The Lawfare Podcast: Rainer Sonntag, Vladimir Putin, and the German Far Right

Jen Patja Howell, Scott R. Anderson, Leigh Baldwin, Sean Williams
Tuesday, September 13, 2022, 12:00 PM

Published by The Lawfare Institute
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Since his 1991 death, Rainer Sonntag has been remembered as a martyr by generations of neo-Nazis and other far-right activists, especially in his native Germany. Less discussed, however, is the fact that he was also a spy for the communist authorities of East Germany and their counterparts in the Soviet Union—and that a young KGB operative named Vladimir Putin played a prominent role in his rise to power.

To learn more, Lawfare senior editor Scott R. Anderson sat down with Leigh Baldwin, the editor of SourceMaterial, and independent journalist Sean Williams, who co-authored a recent article on the relationship between Putin and Sonntag for The Atavist Magazine, entitled “Follow the Leader.” They discussed the relationship between communist intelligence agencies and far-right German movements, how those movements reacted to the reunification of Germany, and what Putin might have learned from his early dalliances with foreign far-right political movements.

Jen Patja Howell is the editor and producer of The Lawfare Podcast and Rational Security. She currently serves as the Co-Executive Director of Virginia Civics, a nonprofit organization that empowers the next generation of leaders in Virginia by promoting constitutional literacy, critical thinking, and civic engagement. She is the former Deputy Director of the Robert H. Smith Center for the Constitution at James Madison's Montpelier and has been a freelance editor for over 20 years.
Scott R. Anderson is a fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution and a Senior Fellow in the National Security Law Program at Columbia Law School. He previously served as an Attorney-Adviser in the Office of the Legal Adviser at the U.S. Department of State and as the legal advisor for the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq.
Leigh Baldwin is the editor of the non-profit investigative journalism organization SourceMaterial. He was previously a corruption investigator for Global Witness and a reporter for Bloomberg News.
Sean Williams is a British reporter and photographer based in Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand. His subjects range from human rights and conflict to sport, culture and tech.

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