Russia, the far right, and the Strache affair

In the video that triggered the government crisis in Austria the former Vice-Chancellor and FPÖ leader Heinz-Christian Strache held out the prospect of government contracts to the supposed niece of a Russian oligarch. Commentators are not surprised by this evidence that the FPÖ leadership succumbed to the temptation of Russian money.

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Avvenire (IT) /

Western intelligence services avoid Vienna

Vienna has become a nest of spies, columnist Paolo Lambruschi scoffs in Avvenire:

“Who recorded the video? That's just one of the secrets in Vienna, which as in the days of the Cold War has become the capital of espionage. The headlines are full of embarrassing ties between those on the right who have recently come to power and Putin. ... The ultra-nationalists, who recruit their ruling class from extremist fraternities and neo-Nazi circles - one of which [the Identitarian Movement] received a donation from Brenton Tarran, the terrorist who killed 50 people in Christchurch - hold key positions, including the foreign affairs, defence and interior ministries. And for the past year the Western intelligence agencies have distanced themselves from Austria for fear that sensitive information could be shared with Moscow.”

Postimees (EE) /

The lure of the rouble

The FPÖ is not the only party to have succumbed to the temptation of Russian money, Postimees points out:

“The European Eurosceptics (and Donald Trump) have long been accused of maintaining dubious relations with Russia. ... Even if one can say that the centre of Austrian politics has always had a right-wing bias, the current case can't just be shrugged off as a peculiarity of the Alpine state. Russian money exerts an irresistible appeal for a number of other European political forces. You don't have to be a Eurosceptic or at the far end of the political spectrum for that. The former German chancellor Gerhard Schröder has been under the spell of Russian gas money for a decade.”

Turun Sanomat (FI) /

Patriotic my foot

The right-wing populists are playing into the hands of the governments in Washington and Moscow, Turun Sanomat laments:

“Notwithstanding the annexation of Crimea and the conflict in eastern Ukraine, the Austrian right-wing populists show understanding for Vladimir Putin's policies. ... Similarly, Italy's Lega, the Rassemblement National in France and other far-right parties are openly pro-Russian. ... The example of Strache and the FPÖ shows that even in solid democracies big parties are ready to run roughshod over the EU's basic values when it's in their own interest. The election campaign of the right-wing populists is also being fuelled by Steve Bannon, former chief strategist of US President Donald Trump. The common goal of Bannon, Trump and Putin is to weaken the EU. The right-wing populists' so-called patriotism helps both Russia and the current US government.”