Following the election of Donald Trump to the presidency, two American contingents appeared to stand ascendant in the U.S.: white nationalists and the Religious Right. The former, ideological descendants of the Ku Klux Klan and Jim Crow-era legislators, would like to return white supremacy to both state and federal law—or, barring that, break off part of the U.S. to form a white ethno-state wholesale. The latter, meanwhile, would allow Christian fundamentalism to become the U.S.’s de jure national religion, with attendant legislation targeting LGBT and minority religious communities alike. Both white nationalists and the Religious Right tossed vociferous support behind Trump’s candidacy during the recent presidential election, and both contingents thrilled at Trump’s unexpected victory, as well as the authoritarian bent he’s quickly brought to the executive branch.
However, Trump is not the sole leader that both of these cohorts vocally support. Indeed, for America’s white nationalists and for many within the Religious Right, there is only one country, and one leader, worth emulating. Rather than model their goals solely on a glorified Confederate past or lavish praise only on defeated fascist regimes in Europe, the figureheads of America’s far-right have found a new lodestar in Moscow.
The examples of far-right Americans praising the Kremlin are as myriad as they are obvious. For Richard Spencer, the coiner of the term “Alt-Right” and a leader of the emerging white nationalist faction it represents, Russia is both the “sole” and “most powerful white power in the world.” Matthew Heimbach, head of the white nationalist Traditionalist Worker Party—and someone who, like Spencer, desires the creation of a whites-only nation-state within the U.S.—believes Russian President Vladimir Putin is the “leader of the free world,” one who has helped morph Russia into an “axis for nationalists.” Harold Covington, the white supremacist head of the secessionist Northwest Front, recently described Russia as the “last great White empire.” And former Ku Klux Klan Imperial Wizard David Duke has said he believes Russia holds the “key to white survival.”
Of course, the idea of Russia as some sort of “white empire” is, to an extent, merely a fantasy held by American and European white supremacists. Not only does Russia routinely jail and sideline the most outspoken members of its domestic white supremacist movements, but Putin routinely offers support to Russia’s ethnic and religious minority communities when it suits his political aims.
Nonetheless, over the past few years the Kremlin has increased both rhetorical and financial support for far-right movements across the West, including in the U.S. These movements encompass a wide range of right-wing ideologies, such as the white nationalists who have seen Kremlin-tied organizations provide everything from official backing to logistical support for trans-Atlantic networking in order to bring like-minded bigots together. The Kremlin, through financing and conferences, has also built up ties with America’s Religious Right, whose leaders, despite rejecting the overtly race-based visions of individuals like Spencer, share white nationalists’ admiration for Russia’s authoritarian ruler.
Read more at Right Wing Watch.