When Russia is mentioned in the state election campaigns in Saxony, Thuringia or Brandenburg, it becomes clear that many in the region are in favor of a milder approach to Moscow.
The relationship with Russia is important to Germans. For years, poll after poll has shown that a majority of Germans are in favor of a closer relationship to Russia and its leader Vladimir Putin. In the former East German states, three-quarters of respondents feel that way. Most in those states also want to see the sanctions that were imposed after the annexation of Crimea lifted. …
But in the east, the parties’ hold on power is at risk, and they don’t want to leave the issue to the AfD and the far-left Left Party, which are both campaigning with a Russia-friendly tenor. This makes Kretschmer’s appearance with Putin a real win for the governor of Saxony. “The photo was a coup for Kretschmer that may earn him decisive percentage points in the state election,” says Matthias Platzeck, the head of the German-Russian Forum, a group that advocates for dialogue between Germany and Russia.
Without really having to do anything, Russia has already split German politics. Putin has hosted German governors more than once at the Kremlin. He also has a friendly relationship with former Bavarian Governor Edmund Stoiber of the Christian Social Union, the Bavarian sister party to Merkel’s CDU. It’s likely heartening for Moscow that Merkel’s tough approach to Russia has a growing number of opponents, even within her own ranks in the CDU.