Another Example of Growing Nationalism (and the Putin Connection)
The leader of the Austrian far-right Freedom Party has signed what he called a cooperation agreement with Russia’s ruling party and recently met with Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, the designated national security adviser to President-elect Donald J. Trump of the United States.
Word of the agreement with Russia was the latest sign that the Kremlin is forging bonds with political parties across Europe in what some European leaders suspect is a coordinated attempt to meddle in their affairs and potentially weaken Western democracies. Many of these efforts are murky and involve obscure groups, and it is unclear whether President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has any direct involvement.
The Freedom Party, founded in the 1950s by ex-Nazis, surged this year to nearly capture the largely ceremonial presidency of Austria in May, but was defeated in a final runoff on Dec. 4. Still, its ascendance, alongside the rise of rightist parties in many European countries and with Mr. Trump’s victory, has raised new questions about political realignment across the continent.
This is not a comforting set of issues: the rise of nationalism in Europe, which the Russian government seems to see as a means of increasing their influences in region (if anything by dminishing the appeal of liberal democracy). This is being further encouraged by the fact that a right-wing nationalist is now the President-elect of the United States.
A text of the cooperation agreement, published in Russian on the website of United Russia and in German on the website of an Austrian journalist, Claus Pandi, outlined plans for regular meetings and collaboration where suitable on economic, business and political projects. It said the accord was valid for five years, but was not legally binding.
It was signed for United Russia by Sergei Zheleznyak, a deputy to the party’s general secretary who is among the Russian officials barred from the United States since March 2014 for supporting the Russian actions in Crimea.
Aside from sowing domestic ferment in Austria, a Freedom Party-led government would press to lift the sanctions imposed on Moscow for its 2014 seizure of Crimea and meddling in war-torn eastern Ukraine. On Facebook, Mr. Strache said Monday that having the United States and Russia stand together would be important to solving the crises in Syria and Crimea and “to get rid of the sanctions that damage the economy and are in the end useless.”
Scenarios such as this make it pretty clear why Russia preferred Trump to Clinton.