Given that one of Russian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin’s stated rea­sons for invading Crimea was to pre­vent “Nazis” from coming to power in Ukraine, it is per­haps sur­prising that his regime is growing closer by the month to extreme right-​​wing par­ties across Europe. But, in both cases, Putin’s motives are not pri­marily ide­o­log­ical. In Ukraine, he simply wants to grab ter­ri­tory that he believes rightly belongs to him. In the Euro­pean Union, he hopes that his backing of fringe par­ties will desta­bi­lize his foes and install in Brus­sels politi­cians who will be focused on dis­man­tling the EU rather than enlarging it.

In Hun­gary, for example, Putin has taken the Jobbik party under his wing. The third-​​largest party in the country, Jobbik has sup­porters who dress in Nazi-​​type uni­forms, spout anti-​​Semitic rhetoric, and express con­cern about Israeli “col­o­niza­tion” of Hun­gary. The party has cap­i­tal­ized on rising sup­port for nation­alist eco­nomic poli­cies, which are seen as an anti­dote for unpop­ular aus­terity poli­cies and for Hungary’s eco­nomic lib­er­al­iza­tion in recent years. Russia is bent on tap­ping into that sen­ti­ment. In May 2013, Kremlin-​​connected right-​​wing Russian nation­al­ists at the pres­ti­gious Moscow State Uni­ver­sity invited Jobbik party pres­i­dent Gabor Vona to speak. Vona also met with Russia Duma leaders including Ivan Grachev, chairman of the State Duma Com­mittee for Energy and Vasily Tarasyuk, deputy chairman of the Com­mittee on Nat­ural Resources and Uti­liza­tion, among others.

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