Russia

Neo-Nazism now a part of Russia Today

The Interpreter online current affairs magazine recently ran a feature on a neo-Nazi who represents Germany on the Kremlin’s propaganda TV channel Russia Today (RT). Now the Interpreter discusses another right-wing extremist who appears regularly on the same channel. It seems that the Moscow  authorities have no qualms about associating themselves with some of the most vicious racist and extremist movements in Europe and the United States. A few years ago, I would not have believed that this was possible – but now it’s plain for everyone to see.

The rise of antisemitism in Russia and the crisis in Ukraine

The Winnipeg Media Centre has published an analysis of the Putin regime’s campaign of disinformation and defamation against Ukraine, the basis of which is an attempt to incriminate the Ukrainian government and people with the charge of organized antisemitism. In fact, as the analysis shows, the rise of antisemitism is taking place not in Ukraine but in neighboring Russia, where officially sponsored fascist and neo-Nazi ideology is creating a situation not unlike the one that existed in Germany during the 1930s.

The analysis is divided into three sections:

The first section gives the view of the Ukrainian Jewish community and of organizations that monitor human rights. It is clear from these articles that Jews in Ukraine see neither the current Ukrainian government nor the groups that brought about the change of government as a danger.  On the contrary, they are unanimous in the view that the biggest threat to the safety and security of Jewish people in Ukraine comes from the militant separatists backed by the Russian state.

The second section presents articles by scholars who are following events in the Donbas area and in Russia. These researchers are among many who warn of an alarming rise in chauvinistic and xenophobic attitudes in Russia. They are particularly worried by the rise of fascist groups supported by the government, and by the development of a fascist ideology in circles close to Putin.

The third section presents articles that indicate what we can expect from governing circles in Moscow, and raises broader issues in connection with Putin’s propaganda campaign.

The failed lingua franca

Leonidas Donskis, writing in New Eastern Europe:

The Russian language could have become a lingua franca of Eastern Europe. It failed irreversibly precisely because Putin and his regime stripped the political vocabulary of Russia of its potent moral imagination and alternative potential. What is left is not even the banality of evil practiced by the Kremlin with no impunity and in the moral and political void created by the West and its impotence – the West that attempts to reset relations with a regime hostile to every single political and moral sensitivity of the EU and the US. Instead, it is the evil of banality whose essence lies in exercising power for no meaningful reason and with no love for humanity.

Armed in Error

In the belief that Russia could be drawn into greater military cooperation by “engagement” (an unclear term that can be interpreted several ways), Western countries, particularly Germany, directly supported and trained the Russian military – and this even continued until recently, when Russia began its attacks on Ukraine. An article by Josh Rogin in the Daily Beast states that in 2011, for example,

the German defense contractor Rheinmetall signed a $140 million contract to build a combat simulation training center in Mulino, in southwest Russia, that would train 30,000 Russian combat troops per year. While the facility wasn’t officially scheduled to be completed until later this year, U.S. officials believe that Germany has been training Russian forces for years.

Rheinmetall defended the project even after the invasion of Crimea, up until the German government finally shut it down late last month. But many tracking the issue within the U.S. government were not happy with Germany’s handling of the Russian contract, and worry that some of the training may have gone to the kind of special operations forces now operating in and around Ukraine.

Moreover, it also appears that the German help was going not only to Russia’s traditional armed forces but also in a high degree to the sophisticated GRU Spetsnaz units that are now being deployed in the new Russian strategy of intervening “on behalf” of Russian-speakers abroad whenever the latter claim discrimination. While it looks as though now the era of military cooperation with Russia is at an end, some observers are wondering whether the realization of what was really happening may have come too late.

Russia Today and Britain’s Far Right

In Searchlight on April 16, Gerry Gable noted that

A film crew from Russia’s RT Documentaries TV channel is coming to London on 19 April. Headed by producer Eldar Kazakov, they plan to interview representatives of as many far-right groups as possible for a long programme.

They approached Searchlight as they hoped we could give them contact details for some of these groups.

The article also mentions groups that RT don’t want to take part in the programme – these include the Traditional Britain Group and the Iona London Forum, which apparently have links with Vladimir Putin’s propagandist Alexander Dugin. As Gable observed:

Dugin is a close friend of Putin. I suggested Kazakov investigate Iona’s links not only with Dugin but with extreme right groups in Russia, Syria and Ukraine. Such a programme would be far more relevant than the one he was planning.

Putin has cultivated European extreme-right organisations and even invited their representatives to observe last month’s illegal referendum in Crimea.

Who is Fascist?

In this Al Jazeera article, Halya Coynash discusses the irony in the fact that accusations of “fascism” are being made against Ukraine by a Russian government that’s  increasingly establishing close links with the parties of the European far right. In addition,

A number of the main actors in the pro-Russian protests in the Donetsk region have strong links with far-right parties. Pavel Gubarev, for example, is a Donetsk business owner and the head of the “People’s Militia”. On March 1, he was supposedly elected “people’s governor” and led a crowd in storming the Donetsk regional administration building, demanding that a referendum be held on the oblast’s secession and calling for Russian military intervention. His detention was presented by Russian TV channels as politically motivated persecution. They preferred not to delve into Gubarev’s ideological roots as a member of the neo-Nazi Russian National Unity Party.