The images of the storming of the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on January 6 sent shock waves around the world. The theme of Thursday’s debate in the Bundestag – “In the Wake of the Storming of the Capitol: Strategies to Strengthen Democracy and the Rule of Law in Germany and the World” – shows that those extended to Berlin.
Many of the speakers warned that democracy and the rule of law are under threat. Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, of the Social Democrats (SPD), referred to the Capitol, the seat of the US House of Representatives and the Senate, as the “heart of democracy.” He reminded the members of parliament that, after World War II, the Federal Republic of Germany was founded as a democracy thanks to the support of the United States.
“American democracy, with its famous checks and balances, withstood the attacks,” Maas said, adding that German politicians should refrain from offering self-righteous judgments of the United States.
‘Egregiously false comparisons’?
Throughout Trump’s four years in office, the nationalist Alternative for Germany (AfD) was the only party in the Bundestag that welcomed his administration. But even Deputy Gottfried Curio, who is known for his fiery speeches, condemned the riots that took place in Washington.
Curio also played down the assault on the Capitol, referring to “demonstrations that escalated.” He also said the attack could be used to illegally persecute the AfD within Germany. “The shocking images from the US are instrumentalized to draw egregiously false comparisons that turn the German public against critics of the government,” he said.
Curio’s speech was sharply criticized by Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, of the center-right Free Democrats, who pointed out that in late August the steps of the Reichstag, Germany’s own parliament building, as part of demonstrations against measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus before police prevented the mob from entering.
Lambsdorff called the AfD Germany’s counterpart to the conspiracy theorists who have not accepted the results of the 2020 US presidential election. “Paradoxically. The AfD is also Germany’s most anti-American party,” he said, “while admiring, like Donald Trump, the autocrats of the world.”
Lambsdorff, who once worked as the press attache at Germany’s embassy in Washington, also mentioned the recent runoffs in Georgia, which was won by the Democrats Reverend Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, who were elected, respectively, the Southern state’s first black senator and first Jewish senator. “There was a time when I would have thought this could never happen,” he said.
CDU cites cooperation
Johann Wadepfuhl, of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling Christian Democrats, said the historic relationship between Germany and the United States meant that the government must offer its support to the incoming administration in the US.
Despite the frosty relations between the countries during the Trump administration, Wadepfuhl said, the German company BioNTech and US pharma concern Pfizer had collaborated to produce the world’s first authorized COVID-19 vaccine. The countries’ scientific partnership will continue, he said, even as Joe Biden will have to focus on stabilizing the United States for his first several months.
“Trump not only put the rule of law in jeopardy in the US,” Wadepfuhl said, “his failure to tackle the pandemic put the entire fabric of the nature in peril.”
With the exception of the speakers from the AfD, deputies expressed their relief at the end of the Trump era, and the fact that the Capitol riots have not yet spread.
Merkel herself had said she was left “angry and also saddened” by the images of the riots. But she also expressed optimism about the new presidency: “This democracy will prove to be much stronger than the attackers and rioters.”
This article has been adapted from German.