Janos Szeky, Radio Lemberg, 05.09.2018
The Prague think tank Kremlin Watch has recently published a ranking of EU members according to their countermeasures against the Kremlin's subversive operations. They categorized Greece and Cyprus as collaborators (although Greece seems to be waking up nowadays), and there were five "countries in denial" of the Muscovite threat: Portugal, Italy, Austria, Slovenia, and Hungary.
Not counting distant Portugal, these latter countries cover a contiguous area in South Central Europe, to which we can add the German Bundesland of Bavaria.
It is not just denial, of course, but open cooperation. The minor partners in both the Austrian and the Italian governments, the Freedom Party and the Lega, have signed cooperation agreements with the United Russia party. The way Austrian foreign minister Karin Kneissl invited Vladimir Putin and RT to her wedding, while not allowing the Austrian press to the place, and made a deep curtsy of thanks for the dance, has generated an international scandal. (This friendship, though, has a longer history. The invitation was prepared by the widow of the late President Klestil, Margot Löffler, who herself was ambassador to Moscow from 2009 to 2014.) As for Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is the only leader in the EU who meets with Putin regularly every year, sometimes twice. The leader of the Bavarian CSU party and also prime minister of Bavaria from 2008 to 2018, Horst Seehofer, is on remarkably cordial terms with Putin and his crew, much more than his own boss in Berlin, Chancellor Merkel, whom he failed to oust this year.
There is another feature that makes these countries stand apart from the rest of Europe. They are run or dominated by politicians who consider migration the number one topic on today's public affairs. Not Europe's relative economic decline, not the crisis of the liberal democratic model, not Russian aggression, not the Chinese threat, not even global warming. What really matters for them is the immigration from the Middle East and Africa. In 2015, the worst year of the refugee crisis, this meant 1.3 million asylum seekers, less than 0.3 percent of the EU's population. The adherents of this political ideology say this is more than Europe can manage. They say it means nothing less than a mortal danger to our welfare, to law and order, to Christianity, and in general, to the time-honoured European way of life.
Now there are politicians and parties all over Europe who make this their central issue; but only in these same few countries do they have government power. Namely, Austria, Germany (Bavaria), Hungary, Italy, and Slovenia, where Janez Janša won the elections after an anti-immigration campaign, and is about to form a government.
How can we explain this literal mapping between blindness to Russian subversion (or even cooperation) and making immigration the crucial issue in politics? There is, of course, no evidence for engineering this political strategy in some secret Muscovite headquarters. But it is no coincidence either. The purpose is there.
It was Hungary's PM Viktor Orbán, who effectively declared war on "liberals" and "68ers", by whom he means the European centrist political elite, caricatured here as post-modern leftists, who want to transfer Europe to a "post-Christian" (i.e., Muslim), and "post-national" age. He wants to achieve this through defeating them at the 2018 European elections. How? "It's time." Orbán says in the same speech at Tusványos, "that the European election should be really about one big, serious, common European issue, that is, immigration and [our] future in relation to it". In short, by making immigration the main theme of European politics.
Orbán wants to define the field and mode of the political fight, in which he and his allies have a greater chance to oust or at least seriously weaken the present-day liberal democratic EU elite, which is, of course, a Muscovite aim. "Liberal democracy" meaning not a post-modern leftist cabal working on the demise of Europe but rather what Article 2 of the EU Treaties describes like this: "The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values are common to the Member States in a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail."
For the moment, Orbán has little chance to lead a victorious illiberal army either by taking over his own alliance, the European People's Party, or by creating a task force from fringe "populist" parties. But a lot of surprises may come before May 2019, especially as Orbán's, Kneissl's, Salvini's (etc.) Big Brother is especially well-versed in the ignoble art of provokatsiya.