It is well-known that reactionary political parties are on the rise across Europe. So far this trend has been treated as minimal and temporary as if there is nothing to worry about. But what effect will Russia’s behavior have on the radically-minded political forces in Europe?
The annexation of Crimea and Russia’s sponsorship of separatism and terrorism in eastern parts of Ukraine demonstrate that Russia has become an exporter of aggression and radicalism. Russian foreign policy and its behavior in Ukraine is inspiring further increase in the radicalization of Europe. While Russia is quick to accuse other countries of nationalism it is precisely the one who is the most fertile breeding ground for extreme nationalism. Europe needs to take it very seriously. Crimea in itself is not a destabilizing factor for the security of Europe. It should be treated primarily as a symptom, an expression of the root cause of the real threat that is going to hit Europe soon. The name of this threat is Russian doctrine of greatness, its ‘Russikiy mir’ civilization, its Eurasianism, its messianic nationalism.
The Political Capital Policy Research Institute based in Budapest issued a study that shows Russia’s active involvement with the European far-right parties. We have already seen many cases of support emanating from the leaders of the European far-right parties toward Vladimir Putin. Bulgarian nationalist Ataka (Attack) Party, headed by Volen Siderov, participates in inter-parliamentary cooperation with Russian Duma. Ataka’s website proudly states that the party has launched its campaign for the European Parliament elections from Moscow. Hungarian nationalist Jobbik party has praised the Crimea referendum as “the triumph of a community’s self-determination.” Marine Le Pen, head of the France’s far-right National Front, met with Sergei Naryshkin, speaker of the Russian Duma on April 12, 2014, declaring that she believes that Russia is being unfairly demonized by the EU.
Moreover, representatives of the such nationalist European parties like Hungary’s Jobbik and Greece’s Golden Dawn have been invited to participate in the Russian National Forum to be held on October 4th in St.Petersburg. All of this indicates that Russia is creating a network of nationalist and radical parties across Europe to undermine or even split up the European Union. This could be done either as a retaliation for the break-up of the Soviet Union, which Putin considers the greatest tragedy of the 20th century, or as a strategy to move forward Russia’s own improbable creation — the Eurasian Union. Perhaps even both. Regardless of the reasons, we are witnessing a dangerous civilizational struggle on the European continent, not merely a territorial conflict with Ukraine.
The defining elements of Russia’s struggle against the democratic world are radicalism, messianic nationalism, militarism, and revisionism. Russia is fueling the rise of Euroscepticism and radicalism across Europe in order for its own collective authoritarian model to succeed over the individualistic democratic model of the West.
The annexation of Crimea is a victorious symbol that will reinforce to Europe’s far-right parties that Russia is a strong partner they can rely on to carry forward their agenda. Russia’s actions in eastern parts of Ukraine are going to be seen by the radical political groups in Europe as a window of opportunity to advance their views with more vigor and determination. The elections to the European Parliament to be held on May 22-25 will be a real test for the united Europe because many nationalist parties are expected to make gains. If Russia’s project to fuel radicalism in Europe is effective, Putin’s influence over the continent will strengthen, inviting a very dark future.