Austria’s Nazi-founded Freedom Party has been busy.
Not only did the far-right anti-immigrant party recently sign a “cooperation pact” with Russian president Vladimir Putin; but the leader of the Freedom Party, Heinz-Christian Strache, was just in New York City paying homage to Il Duce, Jr., Donald Trump’s embattled National Security Adviser, and resident conspiracy-theorist-adherent, Gen. Michael Flynn.
The news did not go unnoticed in America. Former presidential candidate Evan McMullin, a Republican patriot of sorts (McMullin, a former CIA officer and Hill staffer, ran for president as an independent in a bid to thwart Trump), noticed the coincidence of the Austrian extremists reaching out to both Moscow and Trump.
McMullin’s second comment, about Putin “creating an international white nationalist movement” is chilling, and I fear, spot on. Trump has had repeated brushes with white nationalists / white supremacists / racism during his presidential run. Who can forget Judge Curiel, the Khan family, Trump labeling Mexican immigrants “rapists,” suggesting that African-Americans all live in the ghetto (so “what do they have to lose”), Trump picking Alt Right (white supremacist) publisher Steve Bannon for his top White House strategist, or Trump’s openly-antisemitic closing ad?
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So it’s troubling that Flynn, who, along with a number of other Trump staff, already has troubling ties to Moscow (and an odd embrace of conspiracy theories), is now cavorting with Austrian white nationalist leaders.
Even more troubling is what McMullin suggests, that this is part of an effort by Vladimir Putin to create an “international white nationalist movement.” And while it might at first seem out of sorts for a Russian leader to ally with white nationalists (Russian history and culture is decidedly anti-Nazi because of Russia’s harrowing experience with Hitler in World War II), this wouldn’t be the first time Putin used neo-Nazi movements to advance his policy goals. For years, Putin used Russian and Ukrainian neo-Nazis to further his anti-LGBT policies.
I covered Putin’s neo-Nazi bromance in depth a few years back. But in a nutshell, Putin was informally using Russian and Ukrainian neo-Nazi groups to terrorize gay and transgender Russians. The groups would kidnap young gay and trans people, film their torture, and then extort money from them in exchange for a promise not to publish the video, which was then published anyway. The neo-Nazi groups claim to have kidnapped some 1,500 LGBT people, while the Russian government ignored the glaring proof (the neo-Nazis videotaped their crimes!) and refused to prosecute until we finally got the attention of international media.
So Putin has no problem cozying up to Nazis when it suits his purposes, the same way he’s now cozying up to other far-right (and some far-left) extremists across the globe. Donald Trump has shown an inexplicable interest in defending Putin personally, and Russia generally, often at the cost of America’s own national interest. And top Trump aide, Gen. Flynn, is meeting with European racist leaders at the same time that Vladimir Putin is forming an international alliance with the same.
Is the Flynn meeting Trump’s first step in joining Vladimir Putin’s white nationalist cooperation pact?