The uproar over Russian meddling in the U.S. election diverts our attention from the larger phenomenon of Russia’s support for far right movements in Europe which are racist, anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic, misogynist and homophobic.
Austria’s far right Freedom Party — founded after World War II by former Nazis — recently came close to winning the country’s presidential race. Shortly afterwards, the party signed a “cooperation pact” with Vladimir Putin’s party, United Russia. Last December, Freedom Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache said he met in Trump Tower with Retired Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, Donald Trump’s national security adviser. Flynn is seen frequently as a political analyst on RT, the global cable TV network formerly known as Russia Today, which is funded by the Russian government. In 2015, Flynn attended a Moscow gala celebrating RT’s 10th anniversary and sat near Putin. He gave a talk on world affairs at the event.
Upscale supporters of Putin held an all-night celebration of Trump’s inauguration in Moscow organized by the “White Star” art collective which is part of a pro-Putin youth movement. The partygoers were treated to two presentations — one about the political philosophy of the “triptych” (the art collective’s belief that Putin, Trump and far-right French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen will bring about a new world order), and another by Kirill Benediktov, a science fiction writer with ties to Lyndon LaRouche (a bizarre American neo-fascist).
Le Pen, the leader of the National Front, is the frontrunner in the latest poll. The National Front publicly acknowledged that it had received a $9.8 million loan from a Russian bank with links to Putin, allegedly brokered by a sanctioned Russian Duma deputy.
Maria Katasonova, 23, is a prominent figure in the Russian collective. She works as an aide to State Duma deputy Yevgeny Fyodorov who claims rock music is “U.S.-instigated sabotage” and is a leader of Putin’s United Russia party. Katasonova has been widely featured in news stories around the world because of her enthusiastic support of Trump and hatred of Hillary Clinton. She got more press recently when she was photographed at Putin’s annual press conference holding up her art collective’s flattering “triptych” portrait of Putin, Le Pen and Trump, side by side. The three leaders were portrayed as stern, young looking and blond-haired.
Katasonova ran for a seat in the State Duma but lost badly to the incumbent. She was a candidate of the ultra-nationalist party Rodina, or Motherland. She’s also a leader of the National Liberation Movement, a far-right group that supports Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine and attacks anti-Putin dissidents for lacking in patriotism.
During the U.S. election season, her Twitter feed was filled with anti-Clinton videos and images borrowed from the alt-right, which earned her the admiration of American white supremacists and far rightists from other parts of Europe.
Katasonova’s video Christmas card in 2015 was cheerful. She was dressed in winter camouflage and proclaimed that the separatists would be victorious in Ukraine. If not, she added, “we will destroy the whole world” in a nuclear war.
On Jan. 21, leaders of far right parties from France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and elsewhere met in Koblenz, Germany to celebrate Trump’s inauguration and present themselves as a realistic alternative to Europe’s governments.
They are surging in popularity. Their parties (along with new left parties in Europe and Bernie Sanders’ Democrats) are involved in a popular revolt against the center-right and center-left parties which have supported the policies of neo-liberal globalization which pushes deregulation of business, state-led de-unionization, cutting taxes on the rich and the defunding of public goods.
Putin supports Trumpism and the European far right but also courts the left. RT America features genuine American progressives who don’t get into the mainstream media too much. But it also pushes Putin’s foreign policy and features far rightists and nut-jobs like Alex Jones (Trump’s favorite conspiracy theorist).
Putin places himself on the right. His party, United Russia, with three-quarters of the seats in the Duma, has officially adopted “Russian Conservatism” as its position. As RT has reported:
“Having called themselves ‘conservatives,’ the members of United Russia have simply determined their place as a right-wing party,” political scientist Dmitry Travin said. “That means that they are ‘politicians who defend values of the market economy based on national traditions,’” Rosbalt news agency quoted him as saying.
“At the same time, they ‘are not staunch defenders of freedom as liberals,’ and they are not ‘followers of egalitarianism as social democrats,’” Travin said.
It’s uncertain how U.S./Russian relations will work out. Trump’s stance on Putin and Russia has caused a lot of heartburn in the GOP (even among people close to Trump). Maybe there will be a reduction of nuclear arms by both countries. That would be good. Or Putin might invade a European nation causing widespread panic and making Trump appear weak. At which point Trump would turn against Putin.
Whatever happens, the left has to fight far right phony populism as well as the neo-liberals in the Democratic Party. But Putin isn’t really our friend.
This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.