The Russian Connection. The spread of Pro-Russian Policies on the European Far Right. Political Capital Policy Research & Consulting Institute, Budapest,March 14, 2014, 9 pages.
Annexation of Crimea and aggressive behaviour of Russia against Ukraine is accompanied by tough rhetoric sounding from Moscow. Words like fascists, neofascists, ultranacionalists have become a very common part of the highest Russian state representatives vocabulary. President Putin, as well as his alter ego Sergei Lavrov, has also enriched his arsenal with a specter from good old Soviet times – Stepan Bandera:
“The new so-called authorities began by introducing a draft law to revise the language policy, which was a direct infringement on the rights of ethnic minorities. However, they were immediately ‘disciplined’ by the foreign sponsors of these so-called politicians. One has to admit that the mentors of these current authorities are smart and know well what such attempts to build a purely Ukrainian state may lead to. The draft law was set aside, but clearly reserved for the future. Hardly any mention is made of this attempt now, probably on the presumption that people have a short memory. Nevertheless, we can all clearly see the intentions of these ideological heirs of Bandera, Hitler’s accomplice during World War II.”
“We do not want to divide Ukraine; we do not need that. As for Crimea, it was and remains a Russian, Ukrainian, and Crimean-Tatar land. I repeat, just as it has been for centuries, it will be a home to all the peoples living there. What it will never be and do is follow in Bandera’s footsteps!”
Vladimir Putin tries very often to look like a historian. As such he should know that Stepan Bandera case is much more complicated than he presents it. Being sarcastic, one could say that both the U.S.S.R and current Russia would not have faced problem with Bandera if Stalin, as a result of the pact with Nazi Germany, had not occupied pre-war Polish territory. Moreover, Stalin and Bandera had the same enemy: Poles. And taking stock of Soviet and OUN-UPA crimes committed against Poles, Bandera looks innocent as a lamb, compared to Stalin.
However, historical reflections are not the issue for this review. In the spotlight is a study analyzing possible links between current Russia and European far-right parties. Taking into consideration Putin´s and Lavrov´s uncompromising struggle with Ukrainian facist and ultranationalists, such a link looks rather strange. Nevertheless, authors of The Russian Connection provide us with a range of interesting facts suggesting that such connections are based on similar ideology and interests.
It is, first of all, common negative stance to the European Union: “Russia’s EU-skepticism along with the downright anti-EU attitude of the far-right forces of Europe who oppose their own establishment, are ideologically compatible with the Great Russia’ concept and are given as all but natural allies of Putin’s Russia.” (p.3) These potential allies could help Putin´s Russia to realize long-term goal of Soviet as well as Russian foreign policy -to decay the European cohesion as well as Euro-Atlantic ties.
Since Vladimir Putin´s coming to the power this effort has been growing in strength. Apart from possible support of European far-right forces Moscow has developed contacts with European politicians who have had a potential to create troubles in the EU. It was former Czech President Václav Klaus or current Hungarian Prime-Minister Victor Orbán, who recently received generous lend from Moscow, i.e. ten billions Euros, for nuclear plant Paks expansion. The project will be realized by Russian company Rosatom and will reinforce influence of Russia on energy business in Central Europe.
Russia has not worked with far-right organizations only. Close relationship between social democratic German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder then and Vladimir Putin had scandalous conclusion when Schroeder has continued his following career as one of the directors of Gazprom. Understandably both Klaus and Schroeder have a deep understanding for Russian annexation of Crimea.
Authors demonstrate the link between Putin’s Russia and extreme-right political subjects on three concrete examples of former communist countries (Bulgaria, Hungary and Slovakia), where these subjects have tried to open door for Russian influence and have supported Russian subversive policy: “in these countries the main features of the relationship(s) between the far-right and Russia have been apparent for quite some time. These include the policy of ‘Eastern opening’ that emphasizes economic interests, a peculiar ideological bonding, and pushing Russia’s agenda on international forums.” (p.4)
They also highlight special cases of Bulgaria, Serbia and Slovakia where the use of “cultural/historical reasons tied to statehood and a Pan-Slavic ideology” is possible. (p.3) It is notable, that this ideology is often very close to extreme-left parties in former communist countries, too, which understand Russia as a sort of continuation of the U.S.S.R. and defender of Slavonic nations.
According to the study, close link between far-right subjects and todays Russia is based on ideological and political affinity and it does not need concrete financial support that, however, is not excluded. Referring the study by Finnish scholar Sinikukka Saari Putin’s Eurasian Union Initiative: Are the premises of Russia’s post-Soviet policy changing?, authors conclude: “the gains from the trade-off for far right parties are not necessarily financial, as commonly assumed, but more valuable professional, organizational and media assistance; i.e., access to networks and political know-how.” (p.5)
The main contribution of the study lies in an attempt to map and classify the stance of far-right parties towards Russia. Authors examine three positions “committed””, “open/neutral” and “hostile” and conclude that “most major European far-right parties typically fall in the ‘committed’ category, openly professing their sympathy for Russia.”(p.6) Party from countries which are in more or less intensive conflict with Russia, such as Romania or Latvia, stand at opposite pole. (p.7)
The classification is supported by some felicitous quotations of far-right party representatives: “For me Euro-Asianism means that Hungary may become a bridge between Europe and Asia. […] The advantage of Euro-Asianism comes from the fact that, in contrast to EU-integration, it preserves the independence of regions engaged in continental cooperation” (p.8). Another one, even better: “Respecting neutral status, international law and national taxation, we propose the creation of a sovereign Pan-European Union with the participation of Russia and Switzerland…, the United States and Turkey would not be part of that entity.” (p.8)
European right-wingers are not only willing to co-operate with Russia in more or less visible way. They are also prepared to offer a direct help, if necessary. The composition of the observation mission taking part in so called referendum in Crimea (16 March 2014) is the best evidence of this statement. Moscow understood very well that the referendum in Crimea was an unprecedented farce and tried to increase prestige of this event, particularly among domestic consumers, with assistance of international observers. Representatives of far-right European parties could not miss their parts in this theatre. Of course, they evaluated the performance very high.
Composition of observation mission aroused both indignation and amusement in European countries but Russian consumer was certainly impressed, particularly as the state megaphone TASS presented representatives of European Parliament controlling voting procedure together with a Tatar chairman of one of the election commissions. Moscow has very intensively and harshly criticized Ukrainian ultranationalists and fascists. At the same time, when it was in need of assistance, European ultras, such as head of observation misson Mateusz Piskorski, were more than convenient. In the future, they will certainly continue to be as clearly demonstrates visit of Marine Le Pen, leader of France's far-right National Front in Moscow on 12 April 2014.
Presented study analyses also following topic, particularly important in the context of upcoming elections to the European Parliament. If far-right parties are able to establish there a pro-Russian platform it could mean another Putin´s success on his way towards subversion of principles on which Euro-Atlantic civilization is based.
The issue of political as well as economical ties of current Russia with European subjects should stay in focus. Putin’s policy presents serious threat for existing world order because it is questioning its key rules. Trying to face this threat, European democracies cannot use the same means which are used in Putin´s Russia, i.e. discrediting, direct or indirect liquidation of suspicious organization or persons. On the other hand, it is vitally necessary to know with whom they have the honour.
This applies not only to far-right or far-left organizations but also to a wide range of Russian subjects directly acting in European countries. Putin´s Russia, supported by these organizations, presents one of the most challenging current security risks. If Europe is to be prepared to face it, conditio sine qua non is to be properly informed, to be united and to be prepared to react.
Study like this meets the first requirement and let’s hope that such researches will continue.
Such comparison we can also find in other countries: Available at www.youtube.com/watch?v=KGvIfaeGmpY&hd=1 , www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2014/03/05/mccain-rubio-agree-with-clintons-putin-hitler-comparisons/
 Marine Le Pen, National Front party leader (French presidential candidate speech, Paris,
November 19, 2011)
 Available at http://itar-tass.com/mezhdunarodnaya-panorama/1051375 No problem that one of two so called representatives is not deputy of the EP at all.
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