The rise of nationalistic and far-right movements across the European Union has become one of the main threats against an integrated future. With several causes and unpredictable consequences, who is to blame for turning ordinary Europeans into nationalists? Who is to gain? Russia, maybe?

The article was first published by Pax Politica.

 Russia’s interests lie in a weak and divided EU…


The rise of nationalistic and far-right movements across the European Union has become one of the main threats against an integrated future. With several causes and unpredictable consequences, who is to blame for turning ordinary Europeans into nationalists? Who is to gain? Russia, maybe?

The XX century’s history illustrates how a shift in power was shaping Europe. Although Germany started two World Wars to impose its rule over Europe, WWII divided the continent into Russian and Western spheres of influence.

The Soviet Union was a superpower at the time and with the support of the Warsaw Pact, it achieved an unprecedented role in the world. However, after the collapse of the U.S.S.R., many former members of Warsaw Pact aligned with the West and joined the E.U.

The world has certainly changed since then, but mainstream politics in Russia still considers the collapse of the Soviet Union as a tragedy.

Many see Russia as a successor of the U.S.S.R. as its foreign policy aims at re-establishing its former Union’s glory, the Georgian and Ukrainian wars being the obvious cases in point. Any more “hidden steps” are discovered with difficulty. However, it is hard to disagree with the notion that Russia interests lie in a weak and divided E.U. Why so?

Turning away from European integration would most probably mean a gravitation towards the second biggest player in the region – Russia. The collapse of the European Union would leave countries weak and uncertain about their future.

Any pieces of advice from Russia could push them into taking decisions with fatal consequences, given the country’s failing economy, lack of modern technology, and democracy in its society.

Amid a gradual erosion of beliefs in the European Union, Russian ideas continue to enjoy spiritual and cultural strength. The ‘fight of traditional orthodox values against an immoral West’ unites the population and invokes sacrifices of welfare for such a kind of moral satisfaction.

From an economic, geopolitical, and cultural point of view, a possible collapse of the E.U. would mean a stronger Russia that may propose some new projects aimed at a different kind of integration under Moscow’s leadership.

What might Russia do to reach its goal?

According to some scholars, Russia is responsible for fueling the rise of the far right and nationalistic parties within the E.U. France’s Front National, Belgium’s Vlaams Belang, Hungary’s Jobbik, Greece’s Golden Dawn, and/or Germany’s Die Linke have openly supported Russia’s actions in East Ukraine and Crimea. Moreover, leaders of the aforementioned parties met Russian politicians and advocates of a Eurasian Union a number of times.

Representatives of these parties were observers during the Crimean referendum, voted against the European Parliament’s resolution – “Priorities for E.U. relations with the Eastern partnership countries” – and related ones such as “Russian pressure on Eastern Partnership countries and in particular destabilization of eastern Ukraine”.

According to research, Russia is turning into a huge supporter of anti-human rights’ movements and is investing in political parties that are trying to “sabotage” democracy in Europe.

Russia’s mechanisms of destabilizing the European Union include supporting parties and friendly media on the margins, as well as creating pseudo-civil society organisations, NGOs, and think tanks focused on youth issues. Nevertheless, financial support for fringe parties in the E.U. is difficult to prove, judging by ongoing investigations being made by European and American intelligence agencies.

The mutual benefits of such a political partnership are far reaching. Far right parties gain ideological support and a powerful friend in the Kremlin while Russia receives diplomatic support, legitimacy in the form of political backing in the E.U. for its controversial actions, information, and friends, who seek to destabilize the Union from within.

In the beginning of 2016, U.S. intelligence agencies began conducting a major investigation over how the Russian Federation is infiltrating political parties in Europe. The scope of this investigation included far-right groups such as Jobbik in Hungary, Golden Dawn in Greece, the Northern League in Italy, and France’s Front National, that received a EUR 9 million loan from a Russian bank in 2014.

Extensive Russian links in Austria, such as a visit by Austrian MPs to Crimea endorsing its annexation, as well as cases of Russian spies discovered using Austrian papers, are to be monitored as part of the investigative process as well.

Russian intelligence combined with media tools such as worldwide TV network Russia Today, representing a powerful propaganda machine, to change Western perceptions. This is a chance to spread ideas beneficial to Russia’s future and nationalistic, anti-European Union voices.

These voices argue that Russia helped bolster the migration crisis through its military operations in  Syria. As more refugees enter the E.U., far-right parties are gaining high support from dissatisfied voters. Most of the present popular anti-European Union parties achieved success primarily on an anti-migrant platform.

Whether or not Russian support for the European far-right is real or possible, the European Union must exercise caution. Russia has a huge stake in a weak Europe and possesses dangerous mechanisms to make it happen.