• What is the value of an alliance if one party cannot fulfill its agreement? German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has raised expectations regarding Germany’s contribution to NATO, stating last year that Germany will have the largest conventional European army in the alliance.

    However, just a few months ago, experts estimated that Germany’s ammunition would last for only two days in a full-scale war. Now our Estonian colleagues report a disheartening figure: four. With the current stock of ammunition, Germany can defend itself for only four days, which falls 26 days short of NATO’s demands.

    Meanwhile, the German government continues to reassure its partners that it can top up its supplies. And simultaneously providing support to Ukraine.

    Lorenz Blumenthaler is press officer for the Amadeu Antonio Foundation, which combats right-wing extremism, racism and anti-Semitism in Germany.

    European Focus: In recent years, a debate has raged in Germany over the naming of some markets that open during the festive period ‘winter markets’. Why are these Christmas markets, which are hardly a religious symbol, igniting a heated discussion?

    Lorenz Blumenthaler: There is a right-wing narrative that is reheated every year claiming a “war on Christmas” that is allegedly driven by a supposed “Islamisation” of the west. This is reflected in the renaming, abolition, or replacement of common “traditions” which then represent gestures of submission to this “Islamisation.” However, this is an anti-Muslim conspiracy narrative that is mainly used to stir up fear of Muslims in Germany.

    EF: Where did this narrative arise from?

    The origin can be traced back to the U.S. In the early 20th century, car magnate Henry Ford circulated anti-semitic publications claiming that Christmas traditions were being restricted by Jews. The modern debate was largely driven by the American alt-right. Since 2004 Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly pushed this and also U.S. President Donald Trump took up the narrative during his 2015 campaign.

    The “war on Christmas” fell on fertile ground within the German right. Every year, members of the far-right AfD party, in particular, try to scandalise alleged renaming campaigns. In their eyes Germany is lost when discounters sell “Winter decorations” instead of “Christmas decorations”. If taken seriously, one gets the impression that the self-declared “Christian-Jewish Occident” is defended above all on the front of Advent Calendars. The only goal of these fabricated agitations is to stir up sentiment against Muslims.

    EF: The discussion around the alleged “war on Christmas” was not prominent this year. Why?

    Inflation, a global pandemic, a Russian war of aggression, the energy crisis, and refugees from Ukraine – who needs a “war on Christmas” when you have all this? Probably these crises and issues offered a sufficient enough basis to spread hostile and racist ideology.

    ​​In my family, we watched every international football match together. Every World Cup, every Euro Cup. My parents told me stories about their favorite players. About Maradona or Ronaldo. I was a diehard fan.

    The last game we watched together was the 2010 World Cup final in South Africa: Spain against the Netherlands. No one spoke for the whole match, and no one went to the bathroom. We stared spellbound at the television, until we jumped up and let out the tension when Andrés Iniesta scored in overtime, and crowned Spain the world champions.

    Spain’s tiki-taka football mesmerized the world, but for me, it didn’t last beyond 2010, because of the development of my political and social attitudes, which are contrary to corrupt sports events.

    When I was younger, the only side I had to pick was a football team to support. That was quite easy. Always Spain, second Brazil, third Argentina, and the fourth place for the underdog. As I grew older I learned that Maradona wasn’t quite the saint my parents claimed him to be and that my favorite sport was riddled with criminality.

    Everything seems to revolve around sums of money, no longer around the magical ball. I can only watch a game for a quarter of an hour, until I start thinking how professional football has no connection to my reality. That professional soccer is riddled with fraud and graft, and that ratings, television rights and finances dominate the game, rather than strategy and tactics.

    There was a football that I loved. But scandals seem a part of professional football. I’m nostalgic about the game that made me cheer and jump up with excitement. I miss the rollercoaster of emotions. Professional football no longer holds a candle to that. And the championship in Qatar won’t do so either.

    Almost one in five Germans – 19% – believe that NATO provoked Russia’s war against Ukraine, according to a recent study. This is up from 12% in April.

    As the study suggests, pro-Russian propaganda offers a distorted context, where the US is fundamentally denigrated and Russia is glorified. Anti-democratic actors such as the right-wing AfD party also spread disinformation to shake confidence in democracy, the authors conclude.

    This works, given that an additional 21% partially believe that NATO is to blame for Russia’s war. What could be a practical outcome of such disinfo? One result: sceptics tend to be against sanctions.