of Ukraine.
In an address to the European Parliament, the Swede Charlie Weimers called on Europe to impose sanctions on Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and to exclude Turkey from the OSCE Minsk Group because of the fighting in the so-called Republic of Arzach – an unrecognized regime in the Nagorno-Karabakh region. Weimers represents the Swedish Democrats in the European Parliament, who are considered a right-wing populist and national-conservative political force. They have their roots in Swedish fascism and white nationalism.
Matteo Salvini, the Italian senator and leader of the extreme right-wing Italian Lega (formerly Lega Nord), presented a similar narrative to Weimers at a pro-Armenian rally in Italy about the need to defend Armenia as an “outpost of European civilization in the Middle East and Caucasus.
In recent years, the AfD has actively supported a recognition of the “Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh” in Germany. AfD members had already offered their support to Armenia in the past and sent an unofficial election observation mission to Nagorno-Karabakh several years ago. On October 18th, the AfD Members of the German Bundestag Steffen Kotré and Stefan Keuter as well as the AfD Members of the Landtag Andreas Galau and Andreas Kalbitz visited the war zone Nagorno-Karabakh, which was occupied by Armenia. The Armenian right-wing party Adekvad, which has an ultra-conservative agenda based on conspiracy theories, values the AfD because of ideological similarities.
In Greece, the extreme right-wing racist party “Golden Dawn” has also made clear its support for Armenia in the Karabakh conflict. Several statements and a resolution in favor of Armenia have been published on its website. A Greek court had already banned the “Golden Dawn” as a criminal organization and accused the party’s political leadership, including its chairman Nikolaos Michaloliakos, of murder and attempted murder or violent attacks.
Another passionate supporter of the Armenian position in the Karabakh conflict is Paul Antonopoulos, a journalist based in Sydney. Antonopoulos, who was employed by the pro-Assad medium “Al-Masdar News”, was dismissed by the agency due to his radical right-wing stance and racist insults. His Twitter account spreads not only pro-Armenian views, but also false news about Azerbaijan and Turkey.
Vitaly Milonov, a notorious nationalist politician in Russia close to Vladimir Putin, visited Nagorno-Karabakh on October 16 and expressed his solidarity with the separatist regime there. Milonov is a member of the governing United Russia party and a member of the State Duma. He has long been criticized and sometimes ridiculed for his homophobic and anti-Semitic statements. Milonov, who is regarded in Russia as the architect of the notorious law against “propaganda of homosexuality”, also visited another conflict zone a few years ago: the Russian-backed renegade Donbass region in eastern Ukraine. There he propagated values of the “Russian world” and the infamous Novorossija project, which aims at an occupation of the entire eastern and southern Ukraine.
Armenia is also officially trying to spread the tale of an alleged clash of civilizations in the South Caucasus. This narrative is addressed to the international audience and is intended to attract the attention of various groups – from the extreme right to the radical left. But it can also backfire and provoke counter-reactions, as it also legitimizes the discourses of extreme right-wing groups. Support for such ideologies should meet with little sympathy abroad. This narrative will also not contribute anything significant to solving the conflict, which will only be further complicated by such irrelevant elements.
Various political currents from the right-wing spectrum and from Russia have been trying for a long time to present different political issues in the sense of a clash of civilizations and as a conflict between Islam and Christianity. In doing so, they instrumentalize the Nagorno-Karabakh problem and cannot or will not understand that this conflict has no religious background. Foreign supporters of the Armenian side, however, are interested in instrumentalizing the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict because of their own political agenda. This harms Armenia more than it helps and does not produce solutions.
Opinion contributions reflect the views of the respective author and not those of the editorial staff. For inquiries please contact: [email protected]