The international far right has paid close attention to the conflict in Ukraine and has responded in an uneven fashion. Russia’s invasion, viewed variously as a conflict over self-determination, Western imperialism, globalism and liberal values, has been a particularly fraught and complex topic for the far right.
In the latest entry in a series of articles exploring the relationship between the UK far right and Russia, we take a look at Patriotic Alternative, the largest and most active fascist group in the UK..
During the Cold War period, the European and American far right widely regarded Russia as a military and ideological enemy, often portraying it as a nation under the thrall of Jewish influence and the primary threat on the world stage.
However, since the fall of the Soviet Union, and especially since Putin returned to the presidency in 2012, large sections of the far right in Europe and the US have come to consider Russia a counterweight to Western liberalism, which they believe to be the root of supposed cultural and racial decline in “white” nations. Putin’s adoption of increasingly authoritarian, anti-progressive, nationalistic and anti-Western rhetoric and policies have been viewed a bulwark against globalisation and alleged Jewish influence, with modern Russia perceived as a stronghold of “traditional” values and European whiteness.
Hoping to find influential allies, far-right activists across the West have attempted to cultivate links to Russian groups, one British example being Nick Griffin, former leader of the British National Party. Griffin has described Putin as “tower[ing] above all the other national leaders of this century” and made a number of visits to Russia both during and following his leadership of the BNP, speaking at far-right conferences and claiming to be working towards “peace between Russia and the occupied West”.
Whilst Griffin is now a highly marginal figure in the UK, pro-Putin sentiment has also been notably widespread amongst the “alt-right”, a loose, tech-savvy, international far-right movement that mobilised around Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. One such British figure is the influential blogger “Morgoth”, who in 2018 favourably compared Putin’s Russia to the UK, writing: “The Russian people are not responsible for unending, genocidal levels of Third World immigration and Vladimir Putin did not cover up the mass rape of English girls by those Third World peoples.”
Patriotic Alternative (PA), which has united the dregs of the BNP with a younger generation of alt-right activists, is similarly Russophile in outlook. PA leader Mark Collett, a former protégé and now a bitter enemy of Griffin, believes Putin to be sympathetic towards white nationalism and admires his leadership style, commenting:
“Putin, whether you like him or not, he is a real man […] he inspires respect. And if I met him, I think I’d be quite in awe of him […] He’s likeable, he’s relatable”.
In Collett’s eyes, Putin’s Russia defends “ethnic Russians” and safeguards “healthy moral values, traditional family gender roles” against Jewish attempts to weaken white nations:
“Soros and his buddies are trying to literally turn Russia into another America. They want Russia to be infected with the moral poison that we’ve been infected with. And one thing that I really admire about Putin, is Putin is a kind of bulwark against that. He pushes back against that. He is pro the Russian orthodoxy.”
Collett has sought to downplay Putin’s human rights abuses, arguing that he is being smeared by a hypocritical, oppressive Western establishment, instead positioning himself and other “political dissidents” as the true victims of state oppression.
Some PA figures have even boasted of their connections to the far right in the region. Fenek Solère, the Welsh pseudo-intellectual who dominates the PA blog and claims to have lived in both St Petersburg and Kiev, set his 2017 novel Rising in “a post-Putin Russia weakened by corruption and vice and beset with globalist subversion, Muslim insurrection, and Chinese colonization”. The blurb states that the book draws on Solère’s “years of experience in the underworld of the Russian far Right”. Solère, who is more sceptical of Putin than Collett, has elsewhere claimed he has “fraternized” with “acolytes” of the Russian far-right thinker Aleksandr Dugin, and to have “had drinks with pro-Bandera militia” in the Ukrainian city of Lviv.
Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has, of course, greatly widened the existing rift between Russia and Western democracies, pushing the international far right to choose sides. Whilst some have sided with the Ukrainian people and/or gravitated towards Ukraine’s fascist militias, the underlying admiration of Putin within PA has fed an instinctive support of the invasion among much of the membership, with the Ukrainian state painted as a stooge of NATO and the war as a struggle over the encroachment of liberalism and Western/Jewish influence in the East.
Collett quickly took a strongly pro-Russian stance, releasing a video titled “NATO is to blame for the Conflict in Ukraine” in which he claims that “the position of Vladimir Putin and the Russian government is completely understandable” in light of NATO transgressions. He also wrote in a widely-circulated statement on Telegram:
“NATO’s role in Eastern Europe is to facilitate American imperialism – something which I wholeheartedly oppose. Where ever American imperialism takes root, with it comes an entire range of social poisons that attack the moral fabric of the nation – feminism, the LGBT agenda, attacks on the traditional family and of course, anti-white rhetoric and policy […] Whilst the last thing I want to see is white people killing other white people in another pointless war, I completely understand Russia’s position on this matter; as Russia is simply attempting to secure their security and national interests by preventing NATO expanding ever-closer to their borders.”
Whilst Collett staunchly defends Putin’s actions, others have lightly qualified their support. For example, the pseudonymous streamer “Ayatollah” has claimed that “As flawed as Putin and his agenda are, the Ukrainians as a people will be much better off in the Russian sphere of influence than they would in that of NATO/ZOG” (ZOG refers to Zionist Occupied Government, far right shorthand for the supposed Jewish conspiracy). He also claimed that “NATO (and hence, ZOG)” desires to see Ukraine “flooded with and colonised by millions of aggressive, emboldened foreigners”.
The fact that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has Jewish heritage has been seized upon as proof of the government’s corruption and malign intent; for example, PA London streamer Ryan Williams (AKA Nativist Concern) has claimed that “Zelensky’s Jewish mafia” has “pillaged” the nation.
Whilst Collett and many of his comrades have quickly disregarded the far-right imperative “no more brother wars”, a slogan used by PA and other far-right groups to express their supposed commitment to peace between European nations, others within PA have lamented the human cost, believing the invasion to be a disastrous misstep and/or the product of a conspiracy. Solère wrote on the PA website on 25 February:
“So, let me make my position clear, war between two majority white countries should be avoided at all costs, especially when the greater threat to our civilization (diverse as it is) comes from China, Islam and the burgeoning birth rates of the African continent […] Ukraine has the right to be independent and Putin’s Russia has the right to be worried about NATO’s encirclement but I think it will be the Imams of the caliphate and Xi Jinping who will have the last laugh”.
Two days later, he described the conflict as “a human catastrophe unfolding on our very own doorstep” and a “predictable and avoidable conflagration”, writing that “Putin’s troops [are] destroy[ing] the moral high ground the Russian’s [sic] once ‘owned’ in relation to NATO’s seduction of an all too willing Ukraine”.
Solère’s is a minority view within PA, however. Collett and much of his fascist organisation believe Putin to be the world leader to whom they are closest ideologically, admiring his illiberalism, anti-Westernism and authoritarianism, so have instinctively backed his aggression on the geopolitical stage, excusing, minimising or ignoring the human cost.
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