Doing Moscow’s Bidding in Europe: Populist Political Movements in a Historical Continuum

In: The Soviet and Post-Soviet Review
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  • 1 PhD Candidate, Department of Modern History and Society (IMS), Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Trondheim, Norway

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Abstract

From the fissures of Brexit and the recent results of pan-national European Union (EU) elections, insurgent political parties are becoming a force to be reckoned with. For all their disparate centers of gravity, nearly all of them converge on the question of Euroscepticism and the liberal international order. The primary consternation, it is routinely said, is not so much their dogged populism, but that most of them are unwittingly setting themselves up to do Moscow’s bidding in Europe.

Drawing on Cold War historiography, this article sets out to critique how this thesis evolved along a consistent prism of ideological meta-narratives. Its key focus is highlighting how missing links in some of the seminal moments in the history of Soviet-Western relations continue to filter into explaining contemporary political developments in the EU.

This article thus makes two basic conclusions. First, that there is something to be said of the insurgent political movements as committed players in the competition for the balance of power in the political berth of Europe. And in that regard, their rhetorical association with Moscow’s positions is a pragmatic step in the grand strategy of national and pan-European politics. Second, Moscow, contrary to being the adversarial vector of liberal Europe, has historically identified its best interest with cooperating, if not outrightly, aligning with the Western-led postwar international liberal order.

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