figures on the new right sold their already discounted souls to
Vladimir Putin over the last decade. Now, after the invasion of
Ukraine revealed Putin’s true political colors to almost
everyone who’d previously been in denial, it has been grimly
amusing to watch these right-wing opportunists try to explain away
all the fawning quotes and damning pictures.
of the greatest offenders—Marine Le Pen in France, Matteo
Salvini in Italy, Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, the UK’s
Nigel Farage—have spent the last three weeks trying to reinvent
themselves as staunch defenders of Ukraine. A select few have doubled
down on their idiocy, chief among them Thierry
in the Netherlands and Tucker Carlson from the land of Fox News.
White nationalists aside, Putin’s once formidable alliance of
global sympathizers has been hemorrhaging support by the day.
overreach in Ukraine may ultimately prove his political demise. But
has the alt-right, in losing a massive political gamble, also earned
a return ticket to the fringes from whence it came?
Far Right’s Dilemma
used to be the Mecca of the far right. Any figure with hopes of
making a name in right-wing politics was once desperate to shake
hands with Vladimir Putin, snag a photo, and establish some kind of
tie with Putin’s political party, United Russia.
Salvini, for instance, used anti-immigration sentiment to transform
Lega from a splinter group of northern separatists to a far-right
force in Italian politics. In 2017, Salvini traveled to Moscow to
a cooperation agreement with United Russia, which included a pledge
to work on removing sanctions against Russia for its seizure of
Crimea and actions in the Donbas. Putin’s plan at the time:
into Lega to amplify its voice as a Russian mouthpiece.
Lega has fallen from its top position in the polls last April to
third place. The neo-fascist Brothers of Italy is still number two,
behind the social democrats, so the far right is still strong in
Italian politics. But Salvini’s pro-Russian tilt may well spell
the end of his political career.
casualty might be Viktor Orbán, the prime minister of Hungary.
Elections are coming up on April 3, and the opposition is hot on
Orbán’s heels. Quite a few members of Fidesz, Orbán’s
party, have had a hard time pivoting from their knee-jerk pro-Putin
positions. Supporters of opposition leader Peter Marki-Zay have
with their posters that urge voters to choose between “Putin or
Europe.” Anti-Russian sentiment, which Orbán used to
fuel his own rise to prominence in the late 1980s, may prove in the
end to be his undoing.
Orbán falls, it will be a major defeat for the alt-right,
to Budapest to pay homage to Putin’s water-carrier in the
European Union. Tucker Carlson broadcast a full week of his show from
Hungary last summer with one episode on Orbán’s
anti-immigration policies entitled “Why Can’t We Have
This in America?” Later this month, the Conservative Political
Action Committee is scheduled to descend on Budapest to give a Orbán
a final, pre-election boost, but it might be too late.
Narendra Modi threw his fortunes in with Putin in part because of
their shared distaste for liberalism—Modi also befriended
Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro—
but also because of India’s longstanding military and economic
ties to Russia. The invasion of Ukraine has forced Modi to choose
between his Russian ally and pretty much the rest of the world. So
far, Modi has held off on sanctions and criticism of the invasion.
But like China, India will come under increasing pressure to fall in
line with the economic pressure on Putin or face an ostracism of its
elections aren’t until October, and Lula continues
well ahead of Bolsonaro. The war in Ukraine won’t help Brazil’s
strong-arm president. While virtually all other world leaders were
distancing themselves from Putin in the run-up to the invasion of
Ukraine, Bolsonaro traveled to Moscow in a very public display of
support. Since the invasion, he has declared Brazil’s
“neutrality.” Being tarred as Putin’s “man”
in Latin America may not do as much damage to the Brazilian far
right, however, as the economic
from the war, which will hit the country hard and make it very
difficult for Bolsonaro to catch up in the polls.
the United States, meanwhile, the far right faces a dilemma. White
nationalists still support Putin. Witness Nick Fuentes, the head of
the America First Political Action Committee. At AFPAC’s recent
gathering, held just days after the invasion, Fuentes appealed
to his audience: “Can we get a round of applause for Russia?”
The crowd chanted back: “Putin, Putin.” Then there’s
Tucker Carlson, who hasn’t stopped shilling for Putin after the
invasion, which has earned
much love from Russian state television. The far right that has
nested in the Republican Party has condemned the invasion, more
but has been decidedly
about providing aid to Ukraine.
are of course some Putin sympathizers on the left, but they are both
ignorant and ignorable. In the United States, only Tulsi
has any political following, and it’s miniscule. Given the
number of her appearances on Tucker Carlson’s show and her
in CPAC, I wouldn’t be surprised if she switches parties.
About Neo-Nazi Support for Ukraine?
neo-Nazis are heading to Ukraine to join their brothers-in-arms in
far-right military units. As Rita Katz writes
goal is not to defend Ukraine as we know it — a multiethnic,
democratically minded society led by a Jewish president. Some
neo-Nazis simply see this new war as a place to act out their violent
fantasies. For others, though, the force pulling them toward the
conflict is a shared vision for an ultranationalist ethno-state. They
see Ukraine as a golden opportunity to pursue this goal and turn it
into a model to export across the world.
let’s not exaggerate their influence. The vast majority of
those volunteering to fight in Ukraine have
to the extreme right.
there has been speculation that the war in Ukraine will be a boon for
the European far right, which will acquire combat experience fighting
a steady flow of military assistance from NATO nations, Ukraine will
soon become awash in weapons and ammunition. Given the presence of
Ukraine’s far-right military regiment the Azov Battalion and
its foreign supporters, these Western-supplied arms could easily land
in the hands of violent white supremacists and far-right insurgents,”
Benjamin Young in World
“In a bitter irony, Putin’s war of ‘denazification’
in Ukraine may actually produce a more emboldened and insurrectionist
global far right movement.”
true that the far-right Azov Battalion acquired considerable
political capital from its initial participation in the fight in the
Donbas. But that political influence faded to such an extent that
far-right political parties no longer have representation in the
yes, the far right will inevitably seek to exploit the current
conflict. But residual
affections for Putin
and the limited appeal of far-right sentiment in Ukraine will hamper
this effort to take over the country.
is dead outside of Russia.
ideological assault on democracy, which is the core of his worldview,
is revealed as morally bankrupt every time a photo of a bombed
apartment building in Kyiv appears on the news or civilian casualties
from a destroyed hospital somewhere in Ukraine are tabulated.
could once claim to “own” the leaders of the United
States, India, Hungary, Brazil, and Austria. He is now a political
liability to virtually everyone outside of Syria, Belarus, and
Nicaragua. He has forfeited the title of spiritual head of the
Euroskeptical movement. He can no longer count on support from
illiberal leaders in Eastern Europe. His effort to establish a
beachhead in the United States ended when Trump left office.
Putin, the alt-right lacks an international leader. Subtract Trump
from America, Orbán from Hungary, Salvini from Italy, and
Bolsonaro from Brazil, and Steve
Bannon’s Nationalist International
looks about as robust as Bannon’s own reputation.
alt-right’s demise does not, however, mean that democracy will
thrive in its wake. The Ukrainian debacle is a sad commentary on the
fragility of international law and international institutions as well
as the long odds that democracies face against determined and
ruthless authoritarians. The hypocrisies of the West—around
NATO expansion, immigration, economic inequality, and climate
change—certainly don’t help.
maybe, just maybe, if Ukraine can survive this conflict with its
political structures reasonably intact, it will inspire people
everywhere to fight for democratic principles. From the Euromaidan
protests on, Ukrainians have wanted democracy in their own country
and an opportunity to join with other European democracies. An
possible compromise—a neutral Ukraine on its way toward EU
membership—would preserve its democracy from both Putin’s
real, existing militarism and NATO’s encroaching militarism.
primary target has been the democratic will of a sovereign people.
The alt-right, with its racist authoritarianism, has a similar aim to
undermine democracy. Let’s hope that Ukrainian resistance
drives a stake through the heart of both Putinism and the alt-right
once and for all.