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For Vladimir Putin's Russia, the European Union is a dangerous opponent, but only when it speaks with one voice. His goal, then, is to divide Europeans, resuscitate their nationalist demons, and poison cooperation so that it becomes impossible to form any strategic alliances. This is why Putin is so eagerly supporting the European far right.
A long-term investment
These far-rights activists spread confusion and misinformation with the help of an entire army of Russian trolls and hackers. They can also count on Kremlin’s financial support, although indirectly. Putin, for example, did not make any direct donations (although in this case, one would rather have to speak of a fixed salary paid to corrupt officials by neighboring powers) to Marine Le Pen’s 2017 presidential election campaign. Instead, one of the Russian banks gave her a loan. The bank then disappeared under strange circumstances, and Le Pen did not have to return a single ruble. Even though she had lost the election, Russia still doesn’t regret spending the money. It's a long-term investment. The same applies to Le Pen’s like-minded colleagues in Italy, Austria, and elsewhere.
Putin, however, is unable to provide politicians like Le Pen with one thing: legitimacy. Wide recognition as a top European political leader that others should reckon with is still one of the things Russian money cannot buy. On the contrary, associations with Putin make such figures even less trustworthy. But then Jarołsaw Kaczyński enters the stage. The conference PiS hosted on Saturday in Warsaw to discuss how to "change the character of the European Union" provides the European far-right elite with the one thing it is currently lacking: international recognition.
The Warsaw Summit is based on lies, just like everything else PiS does
First of all, it was not "Europe’s conservative elite" who came to Warsaw, as the government’s propagandists would have the public believe. They were racists, xenophobes, demagogues, and hate spreaders. None of them has much in common with conservatism. Well, unless we take Putin’s ideology as a model, that is. Last month, a government-friendly portal that praised the Warsaw summit has published a manifesto according to which Putin offers the western right a model of "reasonable conservatism". In this sense, Kaczyński provided a platform for debating Russia’s political agenda. Ironically, in a hotel overlooking the Russian embassy.
Second, it is a lie to assert that the intention of the Warsaw summit attendees is to build a different and better Europe. They will not build anything; they can only destroy. It is enough to look at what PiS did to Poland over the last six years. Pushed to the wall by the European Commission, facing multi-million heavy fines, the suspension of payments from the Reconstruction and Resilience Fund, and the possibility to freeze EU subsidies, Kaczyński is fighting back. His strategy is to consolidate anti-European forces which, fed by Russia, in the future will weaken and ultimately dismantle the European community.
For years, many EU politicians explained their leniency towards PiS' violations of the rule of law and democracy with the fact that they do not want to strengthen anti-European tendencies in Poland. Today, we can see the results of this appeasement.
Kaczyński has run out of political fuel
And besides, it is not only about Europe but also about building political capital at home. Le Pen will return from Poland with dozens of pictures and videos of her riding around Warsaw in a government motorcade as if she were at least the French prime minister. There will be pictures of her shaking hands with Prime Minister Morawiecki, or laying flowers at the Monument to the Ghetto Heroes, received with honors by members of the Polish Army. Having in mind next year’s presidential election, Le Pen wants to show the French voters that she is fit to lead the country, has international importance, and has the right status. The same applies to other populist far-right leaders who came to Warsaw.
By hosting emissaries of the European far-right, Kaczyński, backed up by pro-government propaganda, shows his voters that he is not as internationally isolated as one may think. On the contrary, he has allies and friends all over Europe. And it is also a prelude to the campaign announced a few days ago against the new German government's plan to build what Kaczyński has called a "Fourth Reich," i.e. a supposed federalization of the EU. It is the same lie as the "LBGT ideology", whose followers allegedly want to teach masturbation in preschools. Kaczyński has nothing to cover up the failures of his government in fighting the pandemic, the corruption and nepotism surfacing nearly every day, or the escalating conflict with the EU. All he has left is to pit the public against Germany and evoke associations with the Second World War. He is left with Le Pen and European far-right leaders. He is left with the role of Vladimir Putin's de facto collaborator. And all this is happening at a time when Russia is using Belarus as a proxy to destabilize Europe and its troops are waiting for a signal to attack Ukraine.
Foolishness? Shame? Error? Disgrace? It’s much more than that.
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