How does one explain the Kremlin’s cooperation with far-right radicals in Europe, including neo-Nazis?
By Yuri Federov
Translated and edited by Voices of Ukraine
The Kremlin, as well as its propagandists and political analysts, love to label the Ukrainian government established after the events of 2013-2014 as “Fascist.” They aren’t discouraged by the fact that President Petro Poroshenko isn’t a charismatic dictator, that the political regime in Ukraine is far from being authoritarian (if anything, it resembles the aristocratic democracy of the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth), and that right-wing parties and nationalist movements hardly managed to get 7 – 10% of votes between them.
This begs the question: are Kremlin denizens simply projecting onto Ukraine the features of Russia’s own political system? And how can one explain the Kremlin’s cooperation with far-right elements in Europe, including the neo-Nazis?
This is a relatively new phenomenon. Before 2014, Russian authorities relied on contacts with large corporations and key figures of the European political mainstream, viewing such links as their essential tools for exerting Russia’s influence in Europe. If the Kremlin considered any relations with radical elements, they were only viewed as secondary. [VoU Ed: please note texts by Anton Shekhovtsov on indoctrination camps dating back to 2005 and 2006]. Maybe the one exception worth mentioning was the French National Front, whose leader, Marine Le Pen, had met with the Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin and other Russian leaders back in August of 2013. However, Russia’s intrusion in the Ukrainian situation has changed the situation. Being too close to Vladimir Putin and his entourage became unseemly for respectable people concerned about their reputation.
Of course, Putin still has some friends amongst the European elite, ones who aren’t too politically squeamish. Albeit, they are few. For example, some members of the French and European Parliament from the Republican party, retired leaders like Gerhard Shröder and Silvio Berlusconi, and some of the heads of state of Central and Eastern Europe. Last October, Nicolas Sarkozy, the former president of France, also visited Moscow. Although it is possible that the intention behind his visit wasn’t as much to publicly support his “friend Vladimir,” but rather, to persuade him to “amicably” get out of Donbas, abandon his reckless support of Assad, and stop threatening Europeans with military invasion. If that was the case, Sarkozy’s mission was unsuccessful.
The rejection of Russian policies by most Western elites has now forced Moscow to seek allies among the European political marginals, such as the extreme left and radical right, including those of a neo-Nazi inclination. The latter, which are particularly delighted by the current Russian authorities, include parties and figures with more than scandalous reputations. For example, the Norwegian terrorist Anders Brevik called Putin “a fair and decisive leader, worthy of respect.” Gabor Vona, the leader of Jobbik, the Hungarian radical nationalist party, delighted his Russian friends by his claims that “Europe’s role is that of a servant, following America’s orders. A secret war is underway, and Europe is losing it. The European Union is fully subordinated to the USA, as if it were just another state.”
Moscow, naturally, pretends to be unaware of any other statements made by their Hungarian allies, such as the declaration of one Judit Szima, a Jobbik candidate in the elections to the European Parliament, that “anti-Semitism is not just our right, but our duty… We must prepare for armed battle against the Jews.” Meanwhile, Krisztina Morvai, member of the European Parliament from the same party, proposed that “proud Hungarian Jews should play with their tiny circumcised penises, instead of vilifying me.” This wonderful lady is still in the European Parliament, and enjoys lecturing Federica Mogherini on the protection of the rights of Russians in Ukraine and the Baltic States.
“Cooperation with Putin brings tangible financial benefits”
Putin-lovers also include the German National Democratic Party which considers itself, not without good reason, to be the political and ideological heir of Hitler’s National Socialist German Workers’ Party. “While the West is getting increasingly entangled in the web of Zionist sorcerers, Putin fearlessly leads Russia to greater strength, freedom and independence. The German people can only dream of such political heroes now,” – says the official site of the party’s Saxsony-Anhalt section. Also among Putin’s friends is the Bulgarian “Attack” [Ataka] party, whose goals are the recognition of Orthodox Christianity as Bulgaria’s official religion, Bulgaria’s exit from NATO, and the expulsion of the country’s Roma and Turkish population. In this same company is the Greek “Golden Dawn,” which glorifies the Third Reich and the regime of the right-wing dictator Ioannis Metaxas. Portraits of Putin are being carried around Rome by members of the [Italian] neo-Fascist “National Front” movement, whose founder Adriano Tilgher was given a prison sentence for attempting to re-found the Fascist party. This list can go on, with mentions of splinter groups and gangs united under neo-Nazi slogans adopted by ultra-nationalists, anti-Semites, homophobes, anti-immigration activists, eurosceptics, and other marginal groups who see today’s Russia as their ideal social order. Ideologically, these are largely the same groups that comprise the core supporters of Putin’s regime in Russia.
However, the list of Putin’s European friends is not limited to this list of neo-Fascist marginal groups. Also on it are the French National Front, the Austrian Freedom Party, the German “Alternative For Germany,” the Hungarian Fidesz party led by the current Prime Minister Orban, and other parties with claims to respectability. Their leaders are hardly sympathetic to Putin and his regime, but they see him as a useful ally in realizing their geopolitical aspirations: namely, to weaken the global role of the USA and the European Union. This is the natural reaction of those groups and sectors in Europe – including among the elites – who struggle to adapt to European integration and progressive globalization in general, fail to compete with American corporations and, as a result, are inclined to balance between the two nuclear powers, the USA and Russia.
The ideological affinity with Putin’s Russia is supported by material interest, as cooperation with Putin sometimes brings tangible financial benefits. For instance, in 2014, with some assistance from the MEP Jean-Luc Schaffhauser, the National Front received a loan of some 9 or 10 million euros from the recently closed First Czech Russian Bank, which is owned by Russian structures connected to Gennady Timchenko. Reports say that Schaffhauser received a 140 thousand dollar fee for mediating this transaction. The “Alternative for Germany” Party is suspected of receiving financial assistance from Russia. It is possible that these are only some isolated, accidentally-leaked cases. Neither Moscow nor its partners in the European far-right are inclined to inform the public about the sensitive aspects of their cooperation.
The Kremlin, in turn, uses European far-right elements to support its external policies by propaganda. To name one case, their representatives staffed a group of international observers called on to confirm the legitimacy of the Crimean referendum and “elections” in “separatist”-controlled areas of Donbas. The far-right leaders are constantly featured on Russia Today broadcasts and in other government-controlled Russian media, creating an illusion of European public support for Putin… and receiving generous rewards. But the Kremlin’s main objective is to weaken NATO and the European Union. To achieve this, Moscow is trying to transform the far-right into a significant political force, and it spares neither effort nor money in this pursuit.