Is Putin's magic over?

For many years, radical right-wing politicians in Europe have shown a strikingly warm attitude toward Putin’s Russia. Will their position change with the Russian invasion of Ukraine?

What exactly draws them to Putin is a mystery. Why do far-right politicians, who proudly claim that their national interests should always come first, feel so attracted to a geopolitical adversary who threatens the sovereignty and security of their countries? And the answer to that question is not just a desire for practical help, including campaign funds or online election interference – similar to the interference that helped Donald Trump win the 2016 presidential election.

Some cite deeply ideological reasons, including the alleged conspiracy of Western liberals to disintegrate states, mix races, and threaten the very existence of ethnocultural identities that are so dear to Europe’s far-right. From the point of view of many right-wing Europeans, Putin’s Russia is an ally in the fight against a corrupt global system. Russia is ideologically close to them, as it also seeks to preserve separate ethnocultural identities. Russia is close to them in the sense of civilization, as it is a European Christian country that opposes both secular liberalism and Islamic extremism. From a pragmatic point of view, Russia can also be seen as an ally that challenges the vision of internationalism and “globalism” that characterizes the European Union and the United States.

In addition, Putin’s attractiveness is because he is the personification of an archetypal strong leader, clearly able to express the will of the Russian people and act decisively and shamelessly in the interests of his country, without being burdened by internationalist values ​​and commitments. international institutions.

Historical perspective

Some of Europe’s far-right are turning to national icons from their countries’ past to justify their positions. The French like to quote Charles de Gaulle’s desire for a more balanced position between the United States and the Soviet Union, as well as his vision of Europe “from the Atlantic to the Urals.”

Germany also has a strong tradition in foreign policy, rooted in the Cold War era, to bridge the divide in Europe by building relations with Russia. But Alternative for Germany has found examples in the distant past. For them, the icon is Bismarck, the creator of the powerful nation-state of Germany. Already in its first political platform in 2013, Alternative for Germany repeatedly called for the restoration of the alliance with Russia, following the example of Bismarck’s alliance in the 19th century.

However, the ideas of these politicians are not identical. Some hold more moderate right-wing positions, believing that a sense of kinship with Western democracies, including the United States, is valuable. Their attitude towards Russia is determined primarily by the “national interest” program, which calls for tensions to be reduced and for more realistic, independent, and balanced relations with the great powers.

Some Alternative for Germany representatives openly expresses skepticism about the degree of loyalty of their colleagues to the Russian agenda – especially those who grew up in East Germany, which was part of the Soviet bloc. One member of Alternative for Germany is puzzled that “people from East Germany who have suffered from communism for 40 years have the best idea of ​​Russia. It’s like the Stockholm Syndrome.”

However, none of them openly acknowledges potential motives, such as the practical support that Putin and his allies have given to their Western supporters.

The Ukrainian factor

Is it possible that the current events will make the far-right parties rethink their attitude towards Putin’s Russia? As the views of these countries differ considerably, it will hardly be possible to give an unambiguous answer to this question. For example, in Alternative for Germany, a party was torn apart by internal conflicts throughout its short history, this source is a source of internal disagreement.

Of course, there will be those who, focusing on their election prospects, will try, like Le Pen, to distance themselves from Putin’s military campaign. At the same time, Le Pen’s campaign did not attempt to change its approach as a whole and continued to call for strategic rapprochement with Russia immediately after the end of hostilities in Ukraine.

Foreign policy is not usually the determining factor influencing citizens’ choices. The issues that lead voters to turn to far-right parties are mainly related to the cultural and economic impact of globalization on their countries. Opposing energy sanctions, Le Pen is using the international crisis to draw attention to a much more pressing domestic problem, namely the cost of living. Le Pen received 41.5% and was close to victory, which is a significant leap forward compared to its results in 2017. We must recall that in early April, the cool attitude towards Putin did not prevent Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban to hold a crushing victory and being re-elected.

As can be seen, Russia and its regime will remain attractive as an indispensable pole for those in the West who oppose the dominant agenda of liberal internationalists and dependence on the United States and seek a world with ethnically homogeneous nation-states with clear borders.

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