9 June 2017

Andreas Umland reviews my forthcoming book "Russia and the Western Far Right"

Andreas Umland's review* of my forthcoming book, Russia and the Western Far Right: Tango Noir, available for pre-order via Routledge and Amazon. (If you need a 20% discount for the pre-order via Routledge, give me your e-mail address in the comments section - it will not be published.)


This voluminous monograph deals not only with post-Soviet affairs, but also the Soviet period—namely the 1920s and 1950s when the Kremlin already had some secret contacts with West European right-wing extremists. While [Marlene] Laruelle’s volume [Eurasianism and the European Far Right] primarily details connections between Russia’s extremely anti-Western Eurasianists and the Western far right, the principal focus of [Anton] Shekhovtsov’s volume is the paradoxical collaboration of the Soviet and Putin regimes with various Western ultra-nationalists, and especially, during the last years, with those in Austria, Italy, and France. While Moscow was, after World War II and today still is, loudly “anti-fascist,” it has—in a variety of situations—not hesitated to contact, support, and utilize extremely right-wing extremists for various foreign and domestic purposes. Recently, this has included employing far-right commentators for propaganda and disinformation purposes in Kremlin-controlled mass media, or engaging Western fringe politicians as guests to manipulated elections in the role of foreign observers who legitimize, for Russia’s domestic audience, engineered polls, including pseudo-referenda, with affirmative public statements.

Shekhovtsov underlines the motivational ambivalence of the intensifying collaboration of the Kremlin with the Western far right—a dualism that reflects the Janus-like character of Putin’s cynical and postmodern, yet also sometimes fanatical and archaic, regime. On the one hand, Moscow behaves pragmatically when, in its capacity as a kleptocracy, it tries to establish as many as possible links to influential Western mainstream politicians and businesspeople, without regard to their political views or ideologies. The Kremlin only turns to various radicals in the West to the degree that it cannot build close relationships within the establishment in the respective countries, and when it can instead get access—sometimes via middlemen like Dugin—to alternative political circles. Moscow then also supports these often populist and nationalist forces as its allies and as troublemakers in the EU and Atlantic alliance.

On the other hand, however, Moscow’s growing international isolation and intensifying contacts with the far right, within and outside Russia, are also ideologically driven, and feed back into the self-definition of the regime. As an autocracy in need of consolidation, Putin’s regime is being naturally drawn—both domestically and internationally—to groups whose ideologies support illiberal policies and undemocratic practices. The far-right groups, in turn, profit from public alignment to the world’s territorially largest country and a nuclear superpower. The result have been, as Shekhovtsov outlines, constantly deepening relationships between Russian officials and Western far-right activists since the mid-2000s.
* This is an excerpt from Andreas Umland's review article "Post-Soviet Neo-Eurasianism, the Putin System, and the Contemporary European Extreme Right".

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