The Kremlin Connection

Once again Russia is posing a threat to the western world. Putin’s aggressive foreign policy antagonized Russia for both the United States of America and the European Union. The high hopes after the fall of the Soviet Union are shattered, the democratic changes stopped and reversed ,and Russia is extending its influence towards the west. Georgia and Ukraine suffered the military actions of the bigger eastern neighbors, while the EU is beginning to experience Russia’s clandestine foreign policy.

Putin found allies in Europe’s far-right (in some cases arguably far-left) parties, which fiercely oppose pan-nationalistic tendencies such as the EU and NATO. These parties are vocal supporters of Putin’s political system and claim that alliance with Russia would help them gain independence from the economic and political clutches of the European Union. Russia supports these parties because they can lobby for its interests in the EU Parliament, thus weakening or stopping any action that aims to sanction Russia or to affect it negatively. The pro-Russian parties have spread throughout Europe, they can be found in Central-Eastern Europe as well as the western parts of the continent.

The aim of this article is to show Russia’s influence on the European Union through its support of far-right parties in various countries and also to provide background information on Russia’s foreign policy and the activism of the pro-Russian European parties.


Many things have happened since 1991 when the Soviet Union ceased to exist. New countries have sprung from the ruins, democratizations started in Russia, which tried to rebuild its economy. It is no longer one of the world powers in a bipolarized world. It is, however, still a dominant power, and it is trying to regain its past glory. Many things have changed but under the surface many things remained static. There are still Communist symbols at military parades1, but at least they can be explained by the fact that at the victory day march, people celebrate the victory of the Red Army. It is harder to explain the red stars and a picture of Lenin in the Red Star2 newspapers, which was the news portal of the Ministry of Defense of the USSR, now the newspaper of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation.

This is not to say that a new, communist dictatorship is likely to happen in Russia. It is not about communism or nationalism, but about power. Vladimir Putin, Russia’s charismatic president has pledged to restore the military power of his country to its past fame3.

Putin worked for the KGB and later for the Federal Security Services, so he is well-versed in the ways of the intelligence community. Therefore it is not surprising that Putin is pushing for a stronger spy network. There are talks about reopening a Russian spy base in Cuba4, which was used to intercept American communications. In Europe, Russia is using extremist parties to spy on and influence other counties.

According to a research done by the Hungary based Political Capital Policy Research and Consulting Institute, there are strongly pro-Russian parties in 15 EU member states5. These are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and the United Kingdom.

The situation in Ukraine fits perfectly into Russia’s plan to weaken the European Union. Using separatists, it disintegrates the country which was on its way to join the EU. Many European parties can be evaluated through their reactions to the Ukraine crisis. Observers of the Crimean referendum, invited there by the Russia based far-right non governmental organization called Eurasian Observatory for Democracy and Elections were members of far-right parties.

Russia’s foreign policy

Russia’s foreign policy in many ways continues in the wake of the Soviet Union – disregard for democratic principles, human rights and international law have often manifested itself in the countries’ policies.

Russia has renewed its hunger for being a more dominant world power and is using show of force to gain better place on the international stage of politics. In order to do that Russia has not refrained form using military actions, against for example Georgia or most recently Ukraine.

These actions also served to weaken Europe, which Russia sees as a political and economic threat. That is one of the reasons why Putin supports Euroskeptic and extremist parties – to destabilize the EU with internal struggles, and also to have parties which will represent Russian interest within the European Parliament.

Putin’s third term of presidency brought forth a renewed force in Russia’s foreign policies, and its endeavors towards an extensive Eurasian Union6, to rival the European Union.

Putin recognized that many European parties are not satisfied with how the EU works, and Russia positioned itself as an alternative choice, towards which discontented countries can run to.

It is in Russia’s interest to support Euroskeptic parties who will oppose sanctions against Russia and weaken the integrity of European politics.

Pro-Russian parties in the European Union

Dedicated pro-Russian parties


In Austria the Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs (Freedom Party Austria, FPÖ) has shown pro-Russian tendencies. The party was founded in 1956 and since then has gone through several ideological changes.  With various degrees of liberalism being present in the party’s ideology as well as an emphasis on individual freedom FPÖ is not a typical far-right party if we apply the term to other political entities, such as Hungary’s Jobbik. Nevertheless, FPÖ advocates pan-Germanism and anti immigration policies and is thus often branded as a far-right party by the media.

The crisis in Ukraine showed FPÖ true colors. MEP Andreas Mölzer said that “the EU has to keep out of the power struggle in Kiev”7 and also that the west should not interfere but Russia has a legitimate interest in the region which should be considered8.

FPÖ has sent observers to the much debated referendum in Crimea alongside with many European far-right parties.

Freedom Party Austria is currently the third biggest party in the country, with 4 seats in the European Parliament.


In Belgium the Flemish nationalist Vlaams Belang (VB) party supports Russian interests. VB was founded in 2004 as a successor of the Vlaams Blok party, which had to dissolve after it was declared racist by the Belgian court9.

Vlaams Belang states it advocates European values such as democracy, freedom of speech, equality of men and women and separation of the church and the state10. VB’s manifesto goes on saying that humans are born free and the party will work to protect individuals form the abuse of the state. VB is a self proclaimed right-wing nationalist party which advocates Flemish independence and strongly opposes the European Union. VB is also anti-immigration.

Despites the party’s claim of believing in European democratic values, VB sees Russia as a potential ally – as Filip Dewinter, a senior member of the party, said: “I think we can be a good partner for Russia in the European Parliament”11. Members of Vlaams Belang (some of whom used to be members of Vlaams Blok) also were present as observer at the Crimean Referendum12.

Vlaams Belang has one seat in the European Parliament.


The Bulgarian Ataka (Attack) party is known to endorse Russia. The party was founded in 2005 and now holds a crucial role in the Bulgarian parliament, which is evenly divided, making Ataka a determining factor.

The ideology of the party is ultra-nationalistic although there are debates whether Ataka is a far-right or in fact a far-left party13. Ataka opposes privatization, wants government support for all businesses. The party is also Euroskeptic, anti-Nato as well as anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim and anti-Roma.

When Bulgarians were asked in a survey whether they would chose EU membership or be a part of Russia’s Eurasian Union, 22% of the respondents preferred the latter option14. The strongest supporters of Russia according the survey are the supporters of Ataka.

The party also fiercely objected to sanctions against Russia on the Crimean crisis and vowed to overthrow the government if they support the sanctions15. Ataka supports the construction of the South Stream gas pipeline between Russia and Bulgaria – the cause of tensions between the country and the EU. Members of the party were also present as observers in the Crimean referendum.

Ataka currently holds no seats in the European Parliament.

Czech Republic

In the Czech Republic the Worker’s Party of Social Justice (DSSS) endorses closer ties with Russia. The party was established in 2003 under the name of Worker’s Party (DS) however in 2010 it was banned after far-right supporters attacked minorities. The party then continued under its current name.

DSSS advocates an anti-capitalist, nationalistic economic system. The party is Euroskeptic and anti-Roma.

Tomas Vandas, the leader of the party raised his voice against the sanctions on Russia16.

DSSS has no representative either in the Czech Republic or in the European Parliament.


France has one of the most influential far-right parties of the countries in question. The Front National (National Front, FN) was founded in 1972 and since then it grew out to be the third biggest political force in the country. FN advocates a strong state, central planning and protectionism. The party is also Euroskeptic, anti-immigration, and anti-Semitic – although FN is trying to shed this image17, its attempts are not, however, very successful18.

Front National, while against the European Union in its current form, strongly advocates a union of nation states, where each nation can self-govern. FN would like to include Russia19 in this union as well – what fits perfectly into Putin’s Eurasian Union endeavors20. The French nationalist party also wants to see a strong Paris, Berlin, Moscow trilateral cooperation. Among many far-right parties, FN bases its eagerness to cooperate with Russia on the grudge they hold against the European union, namely the pan-national policies which simply wouldn’t fit into the ideology of a nationalist party, but which plays these parties into the hands of Putin.

The leader of the party, Marine Le Pen, also criticized the West for their misguided support for Ukraine21. FN also sent an observer to the Crimean referendum. According to Marine Le Pen, a new Cold War is escalating22 and by claiming that they want France to leave NATO and tighten relationships with Russia23, while criticizing western actions, they made it clear: should a Cold War in fact break out, they would be on Russia’s side.

FN has 23 seats in the European Parliament.


Russia’s crony party in Germany is the Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands (National Democratic Party of Germany, NPD). It was founded in 1964 as a rebranding of the Deutsche Reichpartei (German Reich Party), which in turn was the successor of the Deutsches Rechspartei (German Right Party), a nationalistic party founded in 1946, and attracted many former Nazis.

NDP is often branded as a neo-Nazi party and there are attempts to ban it24. Ex-leader of the party, Udo Voigt, who now represents the party in the European Parliament called Hitler “a great man” and also wore leather jackets saying “give gas”, in reference to his anti-Semitic views25.

NDP is also strongly anti-immigrant and anti-Roma. Since there are many Muslims living in Germany, the party’s xenophobia extends to them as well26, adding to the Islamophobic tendencies in the country27.

NDP also seeks closer ties with France and Russia in a trilateral agreement and it encourages cooperation with Russia and China28, advocating a Eurasian scope of interests rather than close alliance with the United States of America.

NDP currently has one Member in the European Parliament.

In Germany a left-wing party, Die Linke (The Left) also advocates closer ties with Russia. It is a good example of how Putin can attract parties form both left and right. Far-left parties supporting the Russian cause are mainly Euroskeptic, except for Die Linke. It is an anti-capitalist, socialist party, with Marxist roots29, which in fact more or less agrees with the existence of the EU, but they call for more democratic institutions30. In this regard, they are not the primary focus of this paper as they are neither far-right, nor Euroskeptic, but their strong pro-Russian advocacy at times made them worthy of mentioning. They called for a new military cooperation involving Russia to replace NATO31. The party also opposes sanctions against Russia32 and supported the Crimean referendum33. Die Linke sent an observer to Crimea but NDP did not. The party criticized Russia for its infringement of international law in Ukraine but at the same time condemned the actions of NATO and the Ukrainian government as well34 .

Die Line has 7 seats in the European parliament and is the third biggest party in Germany.


Apart from Hungary, Greece has the most militant extreme-right party in Europe. The Popular Association – Golden Dawn (Λαϊκός Σύνδεσμος – Χρυσή Αυγή, XA) is a pro-Russian, Euroskeptic far-right party in Greece. It was founded in 1985 and as many extremist parties has gained great popularity since the current economic recession. Often branded as neo-Nazi and Fascist party, XA is often linked to violence. The murder of Greek musician Pavlos Fyssas, the investigation of which showed connections of the tragic events to the XA, caused a decrease in the party’s popularity.

XA is a strongly pro-Russian party. It claims that Greek interests coincide with that of Russia35, which thus is a natural ally. XA also says that Russia is the only force which can liberate the country from the clutches of the United States and its allies. The leader of the party, Nikos Michaloliakos also stated that Greece should give access to its ports to Russia in exchange for protection and economic growth.36.

XA has gained 26 seats in the European Parliament.


Hungary has one of the biggest and most influential far-right parties in Europe. Jobbik is a racist, extreme-right party, which has exhibited strong pro-Russian affiliations. The party was founded in 2003 and since then has grown out to be a major force in Hungarian politics. Jobbik is often described as a neo-Nazi party, since it advocates territorial revisionism and anti-Semitism. The party is known of its anti-Roma actions, military-like marches threatening minorities and its strong stance against the United Sates and the European Union. Jobbik has been associated with burnings of the EU flag, and its members of parliament with throwing it out of the window of parliament after sessions.

Jobbik’s foreign relations focus on other far-right parties, as well as the anti-Israeli Iran and Russia. Although the party is throwing accusations at other parties and civilians as well of being puppets in the hands of foreign powers, it is Jobbik that has debatable foreign friends. Leader of the party, Gábor Vona asked the then president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to send observers to the 2009 European Parliamentary elections, and he also asked for the assistance of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards37 which have been proclaimed as a terrorist organization by the United States38.

As for Russia, there is ample evidence, that Jobbik has strong relations with this country and advocates its interests. The party supports closer cooperation with Russia, which they see as a potential partner instead of the European Union. In the centre of Jobbik’s relations with Russia is Béla Kovács, a high ranking member of Jobbik, who has been accused of being a spy for Russia. There are, however, speculations that he was not gathering intelligence but that, in fact, his main task was to incite an anti-EU atmosphere thus disintegrate the EU policies against the country39. He also asked Russian officials whether an EU member state can start negotiations to be a member of the Eurasian Union40.

Jobbik is growing out to be the second most popular party in Hungary with 3 seats in the European Parliament.

The most popular party, Fidesz, which is the governing political force in Hungary, has close ties with Russia as well. The party identifies itself as a central right party, but its policies as more extreme. Because of this, Fidesz is loosing friends in the EU, on whom it depends, and is thus turning towards Russia. The party was founded in 1988 and since then has gone through a complete overturn of its ideologies. Under the government of Fidesz Hungary made a pact with Putin to secure loans for new Hungarian nuclear power plants, a deal which indebted Hungary severely. Another proof of the tightening relations is Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orbán’s speech in which he condemned liberal democracies and declared to bring on an illiberal state in Hungary, modeled on the Russian system41.

Fidesz is the biggest party in Hungary – it formed the government and holds 12 seats in the European Parliament.


There are two far-right parties in Italy that can be associated with pro-Russian activities. One of them is Lega Nord (Northern League, NL), which as a party was founded in 1991, but existed since 1980s as a movement. They oppose a strong European state and would rather have a Europe based on regions. NL has close relations with Russia which they see as the protector of family values. The party acclaims Russia’s stance on Islamic fundamentalism42. NL also supported Putin’s nomination to Nobel Peace Prize as well as an honorary citizenship to an Italian town43.

Northern League has 2 seats in the European Parliament.

The other Italian party associated with pro-Russian tendencies is the Forza Nouva (New Force, FN). It was founded in 1997 and it expresses nationalistic, anti-capitalistic, and Euroskeptic views. The leader of the party, Robert Fiore perceives himself as a fascist, and admires Russia, thinking that its model is the one to follow. There have been reports in the media on a secret agreement between Russia an FN44 although this has not been confirmed.

The party is not represented in the European Parliament.

At the Crimean referendum a member of Forza Italia, Berlusconi’s party, was present.


In Lithuania Tvarka ir Teisingumas (Order and Justice, TT) is a far-right party, which is pro-Russian. It was founded in 2002 and advocates national liberal ideas, like decentralized government, reduced taxes, and free market. The party also states that both the European Union and the NATO is beneficial for Lithuania45. The party has been associated with not so liberal ideas as well – for example an MP for the party wanted to chase homosexuals and their supporters away from the country46.

TT connection to Russia became famous during the presidency of Rolandas Paksas, who led the party to victory in the elections. He, however, was impeached a year later for possible ties with the Russian mafia47. A Russian businessman, Yuri Borisov, whose company was associated with illegal arms deals, has donated huge amounts of money to the party, and was granted citizenship by Paksas. He was almost appointed as his adviser, but – because of the scandal around Paksas – it was canceled.

TT has two seats in the European Parliament.


In Poland Samoobrona Rzeczpospolitej Polskiej (Self-Defence of the Republic of Poland, SRP) wants closer ties with Russia. The party was founded in 1992 and it holds both, left and right wing policies. SRP is a nationalist party, advocating state control, anti-capitalist economy. It is against foreign investments and is protectionist. The party is also Euroskeptic. On their website they claim that Russia is a natural ally48, a thought upon which they are trying to act. The party is against closer ties with the United States and would prefer their eastern neighbor instead.

SRP was among those pro-Russia parties which tried to validate Crimea’s detachment from Ukraine by sending observers to the referendum there. Throughout the Ukrainian crisis SRP backed Russian interests49.

The party’s popularity declined and currently they have no seats in the European Parliament.


In Slovakia there are two pro Russian parties. The Slovenská Národná Strana (Slovak National Party, SNS) was founded in 1990 and although it characterizes itself as a social, Christian, centre-right national party, it was often claim to be racist because of their policies against the Hungarian minority50 and the Roma people.

The party’s pro-Russian activities are apparent, although since the party is not that popular at the moment, others have taken the position to be vocally supporting Russian interests. SNS’s formal vice-president, Anna Belousovova was rewarded with the Order of Friendship by then Russian president, Dmitri Medvedev51.

SNS holds no seats in the European Parliament.

The other pro-Russian Slovakian party is Ľudová Strana Naše Slovensko (People’s Party Our Slovakia, LSNS), which is a far-right nationalist party. It was established in 2000 and is Euroskeptic and strongly against NATO. The LSNS is vocal against the Hungarian and Roma minority as well. It has no seats in the European Parliament.

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom the British National Party (BNP) supports Russian interests. The party was founded in 1982 and is a far-right nationalist political force. It has been accused of being fascist52 and racist53. BNP is Euroskeptic, anti-immigration as well as anti-free market.

Nick Griffin, the then leader of the party, praised Russia for their elections in 2011, when he was there as an observer. He said “I think I’ve been transported to a parallel universe. The entire electoral system in this supposedly totalitarian state is ten times fairer than Britain’s.54 In a comparison of the electoral systems of the United Kingdom and Russia he also said: “Russia’s electoral system is far more robust, transparent and honest, than Britain’s. Britain today is less democratic than modern Russia55

BNP has supported Crimea’s referendum56 taking Russia’s side and also criticized the sanctions against Russia57.

BNP has no seats in the European Parliament.


In Spain there is one party which might have ties with Russia, although no conclusive research has been done. It is an undeniable fact however that the Platform for Catalonia (Plataforma per Catalunya), a Spanish far-right party has also sent observers to the Crimean referendum on Russia’s invitation.

Parties open to Russian influence and neutrals

In some European countries far-right parties have either a neutral stance on Russia or are open to cooperation. These are: HSP (Croatia) and EIP (Estonia) – which are neutral, and DF (Denmark), PVV (Netherlands), LPR (Poland) and SD (Sweden) – which are probably open to cooperation.

Parties opposing Russia

There are also some far-right parties that oppose closer ties with Russia. Such parties are: PS (Finland), VL-TB/LNNK (Latvia) and PRM (Romania).

Far-left Euroskeptic countries

Of course there are far-left parties that support Russian interests as well . The Communist Party of Greece, for example, is a far-left party which also sent an observer to the Crimean Referendum.


 In conclusion, it becomes obvious that many parties in the European Union show – at least to some extent – pro-Russian tendencies, and are proactively supporting Russian interests. The last European Parliamentary elections have shown a rise in the popularity of Euroskeptic extremist parties, so Putin’s fraction in the European Parliament got stronger.

It is usually not clear to what extent each party is tied to Russia, but it is crucial to find out what interest the parties serve. With a growing mistrust in the European Union Russia might seem to be a savior figure, but it is not really the case. On various occasions has Russia shown its disregard for democratic values and in many cases has the European far-right gone against the principles of a peaceful coexistence. In order to establish what each party stands for, more transparency is needed. And we need it right now.


The article was originally published in the first issue of “ Review” entitled “The Eastern Partnership: the Past, the Present and the Future”. The magazine was published by Fundacja Industrial in cooperation with Friedrich Naumann Stiftung and with the support by Visegrad Fund.  
















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Mate Hajba