Europe’s hard rights burned but not broken by Putin’s counterattack – POLITICO

Paul Taylor, One Contributing editor at POLITICO, columnist “Great Europe”.

PARIS – Supporting Russian President Vladimir Putin may have demoralized Europe’s right-wing populist leaders right now, but it’s too soon to get rid of them.

Many of Putin’s early admirers of nationalist, anti-immigrant rights in Europe hastily retreated from his invasion of Ukraine. Sensing a wave of public sympathy for the country, some of the staunchest opponents of the reception of refugees from Syria and Afghanistan have now had the opportunity to roll out a welcome mat for Ukrainians who have fled. from war.

However, the mood in Europe could still easily spark a new wave of populism once the cost of sanctions against Russia begins to plummet, sending energy and food prices up in Europe. leap.

Let’s remember France’s gilets jaunes movement – leaderless yellow vests blockading roads across the country and ravaging violence for months in a grassroots uprising against gas prices. higher. That movement started when diesel oil price reached 1.53 € a liter in October 2018 after increasing the carbon tax, hitting the pockets of millions of people who depend on their cars to get to work, shop or send their kids to school.

Since Russian tanks moved to Ukraine, the price of diesel has been skyrocketed to more than €2 a liter in France, and worse is still to come. Electricity and natural gas bills have skyrocketed across the continent, despite governments’ efforts to ease poorer households.

And it’s not just energy – the prices of bread and meat are also rising as the war drags on both Russian and Ukrainian wheat and corn exports, threatening the livelihoods of European families and farmers. . People can blame Putin now, but in the coming months, they could easily turn their backs on their own government.

This survival launch may come too late to rescue the presidential campaigns of France’s far-right rivals, Marine Le Pen and Eric Zemmour, both of which have suffered heavy damage from the shooting. Putin’s brutal destruction of Ukrainian cities. Ahead of the first round of voting on April 10, both candidates are struggling to justify their past praise of the Russian leader and are struggling to find an angle of attack. aimed at President Emmanuel Macron’s handling of the crisis.

Of her opponents, Le Pen demonstrated the sharpest political instinct to date by whipping her European Parliament members voting in favor of a tough resolution condemning the invasion. , while stressing that she would not support any sanctions against Moscow that increase the cost of living for the French. Arresting the yacht of the tycoons? Yes. But boycott Russian energy? Is not.

The biggest blow to the far right, however, was that the war was largely driven by warnings of “unbridled immigration” and unfounded claims of a “great replacement” for the French. by the Muslim emigrants out of the headlines.

Furthermore, both Zemmour and the radical leftist candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s call for France’s departure from NATO and its declaration of non-alignment – and Le Pen’s demand that Paris withdraw from the alliance’s combined military command, as President Charles de Gaulle did in 1966 – found little support in a crisis in which even the French felt safer with their transatlantic allies. and European Union partners.

Elsewhere in Europe, politicians claim to be Putin’s sovereign confidants and accept money, publicity and covert social media help from his propaganda machine, most condemned Russia’s invasion of an independent sovereign neighbour, even as some sought to blame NATO for seeking to expand too far.

Take Matteo Salvini, leader of Italy’s far-right League party, who once flooded Twitter with pictures of him and Putin, and closed Italian ports so asylum seekers were rescued at sea. The populist politician was recently publicly shamed when he appeared to take a selfie to greet refugees in a small Polish town on the Ukrainian border, only to have the local mayor dress him up. a Putin t-shirt.

In many European countries, far-right parties began as radical protest movements against globalization, immigration, LGBTQ+ rights, and the social dissension that dissipated when they compromised hard-line principles. to join the government as a junior partner, or simply to try to make himself more electable. More radical opponents quickly emerged to win over their voters and eat their lunch.

There is something almost mechanical about it all. Zemmour’s sudden rise was the result of Le Pen’s quest for respect. And public support for the League has been highly appreciated in Italy since Salvini pulled a series of overthrows to propel his party into the pro-European trend, with the post-fascist Brothers of Italy saw them as the new, tougher face of the country. -the right. In Austria, two rival far-right parties have fought each other for 20 years, in the Netherlands for a decade.

During the Cold War, French writer François Mauriac cynically remarked, “I love Germany so much that I am glad there are two of them.”

It is tempting to take comfort from the seemingly inevitable division of the far-right division, which has allowed the mainstream political forces to prevail in Europe time and again – even in the aftermath of the most severe financial crisis since the Great Depression.

However, it would be a mistake to rely on any such Newtonian laws of political gravity to sustain the EU’s nascent unity and solidarity in the face of the coming social and economic storm caused by the war. this caused.

Hold European societies together if gasoline hits €3 a liter; bread, pasta and meat prices rose; and working-class families’ inability to heat and light their homes will put mainstream leaders to the test. Unless we do much more to combat rising social inequality, the short-term “Putin effect” discrediting Europe’s right-wing nationalists is likely to remain the same. prelude to a populist tsunami. Europe's hard rights burned but not broken by Putin's counterattack - POLITICO

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