Ihor Selibayev, Petr i Mazepa, 23.11.2018
The detailed examination of some political parties, movements, leaders which for different reasons play on the Putin’s side. Part 1: France, the UK, Germany, Hungary and Italy.
For a long time the West did not notice, or pretended it doesn’t notice an activity of Vladimir Putin’s ideologists among the right-wing populist parties of Europe. What appeared impossible mere 10 years ago, now possess a serious threat to the very existence of European Union as economic, political and military union of democratic countries.
During the last five years Moscow did spun a tight web, encompassing the series of European political parties — “Freedom Party of Austria”,“National Front” in France, “Alternative for Germany” and “Pegida” in Germany, “Jobbik” party in Hungary, “Lega Nord” in Italy, etc. One couldn’t avoid to notice the growing influence of Russia in Europe. Be that a coup d'etat or separatist movements, or pro-Russian candidates winning the elections — anything that happens in Europe has a Putin standing behind it. The openly pro-Russian candidates Rumen Radev and Igor Dodon won presidential elections in Bulgaria and Moldova; a coup d'etat arranged by a Russia was just short of succeeding in Montenegro; Serbia conducts joint military exercises with Russian Federation; Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán, his Slovak colleague Robert Fico and Czech president Miloš Zeman demand louder and louder to lift the anti-Russian sanctions.
According to the study of Hungarian analytic center “Political Capital”, out of 24 influential European political parties of right wing, approximately 15 take openly pro-Moscow position and are aimed at the same course as Moscow, out of the European Union.
So how this happened that many political parties on the European continent became pro-Russian, some of them arguing for deeper economic cooperation with Russia, while other openly admire Putin?
Putin’s motivation is simple. The reasons to such an unusual case for Russia, to cooperate with right-wing parties, were: Putin’s intent to destabilize European governments, to prevent European Union from spreading, to secure coming to power of leaders who would be friendly to Russia. And to finally lift the anti-Russian sanctions of European Union.
But the right parties are also fascinated with the authoritarian governing style of Putin: his reliance on force, him being so not picky when it comes to choosing the means to achieve something, his firm control over media and protests. Also, Putin’s actions showcase not the left, but nationalist and imperial attitude. Parties of right wing see the Russian leader as an example of strong personality which is embodying the national sovereignty facing the liberalism and conformism. It is worthy to note that when Crimean “referendum” was held in March of 2014, Putin invited over 50 politicians from European Union as observers, and except for 4 representatives of the German “The Left” party, all other “observers” were from right-wing parties.
Of course, not everyone supports Putin equally, or by the similar reasons.
Mostly, such parties are not explicitly pro-Russian, but their opposition to the world order set by Washington and Brussels matches with Moscow’s stance. Some, Greece and Italy for example, have a simple financial interest in the cooperation with Moscow.
Below we give the detailed examination of some political parties, movements, leaders, which for different reasons play on the Putin’s side and contribute to spreading of his politics into European countries.
“National Rally” (“Rassemblement national”, until June 1, 2016 — “National Front”) — a conservative nationalist political party in France, founded in October 1972. An influential party of pro-Putin kind in Europe, representedby 22 delegates in European parliament. The only one which was proven to use Russian financial support. In 2014 “National Front” received a credit of 9.4 million Euros from First Czech-Russian Bank to finance the election campaign. Marine Le Pen supports Russian foreign affairs in Ukraine and Near East, and recognize the annexation of Crimea. Le Pen also stated that she would like for France to leave NATO and to create s new joint alliance with Russia. “National Front” promotes the idea of replacing the EU and NATO with a pan-European partnership of independent states, the leading force of which would be a tri-lateral alliance of Paris, Berlin and Moscow.
THE UNITED KINGDOM
British National Party (BNP) — a British radical right-wing political party which publically displays a support of Putin’s policy. Nick Griffin (a leader of party until 2014) was an observer to Russian State Duma elections in 2011, and proclaimed that “Russian elections are much more just than elections in Great Britain”.
United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP). Many members of it openly display their fascination with Putin and their approval to his actions in Syria. A notable member of party Nigel Sussman visited Crimea on the invitation of official Kremlin, and returned stating that “Russia is a democratic country which is demonized by everyone”.
Bruges Group analytic center and a think tank — publishes propagandist articles in line with Kremlin policy, with Russia financing the travels of Bruges Group employees working on articles like these. The director Robert Oulds supported the Crimea annexation by Russia and blamed West for the crisis in Ukraine.
The Bow Group — the oldest think tank in Great Britain, affiliated with British Conservative Party. The chairman Ben Harris-Quinney visited Moscow in 2016 (expenses of the host country) and spoke on the conference praising the Russian anti-gay politic. Later The Bow Group published a report, calling for lifting the sanctions against Russia, and recently appealed to British government to closely cooperate with Russian intelligence.
FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF GERMANY
“Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident” (“Patriotische Europäer gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes”, abbreviated as Pegida) — a German right-wing populist movement created in December of 2014 in Dresden. Activists of Pegida are famous of waving the Russian flags on their demonstrations. The movement calls for immediate normalization of relations between Germany and Russia.
National-democratic party “Alternative for Germany” (“Alternative für Deutschland”, AfD) — a right-wing conservative and euroskeptical political party in Germany, founded February 6th 2013. As of today, AfD is the most active political power in Bundestag which supports Russia. AfD Party routinely sends so-called “observers” to monitor the elections in Russia, on the occupied territories of Eastern Ukraine, in Nagorno-Karabakh, which just as routinely is used by Russian propaganda to create an illusion of the legitimacyof these elections. The leaders of the party Alexander Gauland and Jörg Meuthen was among first German politicians to congratulate Putin with re-election, and among those to promise “to make all efforts to bring the German-Russian relations to a constructive plane. This implies the lifting of sanctions which are harmful for both sides.”
Christian Blech, a member of Land parliament of North Rhine-Westphalia from AfD party, arranged a visit of the AfD delegates to Syria in 2018, which later was widely covered in Russian rhetoric. According to Anri Poggenburg, a chairman of the AfD branch in Saxony-Anhalt, “supposed annexation of Crimea by Russia is a fictitious excuse and alibi, but not the real fact. Crimes was a part of Russia until 1954, and had an autonomy status until the imaginary annexation. Because of Maydan revolution the Russians in Crimea was in great danger and made their choice to voluntarily join Russia through the referendum”. From the Poggenburg point of view, sanctions against Russia do not only “contradict the international laws”, but also hurt Germany. According to politician, companies in Central Germany suffers the most from sanctions, because of export to Russia “collapsed” by 40% and sanctions already cost “half a billion Euros”.
The Left (Die Linke, Linkspartei) — a German socialist party founded in 2007. Members of “The Left” party Wolfgang Gerke and Andrej Hunko visited the occupied Ukrainian eastern territories in 2015. The members of party were the observers on referendum in Crimea and commended the voting, which supposedly matched the “international standards”. Gregor Gysi, one of “The Left” founders, when commenting on the Russian military operation in Syria, emphasized that Russians were called upon by Asad, and thus, from the international law point of view, it is more legitimate than operations of other countries.
“Free Democratic Party” (“Freie Demokratische Partei”, FDP) — a liberal German party, created at December 11th 1948. It is notable of its ambiguous stance on Russia. For example, the leading member of FDP Wolfgang Kubicki lately supports the lifting of anti-Russian sanctions. IN other case, as politician claims, the things will come to the return of Cold War reality. Aside from this, Kubicki stated not once that German agriculture suffers from sanctions, and German industry is forced to leave Russia. Kubicki believes that Theresa May is mistaken when she blames Russia for killing a former double agent with the nerve poison agent. Also supports a resonant project in building the Nord Stream II gas pipeline.
“Bavarian Industry Association” (“Vereinigung der Bayerischen Wirtschaft e.V.”, VBW) — the Germany largest association of industry members, which includes over 130 economic associations and 40 private companies in Bavaria. The head of the association Bertram Brossardt claimed that “Russia is an important trade partner, and the dialog should not be cut off”. According to him, anti-Russian sanctions “were a mistake, as they did not lead to any politic changes, but seriously harmed the economy”.
Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Munich and Upper Bavaria. It’s chairman Peter Driessen stated that “The experience with sanctions shows that they, by large, are unable to secure the political goals”.
Munich Center of Continental Cooperation — an international non-governmental organization which joins politicians, journalists, scientists and public activists of Europe and Eurasia in attempt of creating “the joint space from Lisbon to Vladivostok” on the basis of building friendship and cooperation between European Union and Eurasian Economic Union. The head office of Center is located in Munich. Among the declared goals of the Munich Center of Continental Cooperation are: freeing Europe from USA hegemony in all spheres, namely military, political, economic and media; creating a join continental European economic, social and cultural space including Russia as the foundation of security, peace and prosperity in Europe. Organization has an established channels of communication with Moscow, its head Yury Kofner is a chairman of Eurasian Movement of Aleksandr Dugin, one of the ideologists of Russian nationalism.
“Fidesz – Hungarian Civic Alliance” (“Magyar Polgári Szövetség", first known as "Fiatal Demokraták Szövetsége", meaning "the Alliance of Young Democrats”) — one of two largest Hungarian political parties of right wing. Headed by prime minister (1998-2002 and again since 2010) Viktor Orbán it got 49.6% of votes and 133 of 199 parliament seats and got the right to change constitution and to approve new laws. Considering the Orbán’s stance on Russia, will support his pro-Russian course in parliament. Orban is one of the most rusofilic European country leaders. Advocates against the foreign relation policy of European Union, which according to him is aimed for isolation of Russia. Doesn’t agree with the European block sanctions and praises the Russian model of state. In last 5 years Viktor Orbán had five bilateral meetings with Vladimir Putin, which is a record among the European leaders.
“The Movement for a Better Hungary” (“Jobbik Magyarországért Mozgalom”, “Jobbik”) — elutra-right nationalist political party in Hungary. Won 19.2% of votes on elections and got 26 sits in parliament. Party leader Gábor Vona conducts business in Russia for over 15 years. Putin considers Vona as a possible future partner, which “perhaps might lead the Hungary out of European Union”. Party criticized the “Euro-Atlantic connections” of Hungary and European Union, and proclaimed the Crimean referendum to be an “exemplary”.
Italy is long famous for being one of the most pro-Russian countries of Europe. This is explained by a tight cooperation since the time of Soviet Union. In 1960s Italy supplied USSR with over 50% of imported industrial equipment. ENI was the main partner of Soviet oil industry, and Fist built the automobile plant which is still the largest in Russia. After the USSR breakdown the connections between Russia and Italy became only stronger.
“Lega Nord” (full name being “Lega Nord per l'Indipendenza della Padania”) — Italian political party which supports the independence of Northern Italian provinces and creation of the independent state Padania with a capital of Milan. The members of the party do not try to hide their pro-Kremlin stance. In particular, they support the Russian intervention in Syria, disapprove of European Union anti-Russian sanctions, advocate for recognition of Crimea annexation. Leader of the party, Matteo Salvini, cooperates with the Vladimir Putin’s ruling party “United Russia”. Salvini visited the occupied Crimea, demonstrably met the politicians from the EU sanctions list, gave interview to Russian propagandist channel RT, where accused NATO in aggressive actions.
These are some of the statements by Salvini: “it would be better for us if Italy had its own Putin”, “I consider Putin to be a great politician, and I do so not because I was paid for it”, “Economic sanctions against Russia is a madness, directed against the neighboring friendly market”. “Lega Nord” was one of the first European parties which recognized the annexation of Crimea. “Europe should accept that whether it likes it or not, but Russia is a natural partner of it. If issues arise, we must solve them, but we must be aware of possible consequences”, one of the lead representatives of the “Lega Nord” Lorenzo Fontana claimed.
According to Giancarlo Giorgetti, a“Lega Nord” strategist in questions of foreign relations, Europe should lift the sanctions because they don’t work: “I don’t understand those who are persisting on sanctions. Do they suggest that Putin will gave up Crimea because of sanctions? Do we try to fool ourselves?” On March 7th 2017 Matteo Salvini signed a “treaty of cooperation” with “United Russia” party in Moscow.
“The Five Star Movement” (“Movimento 5 Stelle”, or M5S) — Italian political party which was founded by a popular comedian Beppe Grillo and businessman Gianroberto Casaleggio at October 4th 2009. The party is characteristic of populism and, to some degree, a euro-skepticism. MS5 calls for staging a referendum on Italy staying in the Euro zone, lifting the sanctions against Russia, and in fact to geopolitical turn of Italy from USA to Russia. Recently, when presenting their foreign relations platform in parliament, a members of party called Russia a strategic partner which was punished unfairly, and USA to be an arrogant partner, relations with whom are exhausted for Italy.
The party leader Luigi Di Maio called to put an end to European sanctions against Russia, to change the focus of NATO from strengthening its positions in Eastern Europe, and names Russia a valuable partner in the fight against terrorism. An M5S representative in foreign relations Manlio Di Stefano when meeting the members of “United Russia”, stated that “We are not pro-Russian or pro-American politicians. We are pro-Italian”.
Alessandro Di Battista, a Minister of Foreign Relations in the M5S government, proclaimed before the elections: “NATO started to play more of aggressive role. That doesn’t suit us”. According to his words, Europe and USA were overreacting to Russian interference in Ukraine, and should acknowledge their role in the destabilization of the country.