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Sunday, January 24, 2021

The Alt-Right Comintern

Katrin Bennhold and Michael Schwirtz at NYT:
 When insurrectionists stormed the Capitol in Washington this month, far-right extremists across the Atlantic cheered. Jürgen Elsässer, the editor of Germany’s most prominent far-right magazine, was watching live from his couch.

“We were following it like a soccer match,” he said.

Four months earlier, Mr. Elsässer had attended a march in Berlin, where a breakaway mob of far-right protesters tried — and failed — to force their way into the building that houses Germany’s Parliament. The parallel was not lost on him.

“The fact that they actually made it inside raised hopes that there is a plan,” he said. “It was clear that this was something bigger.”

And it is. Adherents of racist far-right movements around the world share more than a common cause. German extremists have traveled to the United States for sniper competitions. American neo-Nazis have visited counterparts in Europe. Militants from different countries bond in training camps from Russia and Ukraine to South Africa.

Rinaldo Nazzaro, the founder of the international white-nationalist group The Base, now lives in self-imposed exile in St. Petersburg, Russia, but says he has no interest in forging ties with Russian nationalist groups.

“Nationalists in America must do the heavy lifting themselves,” he said. “Outside support could only be supplemental, at best.”

Others, like Matthew Heimbach, an organizer of the 2017 violent far-right protest in Charlottesville, Va., disagree.

American members of the far right and white nationalist groups have been trying to get Europe to return their calls for a decade now,” he said in an interview.

With some success, he spent years working to forge alliances with like-minded groups in the Czech Republic, Germany and Greece.

He even hosted a delegation from the Russian Imperial Movement in 2017, several years before the United States declared it a terrorist organization. Members of the group, which runs paramilitary-style camps to train Russian and foreign nationalists in military tactics, spent two weeks in the United States and traveled extensively.

Photographs of the trip show Mr. Heimbach and one of the group’s leaders, Stanislav Shevchuk, posing with a Russian imperial flag in front of the White House and the U.S. Capitol.

Mr. Heimbach, who denounced the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and claims to have renounced white nationalism, said he had also taken his Russian guests to Dollywood and the Country Music Hall of Fame in Tennessee.
The trip, Mr. Shevchuk later wrote, “opened my eyes to a different alt-right America and I was convinced that we Russians had a lot in common with them.