Before the 2016 election, before the hacking investigations and partisan rhetoric, the Alt-right cultivated an important connection in the Russian far right: Aleksandr Dugin. The Alternative Right blog, where the movement’s ideology was first solidified, features 28 posts tagged to Dugin, including multiple interviews and features. Richard Spencer, who started the blog, first coined the term Alt-right, and often serves as a spokesman for the movement, is married to Nina Kouprianova, a commenter for Russia Today, who has worked as a translator of Dugin’s works. Other prominent figures in the Alt-right have also demonstrated familiarity with Dugin. When Matthew Heimbach launched the white nationalist Traditionalist Youth Network in 2015, he featured Dugin as a speaker. Jared Taylor has spoken at a conference linked to the Russian far right party Rodina (a party in which Dugin once sought a parliamentary deputy position).
Dugin’s philosophy has its roots in Eurasianist ideology, which emerged in the early 1900s as an alternative to the Bolshevik project. Largely ignored until the fall of the Soviet Union, Eurasianists envisioned a Russia with highly centralized, authoritarian rule, an expansionist foreign policy, and a culture that borrowed from both European and Asian elements. Dugin sees Russia and the United States as opposing forces that cannot coexist in perpetuity; one state must eventually overtake the other. For Russia to emerge victorious in the coming battle, a conservative revolution must take place, and Dugin modeled his ideal revolution after the Nazi-sponsored Italian Social Republic of Salò. Dugin found particular inspiration in the Ahnenerbe vision of a postwar Europe, which planned for German-subservient, ethnically separated feudal states. While Dugin draws inspiration from elements of Eurasianist thought, he is much more expansionist than his predecessors. Dugin would see Russian borders incorporating all former Soviet states, Manchuria, Xinjiang, Tibet, and Mongolia, with the European Union possibly serving as a protectorate.
Dugin’s 1997 book, Foundations of Geopolitics, outlined his vision for achieving Russian primacy. In the book, which has become required reading in the Russian General Staff Academy, Dugin described how Russia can dismantle the U.S. through the formation of axes with Berlin, Tokyo, and Tehran, offering enticements in the form of support and territory to each respective state in exchange for allegiance. He also suggested that Russia utilize its operatives to encourage separatism within the U.S. by fomenting tensions between whites and ethnic minorities in an effort to both destabilize U.S. institutions and encourage the implementation of isolationist policies. Dugin is the creator of the Eurasianist Youth Union, a network of education centers promoting his ideology with 47 offices throughout Russia, Poland, and Turkey.
Whether or not the ethno-state advocating Alt-right is the manifestation of Dugin’s plot to drive a wedge in American unity, his influence within the group, and similar movements across Europe, is clearly felt. And, as the Alt-right has grown in popularity, so has its overseas connections. Heimbach dedicated his honeymoon to touring Europe and speaking to nationalist movements, including Greece’s Golden Dawn, and Spencer has published coverage of the Golden Dawn on the Alternative Right blog. The group has sought ties with UKIP, Alternative for Germany, Party for Freedom Party (Netherlands), Italy’s 5 Star Movement, and Alt-right members regularly interact online with members of European far right groups.
Importantly, Spencer and the Alt-right are considered the North American link to the Identitarian Movement popular in France, Germany, and Austria, of which Aleksandr Dugin is also considered a prominent figure. The Identitarian movement originated in France in the early 2000s, and uses highly stylized propaganda and carefully crafted events to spread anti-immigration and anti-Muslim sentiment throughout Europe. The group often links its anti-immigration ideology with causes more palatable to the wider public, such as framing their fight against Islam as the promotion of women’s rights and encouraging African migrants to return to Africa in order to reverse “brain drain” in the continent. Comprised of a youth branch, Génération Identitaire, and an adult branch, Bloc Identitaire, the movement has been more action-oriented than its American counterpart, staging marches, protests, conferences, and occupations. Among its many actions, the group has padlocked a Muslim school in Rotterdam, occupied a Mosque in Poitiers (chosen for its historic linkage to the Battle of Tours), and stormed the headquarters of the French Socialist Party. Such events were detailed triumphantly in a speech by French Identitarian Leader Philippe Vardon, which was republished on the Alternative Right blog. The group plans events aimed at subtly encouraging the mistrust of migrants; Identitarians in Germany have met to distribute tear gas to female pedestrians, suggesting they needed protection from newly arrived immigrants.
Former Republican Congressional aide Mike Lofgren, writing in The Atlantic, likens the increasingly networked nature of American and European white nationalist groups to a modern-day “comintern.” In his view, this comintern has manifested as a transnational right wing movement, with Russia facilitating the spread of nationalist, isolationist ideology in the hopes of countering Western influence in the international system, and weakening the position and expansion of NATO. As evidence of this connection, Logfren points to Russia’s partial financing of France’s National Front, and appearances by right wing figures, such as UKIP’s Nigel Farage, on state-sponsored television station Russia Today.
Assumptions about mainstream Russia’s intent may be conjecture at this point—Dugin’s views clearly lie in the fringe of political discourse–but weakened Western influence in the wake of an isolationist pivot would have obvious benefits for Moscow. Likewise, nationalist groups benefit from the connections and resources the Russian far right can provide. And at the center of this mutually beneficial relationship sits Aleksandr Dugin.
This piece is an excerpt from Emily Fox’s Master’s Project at Seton Hall University. For more information contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Emily Fox is the Editor-in-Chief for the Journal of Diplomacy and International Relations. She graduated from Western Kentucky University with a double major in Photojournalism and Religious Studies and is currently pursuing a M.A. in Diplomacy and International Relations at Seton Hall University, where she is specializing in Foreign Policy Analysis and International Security.
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