(*This opinion / analytical article was written by Ivan Dikov for The European Views website.)
Engaging with the European far right is unpredictable, risky business because you never what kinds of monsters it might produce.
Russia’s government or other factors are perceived as having been backing far-right populists throughout the European Union member states for quite some time now.
That backing has ranged from public rhetorical or demonstrative support going as high as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s meeting with France’s Marine Le Pen in Moscow before the 2017 French Presidential Elections, or Le Pen’s National Rally party (formerly National Front) receiving a loan from a Russian bank, to allegations of backstage dealings and secret funding deals.
Most recently, major public scandals erupted in two key Western European member states of the EU – Italy and Austria – in which media investigations or leaked tapes implicated top-level far-right Italian and Austrian politicians in at least attempted backstage dealings with alleged, real, or pretend factors from Russia.
In Austria, the scandal involving then Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache, the Strache Scandal, led to downfall of the government of the ruling coalition of Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s mainstream rightist party Austrian People’s Party (OeVP), and of Strache’s far-right Austrian Freedom Party (FPOe).
In Italy’s so called “Russiagate”, Deputy Prime Minister, Interior Minister, and leader of the far-right League Party Matteo Salvini has also come under fire for his party’s alleged secret discussion of a Russian funding mechanism involving oil sales, although for the time being the Cabinet of the far right and the leftist populist Five Stars Movement remains in place.
Brexiteer nationalists in the UK, the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party in Germany, and many other far-right formations all the way to EU Balkan members Greece and Bulgaria have been enjoying rhetorical support from Russian politicians, officials, or pundits.
Moscow’s rationale for backing the European far right is simple – in a time of highly strained relations with the West, the anti-establishment far right could stir some major domestic public upheavals in its respective home countries, and, if the far right ever comes to power, it would be either friendly to Russia overall, or at least ideologically close to the rule personified by Vladimir Putin…
Read the rest of this article on The European Views website here
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