Last September, Steve Bannon told 60 Minutes, “There’s nothing to the Russia investigation.” Trump, who has grudgingly admitted that Russia might have meddled in the 2016 US elections, also suggests the culprit may have been “a 400 pound genius sitting in bed and playing with his computer.” And Vladimir Putin, in his recent interview with Megyn Kelly, called the whole thing “nonsense,” “ridiculous,” and told her, “Sometimes I think you are joking.” For good measure, Putin came up with an even more offensive version of who those 13 Russians indicted by Russiagate special counsel Robert Mueller might be. “Maybe they were not even Russians, but Ukrainians, Tatars, or Jews, but with Russian citizenship,” he told Kelly, with a smirk.
But if Bannon, Trump, and Putin all agree that Russiagate is fake news, they have something else in common too: Trump’s far-right nationalism, Europe’s growing, proto-fascist nativism, and Russia’s own traditionalist, Orthodox Church–based version of nationalism, are converging—and there’s evidence they are increasingly working together, or at least in parallel. Over the past week, Bannon toured Western Europe, dispensing his rough-edged benediction on Italy’s far right. He spoke at a rally for France’s fascist-tinged National Front (“let them call you racist…wear it as a badge of honor”). He met with a leader of Germany’s far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD). And he praised Hungary’s Viktor Orbán (“a real patriot and a real hero”), whose fascist-leaning, Islamophobic ruling Fidesz party leans toward Putin. Next door, the far-right Freedom Party of Austria has established a five-year cooperation agreement with Putin’s United Russia party.
Indeed, many of these Euro-rightists applaud Russia, whose leaders have reportedly returned their approval. And it’s worth remembering that for years Bannon has also looked favorably on Russia, not least because he apparently believes that Trump’s America and Putin’s Russia are Christian allies against the Muslim world. Bannon sees Russia as the bastion of something not too far removed from the Catholic-inspired right-wing nationalism that he himself espouses. In a 2014 speech at an event hosted by the Human Dignity Institute at the Vatican—whose text was published by Buzzfeed—Bannon went on a some length explaining the nature of his attraction to Putin’s Russia. “Vladimir Putin, when you really look at some of the underpinnings of some of his beliefs today, a lot of those come from what I call Eurasianism; he’s got an adviser who harkens back to Julius Evola and writers of the early 20th century who are really the supporters of what’s called the traditionalist movement, which really eventually metastasized into Italian fascism,” said Bannon.