Detangling Putin’s web in the West

Russia and the Western Far Right: Tango Noir. By: Anton Shekhovtsov. Publisher: Routledge, London and New York, 2018.

A review article by Matthew Kott

Anton Shekhovtsov, a fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna, is already a familiar name to those working on the far right in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. He has previously written on Aleksandr Dugin and Russian neo-Eurasianism as well as on white power racist music subcultures. With his recent book, Russia and the Western Far Right, he is reaching out to a much broader audience than the relatively intimate academic world of comparative fascist studies.

The book appeared late in 2017, but was mostly completed long before the inauguration of Donald Trump as president of the United States, the subsequent rise of the so-called alt-right as a factor in American society and the twists and turns surrounding the official investigation into whether there was any attempt by Russia to skew the election. Nevertheless, it touches on Trump and in passing the run-up to the French presidential election in early 2017. On the one hand, it makes Shekhovtsov’s latest highly topical and indeed groundbreaking. On the other hand, however, that which are the book’s strengths can also be its weaknesses. As with many publications, the risk is that this is a book with an expiration date.

Ambitious agenda

Shekhovtsov’s aim is to shed light upon the various ways in which Russian actors – both official and figures from the far right – have over the decades attempted to foster contacts amongst the far right in European countries in order to gain influence abroad and legitimacy at home. Right from the beginning such an ambitious agenda raises several significant questions in the mind of the reader: What is meant by the vague term “far right”? How is the concept of “western” defined? And what criteria does Shekhovtsov apply in choosing the various cases examined? Given the nebulous and short-lived nature of many of the groupings on the far right, what sources does he rely upon for this extensive study? […]

Belarus tries to follow in Moscow’s steps and team up with the European far right

On 21 May 2018, Belarusian far-right politician Oleh Haidukevich published on his Facebook a message that said that his party, the misleadingly named Liberal Democratic Party of Belarus (LDPB) led by his father Siarhei Haidukevich, started preparations for the “Congress of Patriotic Parties in Europe” that would take place in Minsk, the capital of Belarus.

In his post, Haidukevich mentioned that the LDPB had invited representatives of the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ), French National Front (FN, renamed into the National Rally on 1 June 2018), Alternative for Germany (AfD), “United Russia” and 15 unnamed parties. He also posted two scanned copies of invitations addressed to FN’s president Marine Le Pen and the FPÖ’s leader Heinz-Christian Strache. The invitations were dated 26 April 2018 and said that the congress would discuss “patriotism, conservatism, national conservatism and social-conservatism”, “the right [sic!] renaissance”, “perspectives of identity and traditional values”, preservation of “national traditions and mentality [sic!]”, “the problem of Islamic fundamentalism”, “the crisis of the European Union and NATO”, European and Russian (counter-)sanctions, “the idea of the Greater North from Antwerp to Vladivostok”, “the Great North as a single civilizational and cultural space of great Europe”, “the crisis of the family and family values” and “alternative media self-organization and promotion experience”, among other topics. […]

Russian active measures, European neo-Nazis and the Kremlin’s French connection

On 7 June 2018, the Russian far-right, misleadingly named Liberal-Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) led by Vladimir Zhirinovsky held a meeting called the “World Congress of Peace-loving Forces” (WCPF), which became yet another LDPR’s attempt to unite pro-Kremlin European far-right organisations.

The title “WCPF” is a reference to a conference held in Soviet Moscow under almost the same in 1973. That historical conference was a Soviet active measure aimed at promoting the allegedly peaceful image of the Soviet Union. It brought together over 3 thousand of left-wing activists and politicians from all over the world who praised the totalitarian Soviet regime for its struggle for the “preservation of peace”. […]

Full list of Members of the European Parliament who voted against the resolution on political prisoners in Russia

On 14 June this year, the European Parliament adopted a resolution that, in particular, demanded “that the Russian authorities immediately and unconditionally release Oleg Sentsov and all other illegally detained Ukrainian citizens in Russia and on the Crimean peninsula”.

Oleg Sentsov is a Ukrainian film maker who lived in Crimea. He stayed there after Russia had annexed the Crimean peninsula; shortly after the annexation, Sentsov was arrested, forcibly “granted” a Russian citizenship, falsely charged with terrorist activities and sentenced to 20 years. […]

Russlands Netzwerk mit den rechten Parteien des Westens

Der ukrainische Politologe Anton Schechowzow forschte in Wien über Moskaus Verbindungen zum rechten Rand des Westens.

Gerald Schubert

Im März 2017 empfing Wladimir Putin Marine Le Pen in Moskau. Foto: AP/Mikhail Klimentyev

Der Besuch von Russlands Präsident Wladimir Putin in Österreich hat erneut die Debatten über Moskaus außenpolitische Agenda angeheizt, über Putins Netzwerke in Europa und den USA sowie deren jeweils innenpolitische Instrumentalisierung auf beiden Seiten.

Der geopolitische Hintergrund dafür ist durchaus prekär: Spätestens seit Ausbruch des Krieges in der Ostukraine und der Annexion der Krim begegnet der Westen Russland mit äußerster Vorsicht und traut weder den Machthabern im Kreml über den Weg noch dem weiteren Kreis des politischen und wirtschaftlichen Establishments in Moskau.

Die aufgeheizte Atmosphäre nach dem Giftanschlag auf den ehemaligen russischen Agenten Sergej Skripal in Großbritannien oder die Dauerdebatte über die Einflussnahme Moskaus auf die US-Präsidentschaftswahl des Jahres 2016 machen dies nur allzu deutlich. Umgekehrt interpretiert Russland Kritik aus dem Westen in der Regel als Beleg dafür, dass man sich dort gegen Moskau verschworen hat und einen nur halbherzig verborgenen, dafür aber umso erbitterteren Feldzug gegen russische Eigenständigkeit, Stärke und Würde führt. […]

Russians and Reactionaries

The on-again, off-again flirtation between Mother Russia and the deplorables of Europe

Jay Kinney

A central accusation in the uproar over “Russian influence” holds that Moscow is covertly in cahoots with the American alt-right, supplying the movement with fake news, memes, and social media talking points. The evidence for this tends to be more speculative than solid, but the general question of post-Soviet Russia’s cooperation with Western nationalist and racialist groups is certainly salient.

Such links are at the heart of Anton Shekhovtsov’s new study, Russia and the Western Far Right: Tango Noir. Shekhovtsov is a fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna, and his book is exhaustively detailed in its description of Russian relations with the European far right. What impact this may have had on the American right comes up only in the book’s final three paragraphs, which mostly raise questions and provide no answers.

Shekhovtsov argues that a range of reactionary groups, largely in Europe, see Putin “as an ally in their struggle against Western liberal democracy and multiculturalism.” Moscow, in turn, uses them both “to consolidate the authoritarian kleptocratic regime at home” and “to counteract the growing isolation of Russia in the Europeanised world.” And in some cases, the author argues, Russia wants “to disrupt the liberal-democratic consensus in Western societies and, thus, destabilize them.” […]

Austrian and Italian far-right parties signed coordination and cooperation agreements with Putin’s “United Russia”

In my book Russia and the Western Far Right, I mistakenly wrote that the Italian far-right Lega Nord (Northern League, rebranded as Lega in 2018) had signed a coordination agreement with the Russian ruling party “United Russia” (ER), in contrast to the coordination and cooperation agreement signed between the Austrian far-right FPÖ (Freedom Party of Austria) and the ER. That incorrectly implied that the LN/ER agreement was lesser in scope than the FPÖ/ER agreement. […]