Vyacheslav Likhachev, well-known international expert on issues of far right movements and minority rights, kindly accepted the offer of 112 International to present his opinion concerning activity of far right movements in Europe. In his exclusive interview, Vyacheslav unveils the causes and details of rise of popularity of far right politicians in the EU and their connection with the Russian authorities.
Many observers state about the renaissance of the far right in Europe - referring to results of the elections in France, Hungary, to the same "Golden Dawn" in Greece, and so on. As researcher of the problem, what main causes of this can you name?
Each country has its own specific reasons. If you generalize across the whole Europe, there are two main points that determine the growth of the far right in recent years. On the one hand, it’s growth of Eurosceptic attitudes and crisis of united Europe as the political idea, on the other – it’s spread of migrant-phobic and Islamophobic sentiments among the population. It happens against the background of real migration, social, and demographic processes and in connection with the recent crisis in the Middle East. Growth in the number of refugees and asylum seekers in Europe from Syria and other countries raises the fear and rejection of the share part of European population.
And if we talk about the rise of not just the far right, but the very neo-Nazi movements, like the "Golden Dawn", how Euroscepticism comes in conjunction with this and encourages such things?
"Golden Dawn" is the most radical of the modern European parliamentary ultra-right parties, perhaps the only one that can truly be called the neo-Nazi one.
Greece is still quite the specific case, because of the gravity of economic situation and problems in relations with Europe. But, after all, the common point for all European countries is that the nationalists are worried that the EU member countries delegate part of their national sovereignty to supranational pan-European structures. In the case of Greece, in the perception of people, heightened by economic crisis, it is refracted as dictate of the EU, which forces to pay debts, accumulated as a result of the Union’s previous policy.
These general framing motives are common; they just multiplied by the specificity and complexity of the situation. And Greece is also the country with severe social and migration crisis, which stimulates the high level of migrant-phobia. The "Golden Dawn" was directly involved into the number of acts of violence against migrant workers in previous years, so this connection is quite transparent in this case.
Representatives of the "Golden Dawn" performing the Nazi salute
Regarding migrants. Earlier this topic was permanently present, but we saw the high tide of refugees this summer. Could this push to the further radicalization of the far right?
I am afraid that it will lead to further increase of their popularity. The problem must be understood in the complex: on the one hand, this is a dramatic increase in the number of refugees because of war in Syria, on the other hand, intensification of jihadist movements in Europe is very possible. The latter manifested itself in a number of high-profile terrorist attacks - in France, in Belgium, in other countries.
There is no clear direct connection, but these processes are parallel. The influx of refugees, for sure, is related to strengthening of the "Islamic State" in Libya and Iraq, and propaganda of this and other structures causes activation of terrorism in Europe.
For an average European, these processes are mixed, and people perceive the influx of refugees as a threat of radical jihadist terrorist elements’ penetration. The simplest thing that appears in mind in this situation - they must be kept away from the country, it is necessary to be tougher to them. This is exactly what the far right politicians offer.
Relations between the European far right movements and Russia - is this "marriage of convenience", true love, or direct subordinate relationship?
There is a set of complex factors, unique in every separate case. On the one hand it is undeniable that Kremlin is funding a number of far-right groups from Hungary to France, this is the documented data. The Kremlin is interested in the growth of the far right in Europe. Firstly, because they are Eurosceptic, and Kremlin does not want to confront Europe as a whole, it is more convenient to deal with each individual country.
On the other hand, there is a very sincere sympathy of the extreme right to Kremlin, because the latter in their view implements a kind of their anti-American conservative utopia. Putin, who firmly acts against his own terrorists-jihadists, who prevents all sorts of "debauchery" and rampant of human rights of different minorities, unacceptable to the conservative mind, who builds the sovereign orthodox conservative empire - this image is very attractive for European far-right, it effects their ideological aspirations. This is in tune with their conservative, somewhat archaic (partly religious, partly imperial) ideological project.
Also, very "cool" is that Putin does not take into consideration any international rules, and acts according to his understanding of national interests. It is a dream for any far-right politician.
In addition, Putin is in a tough confrontation with America, and this fuels sympathy to him, because anti-American feelings are also something that largely feeds ultra-right attitudes in Europe.