A wave of far-right populism is sweeping across Europe. Euroskeptic, nationalist, populist parties, once on the fringes of European politics, are poised to enter the mainstream. The rise of the far right is first and foremost a cultural backlash against the rapid economic and political integration of the E.U. over the last 25 years. But while far-right parties are nothing new in Europe, their explicit pro-Russian turn is. Far right parties are not simply puppets of the Kremlin, but they are undoubtedly allies. They act as agents of influence in Europe’s institutions by supporting pro-Russian views, praising Mr. Putin’s foreign policy in Ukraine and Syria, and advocating against EU policies that would hurt Russian interests, such as sanctions. Increasing electoral support for the far right populists is no doubt domestically driven, but by supporting Putin, far-right leaders conveniently play into the Kremlin’s geo-political agenda.
Alina Polyakova, PhD, is the Director of Research for Europe and Eurasia at the Atlantic Council. She is the author of the book, The Dark Side of European Integration (2015), which examines the rise of far-right populism in Europe. Dr. Polyakova is a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a frequent media commentator on developments in Ukraine, Russia, and Europe. Her writings have appeared in major publications such as The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, The American Interest, Newsweek, and academic journals. Concurrently, Dr. Polyakova is a Swiss National Science Foundation Senior Research Fellow and coinvestigator on a multi-year project examining the rise of far-right political parties in the European Union. She has been a fellow at the Eurasia Foundation, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the Fulbright Foundation, the National Science Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, the International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX), and a Senior Research Fellow and Lecturer at the University of Bern. Dr. Polyakova has taught courses on European politics, foreign policy, and Russia at the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Bern, Switzerland. She holds a PhD and MA in Sociology from the University of California, Berkeley, and a BA in Economics and Sociology with highest honors from Emory University.