Article by: Richard Arnold
One of the consequences of the Kremlin’s adventurism in Ukraine appears to have been an invigoration of European Far Right parties that sense an opportunity to orient themselves toward Moscow and achieve a champion on the world stage. A spate of recent and upcoming conferences bring together racists and extremists from around the world as well as Russia, and seem to provide the Kremlin with a unique means to exert soft power influence on the European continent.
The next such conference, the “2014 Identitarian Congress” will occur on October 3–4, in the capital of Hungary, Budapest. The congress will feature speakers such as the Russian Eurasianist thinker Aleksandr Dugin and Gabor Vona from Hungary’s Jobbik party (a political movement that is often seen as the Kremlin’s Trojan horse in Europe, as both share the goal of undermining the European Union). Dugin has considerable influence in Russian politics, heading the Eurasian Youth Movement and the Eurasian Party, appears frequently on Russian television, and is said to influence Kremlin ideologue Vladislav Surkov as well as a number of the siloviki (security services personnel). Other speakers at the Congress will include thinkers from the European “New Right”: the Croat Tomislav Sunic, Hungarian Martyon Gyongyosi and Philippe Vardon, a close associate of French far right leader Marine Le Pen. The association of a figure as influential as Dugin with the most prominent thinkers of Europe’s extreme right is yet another indication of an alliance between extremist parties throughout the EU and the highest levels of Russian politics.
The upcoming identitarian congress in Budapest was organized by the United States-based conservative and white supremacist National Policy Institute (NPI), an “independent think-tank and publishing firm dedicated to the heritage, identity, and future of European people in the United States and around the world” (NPI America, accessed August 11).
Identitarianism is an ideology/movement that began in France with the New Right and rests on the assumption that ethno-cultural factors have overwhelming importance in human affairs. Identitarianism has spread as far as Scandinavia, but its most stunning successes have been in the countries of the post-Soviet space. For example, in December 2013, in Ukraine, an identitarian blogger from the pro-Russian group “Oriental Falange,” Oleg Gunzslyak, argued that “the Russian-speaking macrogroup in Ukraine is ‘already a solid identitarian crystal’ ” (Pro Aris et focis, December 13, 2013).
As early as 2006, American white supremacist historian David Duke joined a number of prominent Far Right leaders from throughout Europe in Moscow at a conference on the “White World’s Future.” That conference was followed up by a meeting in Ukraine, in 2007, that brought the same extremist crowd together again (Richard Arnold and Ekaterina Romanova, “The White World’s Future?” Journal for the Study of Radicalism, 2013). The 2006 conference was funded by the Russian group “European Synergy,” although the organization remains opaque. While there is no evidence of a direct link to the Kremlin, questions remain about where the “European Synergy’s” finances for the conference originally came from. The right-wing Russian think tank The Athenaeum took the lead in organizing the 2006 event. One of the most prominent racist theoreticians at both events was Pavel Tulaev, the Russian publisher and former editor (2000–2010) of the racist journal “The Athenaeum.”
Thus far, public discussions of the upcoming Identitarian Congress in Budapest, and Dugin’s participation in it, appear to be limited mainly to the Russian online social network VKontakte. Dugin maintains an active presence on this online community. He has over 9,000 followers, and has been posting frequently about the crisis in Ukraine (vk.com/duginag, August 15). However, by and large, the Russian media do not appear to be reporting on the Congress, suggesting it is designed to focus on an international audience.
More broadly, the Kremlin’s use of Far Right parties in Europe appears to be part of a strategy to disrupt (or possibly destroy) the EU and divide the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Europe’s Far Right parties also tend to advocate for such goals. Gabor Vona, the Hungarian leader of Jobbik, for instance, is rumored to be a Kremlin agent and makes frequent trips to Moscow (XX Committee, accessed August 14). Likewise, Marine Le Pen of the French Front Nationale was photographed with outspoken Russian nationalist and Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin. In 2011, Pavel Tulaev gave a series of lectures titled “Russia and Europe: Common Perspectives,” including one delivered in Belgium (Trueinform.ru, April 16, 2013). But Tulaev is not listed among the participants at the October 2014 Identitarian Congress in Budapest, which may indicate the limits of Moscow’s soft power strategy: some people are too fringe even for the Far Right.
Following the start of the Ukraine crisis, the Kremlin also invited observers from Far Right parties throughout the European Union to monitor the referendum on Crimea’s accession to the Russian Federation (Jamestown Blog on Russia and Eurasia, March 27). And more recently, a Far Right conference held in Yalta, Crimea, on August 29–30, brought together extreme nationalists from the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Belgium and Poland to support the “Novorossiya” project (aitrus.info, September 2). Notably, Tulaev has also organized a conference titled “Aryan belief and its connection to knowledge about health,” to be held September 20–30, in none other than the recently annexed city of Sevastopol (ateney.ru, accessed August 15). This close alignment of such conferences to Kremlin policies implies that, at the least, Moscow’s actions on the world stage are invigorating the pan-European extremist movement, and may even point to altogether more sinister Russian goals.