The Kremlin connections of the European far-right
The conflict between Russia and Ukraine has created a new situation in Europe. The Russian aggression against Ukraine imposes risks and challenges not only for the foreign and security policy of the EU and member states, but it also has serious implications for the domestic policy of individual countries.
The Political Capital Institute has already warned of East European far-right parties’ positive orientation towards Russia in 2009, and our 2014 analysis proved that the Kremlin’s interests are promoted throughout Europe with the help of far-right actors. The recent creation of the Eurosceptic far-right faction Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF) by Marine Le Pen, the leader of French party National Front, means there is a new and more powerful pro-Kremlin caucus in the European Parliament. ENF members consistently push Moscow’s interests in committees and plenary sessions, while masking their actions by saying they are lobbying the needs of interest groups. So, Political Capital Institute has decided to launch a series of publications in order to analyze the pro-Russian standpoint and behavior of far-right actors in various member states more deeply. The first four elements of the series deal with Hungary, Slovakia, France and Greece.
The Hungarian research finds that even though the Hungarian far-right and Jobbik, a major actor of the far-right scene, position themselves as representatives of Hungarian national interests, they have become uncritical and unconditional servant of the current Russian regime’s interests. Jobbik’s politicians have acknowledged the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula by Russia and delegated election observers to various elections in Crimea and the separatist territories in Eastern Ukraine. One of those observers is Béla Kovács Jobbik MEP who is currently under criminal investigation conducted by the Hungarian authorities for spying against the EU on behalf of Russia. This phenomenon cannot be explained by reasons borne out of domestic politics: supporters of the West outnumber the adherents of Russia both among the general public and Jobbik’s voter base.
In Slovakia, the open pro-Russian attitude is a characteristic of both far-right parties and paramilitary organizations. Since Slovak far-right parties have been taken a back seat in recent years, Russian influence has emerged throughout the extremist scenery capable of violent acts which poses a national security threat to the Slovak state. Still, Kremlin’s influence in far-right politics might gain strengths again, because the Slovak National Party, whose former leader received a state award from former Russian President Medvedev, is expected to re-establish its parliamentary presence after the 2016 Slovak general elections.
The French part of the series provides an in-depth analysis of the relations between the French far-right and the Russian state which lead to Marine Le Pen enjoying high-level diplomatic reception in Moscow, Le Pen personally praised by President Putin, ultimately financial support from Russia. In turn, the Front National has observed and legitimised the annexation of Crimea and following separatist elections in Eastern Ukraine.
There are pro-Russian sympathizers to be found on both the far-right and the far-left fringe in Greece, which poses a crucial political challenge given the economic hardships and the profound public mistrust of the European establishment as its consequence. Although the Tsipras government(s) remained pro-European, the Independent Greeks (ANEL) as part of the governing coalition and the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn as a member of the Greek parliament strive to steer the country towards Moscow. Russia has indeed a very good chance of gaining more influence due to Greece’s pro-Russian public and the “patriotic political subculture”. The stakes are quite high amidst full-blown military and migrant crises, which put Greece in the spotlight as a country of utter importance once again for the West, while making it a country the Kremlin’s ready to fight for.