Russia has been rapidly losing ground in Europe. Europeans are so fed up with the Kremlin’s inadequate foreign policy that, despite the Kremlin administration’s efforts to maintain influence in certain European countries, fewer Putin supporters remain.
The Kremlin does not pay attention to the ideology of the parties and political movements of Old Europe, on which it relies. The Kremlin does not care what political niche they occupy and what values they profess. It is important for the Kremlin that they promote the agenda, drafted in Moscow, and work for the interests of the Kremlin. In this case, the Kremlin is ready to support these parties. Such “incomprehensibility” in the choice of “friends” would sooner or later lead Russia to a foreign policy fiasco. European citizens have begun to understand the true “values” of these pro-Russian parties. Hence they saw a decline in ratings and election failures in Germany and the Czech Republic.
The Kremlin had high hopes for the Alternative for Germany, which was to win right-wing voters, and the Left Party, which was nursing left-wing voters.
The operation failed. These parties not only fell short in their efforts to become one of the leading political forces in Germany, which form the ruling coalition, but also ramped down their last election figures, occupying a niche of marginal parties. Germans did not like both the Nazi ideology of the Alternative and the communist ideology of the Left.
Hardly had “Berlin turmoil” abated when the Czech Republic brought an unexpected gift to the Kremlin. The results of the Czech parliamentary elections made an unexpected sensation. Literally, in the last minutes of the vote count, the centre-right Spolu (Together) opposition alliance gained the lead by a tenth of a percent. The ANO (Yes) party of the incumbent Prime Minister, billionaire Andrej Babiš, was defeated. An historic event took place in Czech politics – the Communists did not enter Parliament for the first time since 1925.
These political changes do not bode well for Russia and its relations with the Czech Republic. First, the influence of Miloš Zeman is plummeting (talks about the need for his early resignation have begun again). After all, Zeman is Russia’s main ally in the Czech Republic and one of the highest-ranking pro-Kremlin politicians in the European Union. Second, the new prime minister and the inevitable replacement of the foreign minister will also throw even a wetter blanket on Prague–Moscow relations, even given that the Czech Republic and the United States have recently been officially recognised as “unfriendly countries” in Russia.
Of course, it was under Prime Minister Babiš that the conflict between Prague and Moscow began due to explosions at military depots in the Czech village of Vrbětice. However, his government simply had no other choice. In general, he was quite loyal to Russia, including relying on the support of Kremlin-friendly communists. Now, a bloc of five parties focused on the European Union and NATO has come to power.
In Austria, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, an opponent of sanctions against Russia, was forced to resign. He was charged with corruption and an investigation was launched. Kurtz resigned, experiencing pressure from the police and the opposition and striving to avoid early elections and retain power for his party. He was replaced by former Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg, who had previously advocated tough sanctions against Alexander Lukashenka. The Kremlin is unlikely to be thrilled with this turn of events either.
Schallenberg is much more unfriendly towards the Kremlin and its foreign policy than his former chief Sebastian Kurz. We may recall Schallenberg’s sharp response when Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov invited him to visit Crimea. At the time, the incumbent Austrian Chancellor said he had neither the intention nor the desire to travel to territories that, according to the EU’s position, Russia “annexed in violation of international law.”
Putin’s troubles with the declining number of “pro-Kremlin friends” do not end here. The situation in Hungary, “loyal” to the Kremlin, is escalating with the opposition again trying to unite against another pro-Kremlin leader, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. Opinion polls show there is a chance.
This autumn, the Kremlin suffers defeats on all fronts. It is clear that Putin will not put up with the loss of influence in Europe. The Kremlin will continue to work with “loyal” politicians and parties and at the same time look for new options, new agents of influence, and useful idiots. New political battles lie ahead. Therefore, supporters of democracy and European values must be ready for them.
Yuri Fedorenko, Head of NGO “Agency for Development of Democracy and Information Freedoms”
Views of the author do not necessarily reflect the official position of the editorial staff