Hold the exhalations of relief about the newfound “moderation” of Donald Trump and the supposed downsizing of Steve Bannon, his official extremist ideologue. With his all-but-explicit endorsement of Marine LePen, the French neo-fascist presidential candidate, it is now clear that Trump remains allied with foreign “nationalists.”
Specifcally, within hours after this week’s Paris terror attack — mounted by ISIS to line up frightened French voters behind its preferred candidate LePen — Trump issued a series of messages that played directly into that strategy. On Twitter he wrote: “Another terrorist attack in Paris… The people of France will not take much more of this…Will have a big effect on presidential election!” Then only hours later, the president — who customarily avoids endorsing foreign candidates — told the Associated Press that he expected the attack to bolster LePen because she is “strongest on borders and she’s the strongest on what’s been going on in France.”
In backing the leader of France’s neo-fascist party, Trump also resumed his role as the Western political stalking horse for Vladimir Putin. Having received LePen in Moscow, where she denounced sanctions and sucked up to Putin, Russia’s authoritarian president has mobilized his entire propaganda apparatus to influence the French election. Indeed, Putin has been preparing this moment for a long time. Three years ago, LePen’s party received a $10 million loan from a Moscow-affiliated bank.
Kremlin support for the French ultra-rightist is only one instance of a far broader Russian outreach toward fascistic elements across Europe, extending from the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party in Greece and the Northern League in Italy to the anti-Semitic nationalist Jobbik Party in Hungary and neo-Nazi gangs in Norway. Sometimes blatant, sometimes secretive, and sometimes outsourced to local groups, these provocations may or may not reflect Putin’s own ideology. But their purpose is obvious enough — to disrupt and disorganize the democratic West, which still dares to criticize Russian human rights abuses and imperial ambitions.
So Marine LePen, like every neo-fascist politician subsidized by the Kremlin, opposes the Western alliance in all its forms. She would remove France from the European Union and from NATO — the ultimate target of Putin’s scheming.
Now any normal American administration would regard Putin’s promotion of neo-fascism in Europe as a danger to U.S. national security interests. But the Trump administration is anything but normal, expressing support for the very elements that are undermining our traditional alliances, on behalf of our traditional adversaries. Lately Trump has given lip service to NATO, presumably under pressure from his defense secretary James Mattis and his national security adviser H.R. McMaster. But his blatant boosting of LePen proves that his NATO turnaround earlier this year was hollow.
Fascist themes have emanated from Trump and his circle almost from the beginning of his presidential campaign. His chief strategist Bannon is drawn to fascist ideologues such as the late Julius Evola and Putin’s Alexander Dugin, who has cemented Russian ties with Golden Dawn and other Nazified Europeans and declared that “American liberalism [i.e., democracy] must be destroyed.” Among Trump’s national security aides is a former Jobbik politician, the Hungarian émigré Sebastian Gorka, who has sported the insignia of a Nazi Hungarian militia.
In short, there is an obvious reason why the Trumpists would feel affinity toward the Kremlin, whose political think-tanks, intelligence agencies, and foreign propaganda machinery went so far to help elect Donald Trump last year. The stakes of the investigation into that illegal interference with the 2016 election keep getting higher, and may rise again with the French election. Nobody should maintain any illusions about who Trump and his cronies are, what interests they serve, and what kind of threat they pose to the future of the democratic world.