Ruslan Moldovanov on the LDPR leader’s recent meeting with foreign nationalists in Moscow in the context of Russian cooperation with far-right politicians in Europe for Riddle
On July 2, Vladimir Zhirinovsky opened the second “International Congress of Peace-Loving Forces” in the State Duma. The grandiose name did not suit the scale of the event as representatives of little-known radical parties and leaders of nationalist organizations gathered in a small conference room. The meeting might have gone unnoticed, if not for the recent wave of corruption scandals about Russia’s ties to nationalist populists in Italyand Austria. The increasing popularity of the League in Italy and the Austrian Freedom Party earned them cooperation agreements with United Russia (the Austrians signed the agreement in December 2016, the Italians in March 2017), while the leader of the French National Rally party, Marine Le Pen, personally met with Putin. The people who met at Zhirinovsky’s congress may be on the political fringes, but they are useful actors for the Kremlin’s foreign policy in their own way.
Who was at the Moscow congress?
This is the sixth time that Zhirinovsky has gathered foreign far-right politicians for a congress in Moscow. Back in 1992, he suggested creating a Moscow Center for Right-Wing Forces to the then-leader of the National Front, Jean-Marie Le Pen, who showed little enthusiasm for the project. The LDPR leader returned to the idea in 2002. Then Saddam Hussein generously sponsored European nationalists for the creation of an anti-war coalition. Three months before the American invasion of Iraq, the “International Congress of Patriotic Parties” was held in Moscow, but this did not help Hussein. Zhirinovsky’s party made gains through lobbying, but this was hardly a project for Russian foreign policy that could be helpful to the Kremlin. But in post-Crimean Russia, the meetings have acquired a new meaning. Zhirinovsky saw them as an opportunity to become a “mediator” and acquire something rather valuable – a network of foreign politicians who are willing to participate in Kremlin projects.
After 2014, this format of cooperation with foreign politicians gained popularity. In 2015, the “International Conservative Forum” was held in St. Petersburg, organized by functionaries of the far-right Rodina party. With the financial support of businessman Konstantin Malofeev, large forums on topics such as “Large Families and the Future of Humanity” have been held, as well as smaller ‘august gatherings’ by personal invitation. As chairman of the State Duma, Sergei Naryshkin held four international parliamentary forums attended by European nationalists.
Zhirinovsky opened this year’s congress “for peace” with a proposal to introduce proportional electoral systems and remove electoral thresholds in all countries, measures which would make it much easier for radical parties to enter parliament. The head of the LDPR also demanded “immunity” for legislators wishing to visit any foreign country (since 2014, Zhirinovsky himself has been under EU sanctions and cannot travel to Europe).
But most of the congress’s participants came to Moscow for other purposes – if not for financial support, then organizational, moral and symbolic. For Paul Golding’s “Britain First” movement, the congress was its largest international event since Trump’s scandalous retweet of anti-Muslim videos from the account of the organization’s deputy head, Jaida Franzen, in November 2017. The russophile Chris Roman, leader of the small Belgian organization, Euro-Rus, and former member of the Flemish Interest nationalist party, delivered a speech on Russian-European integration to bring about a “white Europe” from Gibraltar to Vladivostok. Representatives of the far-right from the German National Democratic Party, Karl Richter and Florian Stein, asked Russia to “be more active” and start a second offensive against Western liberalism. The head of the Polish fascist organization “Falanga”, Bartosz Bekier, made an appeal to rally against liberals and globalists. He himself had already visited Syria and the Donbas – pockets of resistance to Western imperialism, according to his worldview.
The meeting was also attended by the leader of the Japanese far-right party, Issui-Kai: Kimura Mitsuhiro. He has made regular visits to Russia since the beginning of the 2000s, and in August 2010 he himself brought the European far-right together in Tokyo, to Zhirinovsky’s dismay. Mitsuhiro is well-versed in European politics, having read Oswald Spengler, Alfred Rosenberg and Karl Schmitt, so he had a common language with the German Karl Richter, who wrote about him on Facebook. After the congress, they met with former State Duma Deputy Speaker Sergei Baburin in his office alongside the rest of the group. Baburin first made contact with European nationalists in the mid-2000s, and in 2017 he was elected the leader of the “International Slavic Council”, which holds international congresses for Pan-Slavists. The Brits did not go to the meeting and instead went to the Red Square to take pictures at the mausoleum and St. Basil’s Cathedral. On Telegram, Paul Golding published a long post admiring Moscow’s cleanliness and well-kept condition in contrast to the decadence of London.
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