Why Right-Wing Extremism Has a Strong Presence in Eastern Germany

Germany has been reunified since 1990, yet tensions remain between West and East Germany that right-wing extremist groups, parties, and movements exploit in the more vulnerable half: East Germany. The fall of the Berlin Wall brought the promise of democracy and better economic conditions. In the past 30 years, certain issues in East Germany have been left unresolved and unaddressed, allowing right-wing extremism to prey on the grievances of East Germans. East Germany is still affected by the policies and challenges of reunification. According to a 2019 poll, almost 60% of residents in Eastern Germany regard themselves as second-class citizens, and more than half stated that German reunification was not a success.

For the past decade, right-wing extremists have gained momentum and have become a priority security threat for the German government. According to the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), at the end of 2020, the number of right-wing extremists classified as “violence oriented” rose to 13,300, an increase of almost 4% from 2019. Eastern states such as Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia, and Brandenburg have noticeable voting trends different than their western counterparts, particularly in favor of the right-wing AfD Party (Alternative for Germany). Right-wing extremists such as the National Socialist Underground (NSU), Third Path, and the social movement Pegida, either stem from eastern states or have a large support from Eastern Germans who identify with their movement.

Economic Structures   

Preceding the fall of the Berlin Wall, West Germany absorbed the remains of East Germany’s weak political and economic structure. East Germany only contributed 8% of the total GDP as productivity was weakened by unemployment upon reunification. Without consensus or debate as to how to reunify, the East was forced to assimilate into the West. East Germany had no option but to undergo an extensive privatization through an agency known as Treuhandanstalt (“trustee agency”) with the intention to privatize and liquidate every firm in the former GDR (German Democratic Republic) within the span of five years. As a result, it was all in West Germany´s favor as Western investors had better access to financial capital, more experience in managing companies, and better economic and political connections than investors in the former Soviet regime. Since the Western German government set the Treuhandanstalt measures, Western investors were perceived more suitable as future company owners. The redistribution among these companies was asymmetric, providing the West more financial benefits. Western investors were able to make major profits from this privatization program, while the majority of Eastern Germans gained little to nothing from their labor and were forced to move west, a divide which continues today through East Germany’s young adults.

Thirty years after reunification, there is still a stark social divide between East and West Germany. East Germany is well known to have consistently lower employment and wage levels than its western counterpart. The East German economic output is almost always a third lower than the West, with incomes being 10% lower, and overall, it lacks the West’s economic structure. Due to the lack of proper investment into building a lucrative East Germany, resentment from East Germans is still felt today.


Even before the fall of the Berlin Wall, immigrant rhetoric in the GDR led to right-wing attacks and news of violence against foreigners was frequently not reported. Many urban areas of West Germany became more diverse in the 1970s and 1980s, whereas East Germany remained largely homogenous. During Soviet Occupation, the GDR attempted to form bilateral relations with other socialist states. Agreements were made to allow foreign workers from Vietnam, Mozambique, Cuba, and Angola to work in coal mining, kitchens, consumer goods industries, and others in the GDR. Most foreign workers soon experienced vicious amounts of xenophobia, as unskilled East German workers blamed them for taking their jobs and for a shortage in consumer goods. During reunification, that xenophobia and racism did not leave. One famous incident is the 1992 Rostock Riots, where neo-Nazis targeted asylum seekers as well as Vietnamese and Mozambican workers in the town of Rostock.

As East Germany struggled with internal migration to the West and adjusting to a new political system, immigration that supported West Germany ́s manufacturing industry slowly crept into Eastern Germany. While struggling to transition into a new political and economic system, adding a new population fueled public dissatisfaction and resentment towards new immigrants and refugees, which is still felt today.

Weak Institutions    

The collapse of the Soviet Union left an authority vacuum in East Germany. State institutions were weakened by the period of transition. Police officers were associated with the former regime, therefore, discredited. Dierk Borstel, researcher of right-wing extremism at the University of Bielefeld, links the lack of functioning institutions, “the police force was destabilized and the church had little influence anyway. The eastern German trade unions and the PDS, the successor party to the former ruling communist SED, had little authority, and the trade unions and industry associations coming in from the West were all very weak in the east.”

Right-Wing Extremism  

During the Soviet occupation, the GDR laid an extensive and thorough denazification process in terms of a remembrance culture. However, with its own agenda to push, the communist regime imposed its ideology so extensively that East Germans were ready to renounce socialism by the 1990s. However, the reunification they anticipated didn´t exactly come to fruition, as many East Germans were unemployed, and conditions seemed to become worse than before. With disappointment and poverty, these semi-anarchic conditions were fertile ground for far-right activists and extremists. Originally, many neo-Nazi cadres were from West Germany. Many of these neo-Nazi groups moved to the east, a strategy still used today, with the intent to mobilize and recruit. Although there were right-wing groups present in Germany before reunification, the addition of more right-wing extremists amplified their views. When the transition period betrayed the trust of East Germans in western democracy and having a market economy, right-wing extremist perspectives became more prevalent and normalized.


The rise of right-wing extremist violence has become alarming and is not losing any momentum. As a response, the Cabinet Committee for the fight against right-wing extremism presented a list of 89 measures to combat right-wing extremism and anti-Semitism. From 2021 to 2024, the German government will provide over one billion euros to aid these measures. The funds will be used to provide research and prevention, and reinforce cooperation between security authorities, the judiciary, and relevant state and civil society bodies.

According to Anetta Kahane, an East German who runs the Amadeu Antonio Foundation, which seeks to combat racism and right-wing extremism throughout Germany, extremist views are the result of a lack of civil society infrastructure. Kahane states, “in the West there are large churches, and labor unions: powerful institutions that ensure a certain kind of social stability. In the East after reunification, we didn’t have that. Civil society infrastructure has to be built from the ground up and be made stable so that they can withstand right-wing extremism.”

While these solutions are a great investment, it does not heal the bridge between the psychological divide between the East and West. It is easier said than done, but restarting the economic convergence process may fully bridge this gap. Through economic incentives for foreign investment in Eastern Germany, policymakers could help bring the economic vibrancy East Germans once hoped for. In addition, economic recovery could persuade East Germans to be less likely to vote for extremist parties or support extremist groups.


Camille Amberger, Rise to Peace Counter-Terrorism Research Fellow


The Ecuadorian Security Crisis

Ecuador is currently experiencing its worst security crisis in a decade. The actions of various illegal groups, the presence of Mexican cartels, prison violence, and drug trafficking are some of the reasons why the government has recently taken measures to mitigate the law and order crisis.

The violence and insecurity in the Latin American country are elements that show a tendency toward an increase in criminal actions in Ecuador. If Ecuadorian authorities fail to adequately intervene on the factors that generate instability in the country, Ecuador faces a dark and dangerous future, as other countries in the region have already experienced.

The Crisis, Its Factors, and the Government’s Response

Ecuador’s security indicators have worsened exponentially in recent years. In 2021, reports indicated that Ecuador reached its worst homicide figures in the last 10 years. A homicide rate of 13.13 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants was recorded, which is above the world average rate of 5.8. In 2021 Ecuador experienced one homicide every three and a half hours.  In addition to violent deaths, there was an increase in the number of assaults, which rose by 27.9%, vehicle thefts increased by 55%, burglaries recorded a growth of 14.2%, and robbery of commercial premises increased by 17.3%.

The situation in 2022 has not improved. The country has registered 1,255 violent deaths so far this year, according to police figures. Also, in January alone, the number of violent deaths tripled compared to the previous year, while drug seizures doubled. In fact, Ecuadorian authorities have recorded events of such magnitude as 18 murders in less than 24 hours in the city of Guayaquil.

One of the main factors generating insecurity in the country is drug trafficking.  Analysts have pointed out that Ecuador has gone from being a transit country to a drug distribution center in Latin America and that more than one third of Colombia’s cocaine production arrives in Ecuador and eventually leaves Ecuadorian ports, mainly for the U.S. and Europe. Portals such as Insight Crime have mentioned that Ecuador is a convenient “superhighway” for moving cocaine shipments around the world.

Drug seizures reveal the nature and extent of the drug trafficking problem. In January of 2022 alone, 17.9 tons of prohibited substances were seized, compared to 8.4 tons during the same period last year. In this same month, 758 operations have been carried out in which 857 suspects were arrested, 63 weapons, 11,798 ammunition, and $25,450 in cash. Of the drugs seized during January 2022, 98% were cocaine, the rest was primarily comprised of marijuana, cocaine base paste, and heroin. Likewise, in a 72 hour timespan, 2.5 tons of drugs were seized in the ports of Guayaquil, equivalent to a total of 2,597 packages of cocaine.

In addition to local gangs that benefit from criminal activities, such as Los Choneros, Ecuadorian authorities have also reported the presence of Mexican cartels in the country, which have increased levels of violence. For instance, Giovanni Ponce, head of the Anti-Narcotics Division of the Ecuadorian police, says there is already evidence that the Sinaloa Cartel has been operating in Ecuador since 2009, and that in recent years the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) has also infiltrated the country.

Ecuadorian authorities have captured several emissaries and links between Ecuadorian gangs and Mexican cartels and seized drug shipments allegedly belonging to illegal Mexican organizations. Moreover, the former director of security of the Ecuadorian Army, Mario Pazmiño, has indicated that 37.5 percent of Colombia’s coca production passes through Ecuador and that the CJNG and the Sinaloa Cartel have outsourced their presence through the local gangs such as ‘Los Choneros’, ‘Tigretones’, ‘Chonekillers’, ‘Lobos’ and ‘Lagartos’, which maintain control of the routes, storage centers, and international drug distribution platforms.

The violence generated by gangs and drug cartels has also spilled over into prisons. In 2021, two massacres occurred in the Litoral prison that left nearly 190 dead, both of which were carried out by members of criminal gangs fighting for control of the prison. In April 2022, the Turi prison massacre in the city of Cuenca resulted in the death of at least 20 inmates. Other clashes between gangs have occurred in various prisons throughout the country, evidencing a serious risk factor for the prison population and prison guards.

In addition to prison violence and the increase in murders due to drug trafficking and gang confrontations, the current security crisis in Ecuador has resulted in other violent events. For example, in April 2022, a car bomb exploded near a prison in Guayaquil, causing material damage but leaving no victims. In September 2021, a drone attack with explosives was carried out in a prison in Guayaquil. In February 2022, also in Guayaquil, a 21-year-old man was abandoned with an explosive device strapped to his head, exploding moments later.  Finally, in early 2022, in the city of Durán, two bodies were found hanging from a bridge, a practice that is common in confrontations between Mexican cartels.

In the face of rampant violence and crime, the Ecuadorian government opted to decree a state of emergency in three provinces and deploy 9,000 police and military personnel. The government seeks to counteract the violence generated by drug trafficking and high crime rates. Security forces have also carried out various operations to reduce gang capabilities, arrest gang members, seize drugs and weapons, and restore security in areas affected by violence.

A Dark Future Ahead?

Ecuador is currently undergoing a serious deterioration of its security conditions and stability. The strategic context of the South American country is composed of a diversity of criminal actors that benefit from illicit businesses such as drug trafficking, leading to the income generated from illegal activities serving as fuel for violence and instability in Ecuador.

For this reason, the Ecuadorian government should focus its efforts on correctly identifying potential risks, the structural causes that allow the proliferation of drug trafficking, and carrying out operations in critical areas such as ports and prisons to reduce the capacity of criminal gangs. It is necessary to reduce the sources of income of illegal groups to stop their growth.

In the event that the Ecuadorian government fails to adequately intervene in the current crisis of violence and insecurity in the country, it is highly likely that Ecuador will face a dark and uncertain future, similar to that of countries such as Colombia during the 1990s.  The trend indicates that illegal groups, gangs, and cartels will continue to strengthen their capabilities and commit criminal acts, which will likely lead to an era of narco-terrorism in the country. Therefore, Ecuadorian authorities must confront the crisis with all the means at their disposal and overcome the actions of illegal groups.


Daniel Felipe Ruiz Rozo, Counter-Terrorism Research Fellow


Insurgency and the Narcotic Chain in India and Myanmar

Moreh is a small commercial gateway between India and Myanmar. It rests on the Northeastern side of the Indian border and is linked with Tamu, a small town in the Sagaing region in Northwest Myanmar. It is here that 99% of all land-based trade takes place between the two countries.

Amid the commercial exchange, the gateway also serves as a smuggling route for illegal trade and human trafficking. Narcotics like heroin and amphetamine-type stimulants are illegally smuggled across borders through this route. Other goods such as teak, gold, and firearms which are banned for trade without official license are also illegally traded.

A report by the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime (GIATOC) stated that serious smuggling ‘which has the potential to destabilize the wider Northeast’ takes place despite the counteractive measures taken by the state. The Northeastern region which is highly reliant on informal economy makes it arduous for state policies to be strictly enforced. It is for this reason that concerned officials, at times ‘tacitly ignores’ the illegal flow of contrabands which do not pose ‘political threat’ to the country. Given, the recent pandemic crisis which devastated the formal economy, it has been reported that the smuggling cases in the region have been exacerbated.

Act East Policy and its Challenges

New Delhi’s plan is to fast track the development process in the Northeast through the Act East Policy, which paves the way for locals to gain more income opportunities and employability. However, in such a region which is overwhelmed with insurgency and illegal trade, major challenges arise for the implementation of developmental policies.

Developmental funds tend to indirectly finance insurgent groups through extortion and ransom demands by insurgent groups. Insurgent outfits who operate in these regions extort significant sums of money for every cargo truck that passes through National Highway 102 and 37. The GIATOC reported that for every cargo truck that passes through the NH, a sum of 50,000 Indian rupees (680 US Dollars) is being extorted. In cases of failure to make such payments, workers and truck drivers are often kidnapped for ransom.

In the case of developmental projects, extortions take place in the form of percentage demands. The department responsible for setting up any projects are illicitly levied taxes on a range of 2-10 percent. With such illicit activity thriving in the region, it curbs and delays development initiatives taken up by the government or multinational corporations.

The ongoing India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway Project which aims at linking India with the Southeast Asian countries has potential in creating ample opportunities for the region. However, the issue of insurgency and illegal trade can run parallel and can be exacerbated with the outset of new roadways to the region if such activities are not counteracted.

The thriving drug trade through the Golden Triangle (Myanmar, Thailand, Laos) can further expand its domain through these new linkages, influencing the wider northeastern region in India. It is reported that 80 unofficial crossing points exist between Moreh and Tamu. These crossing points are primarily used for smuggling. Hence, a substantial amount of drugs makes its way to Imphal which further leads to Kohima and on to Dimapur where, through its railroad, the drugs end up in Assam. From there the drugs are further distributed to the rest of India. Accordingly, the insurgents from the region make the best use of this opportunity and actively participate in this chain of narcotic supplies.

Extortion and the illicit trade of narcotics continue to destabilize both countries economies. The rising number of unemployment and the fatality rate of youths can both be attributed to these factors. Hence, a joint effort needs to be taken by both the countries to contain and curb such activities.


The Indian government has strategic approaches to tackle the supply of narcotics and drugs in the country, through both domestic policies and diplomatic approaches. However, with the thriving narcotic supply and extortion through the Moreh-Tamu roadways, it is evident there is more to do and that India along with Myanmar need to develop ground-level economic and security policy approaches in tackling the issue.

Though India has already elicited corporation from Myanmar in a bilateral agreement on narcotics control, more efforts are needed on the ground level. The exchange of intelligence and information is crucial; however, they are insufficient to tackle an issue which is linked to the heart of the narcotics trade.

Both India and Myanmar should set up more checkpoints on the newly established roadways and pay close attention to the 80 unofficial crossing points between both countries. For the Myanmar government this would be arduous, given, the Arakan Army and other insurgent group’s strong control over the region. However, with India, who has a slight upper hand in tackling the insurgency issue in the Northeast through its political approaches, security measures can be taken by strategically intensifying the presence of Border Security Forces and Paramilitary forces like the Assam Rifles in the border roads. Further, joint military operations with proper intelligence, the likes of Operation Sunrise in 2019, can be effectively utilized.

It should also be noted that economic measures are also paramount amid the security issues in both India and Myanmar. Hence, identifying the narcotic production and supply chain and further initiating better employment drives for the farmers and youths engaged in the illicit activity should also be prioritized.

With the ongoing political dialogue with some insurgent groups in the Northeast, there is potency in curbing the extortion and drug trades in the future. Hence, once a final settlement is reached, India can utilize the intelligence and manpower of the ex-insurgents to curb future drug trades and contraband supplies.


Vetilo Venuh, Counter-Terrorism Research Fellow


Examining Militancy in Nigeria: Mistakes of the South and Lessons for the North

On June 25, 2009, then President of Nigeria, Umaru Musa Yaradua, made a proclamation granting amnesty and unconditional pardon to everyone who directly or indirectly participated in the commission of offences, including those facing prosecution at the time, associated with militancy activities in the Niger Delta region. The requirement for this pardon to be effected was dependent on simply: the surrender of weapons and renunciation of militancy forms by concerned individuals at collection centres established for this purpose by the government. For about sixty days only, this proclamation stood valid, and in that time, over 20,192 individuals had accepted the terms of this amnesty offer.

In the same year, Boko Haram began an armed rebellion against the Nigerian government with multiple attacks across parts of northern Nigeria. Years later, Boko Haram became categorized as a terrorist group both in Nigeria and internationally, launching several attacks within Nigeria and neighbouring countries. For the last 12 years, Nigeria’s government steadily increased its responses to counter-terrorism, albeit widely perceived as counterproductive. More recently, the Nigerian government’s execution of the Disarmament, Demobilization, Repatriation, Reintegration, and Resettlement (DDRRR) program raises questions about its effectiveness.

The Identical Problem

The Niger Delta Militancy and the Boko Haram Insurgency are two main threats Nigeria has dealt with since its independence in 1960; both cases led to significant economic losses. Although the ideologies behind the two conflicts differ, the basis on which these ideologies come to be is very similar. In both scenarios, there is an ongoing deprivation of some sort, whether it be a functioning system where communities have access to basic amenities, or perceived injustice and marginalization, resulting in grievances that then form the ideological structure of these groups.

For the Boko Haram insurgency, endemic corruption is often cited as a menace in the Northern region that deprives the communities of even the basic needs that the government should provide. Widespread unemployment, lack of primary health care, massive poverty, and a general absence of the State all served as drivers for Boko Haram’s campaign in the North, especially in attracting recruits.

Similarly, unemployment, environmental degradation, and socioeconomic and political marginalization are unfortunate realities that communities in the Delta region face, leading to overwhelming amounts of militant activities. Between 2007 and 2009, the agitations in the Delta region worsened so much that Nigeria recorded an estimated daily loss of $58 million. The Presidential Amnesty Program (PAP) was an attempt to salvage the economic crisis and deteriorating security situation in the region.

Lessons for the Nigerian Government

A decade after PAP, security in the Delta region seems to be taking a new turn with the high rise of illicit markets, such as oil bunkering, as a means of survival. The underlying issues that fueled agitation in the area remain; unemployment rates have worsened, the perceived marginalization is still very much present, and the environment continues to suffer. By and large, the goal of the Amnesty program was bound to fail the moment it didn’t prioritize addressing the grievances that led to the agitations in the first instance.

With the surrender of over 37,000 repentant Boko Haram members thus far, and the ongoing DDRRR program, one can only hope that there is a plan to address the underlying issues that have fueled the Boko Haram campaign to avoid a repeat of the situation in the Niger Delta. Presently, there is a worsening insecurity dilemma due to the noticeable rise in illicit markets in the northern region, including those not linked to Boko Haram. In effect, it may be the worst of its kind should the government fail to be deliberate in preventing a recurrence of the northern conflict.

Joan McDappa, Counter-Terrorism Research Fellow


Ukraine Claims to Have Obtained a List of Russian Spies Operating in Europe

Ukraine asserts that it has acquired a list of Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) agents involved in criminal activities in Europe. More than 600 alleged Russian spies are purportedly operating in Europe.

According to reports, Ukraine has released names, addresses, and even SIM cards in an attempt to destroy these agents and damage Russia’s intelligence activities across Europe. Ukraine has been providing a list of FSB workers, which is the successor of Russia’s infamous and feared intelligence agency, the KGB.

Profiles, contact information, card details, “registration addresses,” and some financial details of 620 putative Russian spies are provided on the list, which was released in Russian and appeared to be unavailable on the ministry’s English version of the website.

John Sawers, who directed MI6 from 2009 to 2014, commented, “we are seeing the breadth of Russian aggressive intelligence activity across Europe. We probably only know 10% of what they’re doing; there will be a lot that intelligence services conduct that we don’t know about.”

The main concern is whether or not the list is accurate. Several of the identities appear to originate from prior leaks of FSB officers, according to Aric Toler, a specialist at the investigative reporting organization Bellingcat, but then other information on the list seems to be fresh.

He said that after doing some fact-checking, a lot of the items on the website’s list were massive database dumps since then. In other words, some of these spies have been revealed before and are not novices to the spy ring. However, several of these names are unfamiliar and could have far-reaching implications for Russian agents.

According to Representative Ritchie Torres from New York, the FBI should investigate the Russian diplomatic residence in New York City. At the same time, they have been appalled and alarmed by Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked war of aggression against Ukraine. In that context, Representative Torres has formally requested that the FBI open an investigation into reports of espionage at the Russian diplomatic compound. Representative Torres also spoke to reporters about the white high-rise tower at 355 West 255th Street in the Bronx borough last month.

Since Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine, Data has been Compromised.

When Russian troops breached Ukraine’s borders in late February, massive volumes of information concerning the Russian state as well as its operations have now become public. According to WIRED, the new access provides fresh prospects into closed private entities, and it could be a valuable resource for authorities ranging from journalists to war crimes experts.

The material is subdivided into two categories: that which Ukrainian officials or their partners intentionally publicize and that which is obtained by hacker groups such as DDoSecrets and Anonymous. Many hackers have demonstrated their support for Ukraine by hacking Russian websites and exposing secret Russian material. As a result, hundreds of gigabytes of data and thousands of communications have been made public.

What Is the Difference Between the SVR and the FSB?

The FSB is much more than a typical security agency. It has progressed significantly since the early 1990s, when it was on the verge of disintegration, combining the tasks of an exclusive police service with those of an espionage agency and wielding great power. According to sources, the FSB recruits a wide range of tech-savvy and competent individuals to help them improve their activities across the cyber world. IKSI, the Institute of Cryptography and Information Security, is the agency’s unique institute that used to specialize in code-breaking but now concentrates on data protection.

The distinguishing factor between the FSB and the SVR is the scope of their operations. The FSB is responsible for guaranteeing the safety of the entire population of Russia, whereas the SVR focuses on the security of predominantly state officials. The FSB has a variety of specific capabilities that the SVR does not, while on the other hand, the SVR also has a wide range of scope in which the FSB cannot perform. The SVR is primarily responsible for foreign intelligence, whilst the FSB is responsible for domestic intelligence. After all, both of these groups continue to collaborate on analysis and exploration, which still results in keeping their government’s power and balance.

Spy-Master: What Now?

Historically, after a spy is uncovered, an intelligence agent may be imprisoned. On the other hand, professional case agents are practically always working beneath diplomatic cover and enjoy sovereign immunity, so they are promptly released. While the operatives they oversee could face long prison sentences, the worst that foreign intelligence agents can anticipate is public exposure and a statement by the opposing government that they will be declared persona non grata and should leave forthwith. However, in the event of an aggressive invasion, this is no longer the case and it now becomes a contest of wits and bravery.

Russian agents could have been a high-value target for the Ukrainian government because their names had previously been disclosed, and they may have withheld top-secret information. Furthermore, a large number of Russian officials have been expelled from European countries. More than 20 European countries have removed some suspected Russian intelligence officers who may have been identified on the leaked list, according to Greg Myre, a national security correspondent for NPR and an American journalist for over 15 years.

As the invasion progresses, expulsions are becoming more common, and Russia’s invasion has caused these large-scale expulsions in a rather coordinated manner thus far. While it’s too early to determine, it is possible that this would lead to a long-term reduction in diplomatic operations between the West and Russia.

As per this assessment, Russia’s constant and abrupt data and information leaks could provide Ukraine an advantage, especially because Europe is supporting them in this effort. Russia’s intelligence assets would be compromised, and their operations may not proceed as well as intended. For Russia, not having cybersecurity can lead to consequences, ranging from aggravation to complete shutdown, which could be seen as a gain for Ukraine.


Kristian N. Rivera, Counter-Terrorism Research Fellow

Rise to Peace