Putin has become shockingly effective at influencing European politics through a host of far-right parties.
The following chart from the Center for Eurasian Strategic Intelligence (CESI) shows Russia's growing influence within six different European Union countries.
The parties, located in the UK, France, Germany, Greece, Bulgaria, and Hungary, are increasingly popular—and staunchly against giving more power to the EU. Each of the parties has also fostered a closer relationship with Russia, and has protested against sanctions on Moscow following its annexation of Ukraine.
The six parties linked to Russia are the UK's UK Independence Party (UKIP), France's National Front, Germany's National Democratic Party, Hungary's Jobbik, Greece's Golden Dawn, and Bulgaria's Attack.
Britain's UKIP party, which favors withdrawing from the EU and having stronger relations with Russia, received 29% of the votes in the most recent election. This was double what the party obtained in elections five years ago.
Likewise, according to CESI, France's National Front won 25% of the votes in a national election. The party's head, Marine Le Pen, views Putin as a traditional ally and plans to form a coalition with other pro-Russian, far-right parties in the European Parliament.
Robert Pratta/REUTERS Marine Le Pen (L), France's National Front political party leader, kisses Netherland's Geert Wilders, president of PVV (Party for Freedom) during the far-right French party's congress in Lyon November 29, 2014.
Jobbik (Hungary), the Golden Dawn (Greece), and Attack (Bulgaria) are also attracted to and possibly financed by Russia. All three parties oppose placing sanctions on Moscow for its annexation of Crimea, and have favorable views of Putin as a defender of traditional Christianity.
Hungary, in particular, views Russia as an ally. Jobbik is the second-most-powerful political party in the country after the leading Fidesz party, which is also pro-Russian. Both parties oppose sanctions on Moscow and sought Russian help for building a nuclear power plant.
The rise in European far-right parties is largely tied to Russian policies first developed during the Cold War. These policies, called "special war," attempt to conduct foreign policy through a combination of espionage and dark money rather than traditional warfare. Russia expert John Schindler explains that while the Soviet Union backed communist-leaning parties to influence politics, Russia is now financing far-right parties in an attempt to steer European politics.
The preferred outcome for Russia would be the dissolution of the EU and the end of a counterweight to Russian power.
"Resulting from the election of May 25, 20% of the European Parliament members are representatives of parties supporting dissolution of the EU," a CESI report states . "Their core is made of right-wing politicians."
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