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RSC Policy Paper
October 26, 2016

Putin’s Useful Idiots: Britain’s Left, Right and Russia

by
Henry Jackson Society

The latest policy paper from The Russia Studies Centre at The Henry Jackson Society documents how individuals and organisations across the British political spectrum have  established connections with their counterparts in Russia, many of which are funded or supported by the Kremlin to undermine the West.

The paper’s main findings include:

  • Over the past five years, there has been a marked tendency for European populists, from both the left and the right of the political spectrum, to establish connections with Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Those on the right have done so because Putin is seen as standing up to the European Union and/or defending “traditional values” from the corrupting influence of liberalism. Those on the left have done so in part because their admiration for Russia survived the end of the Cold War and in part out of ideological folly: they see anybody who opposes Western imperialism as a strategic bedfellow.
  • In the UK, individuals, movements, and parties on both sides of the political spectrum have deepened ties with Russia. Some individuals have praised Putin and voiced their support for Russia’s actions in Ukraine; others have travelled to Moscow and  elsewhere to participate in events organised by the Kremlin or Kremlin-backed organisations; yet more have appeared on Russia’s propaganda networks. Some movements have even aligned themselves with Kremlin-backed organisations in Russia who hold views diametrically opposed to their own; this is particularly the case for left-leaning organisations in the UK, which have established ties with far-right movements in Russia.
  • In an era when marginal individuals and parties in the UK are looking for greater influence and exposure, Russia makes for a frequent point of ideological convergence, and Putin makes for a deceptive and dangerous friend. But what does this mean for the UK? And what can other countries learn from this experience?  There are a number of recommendations that follow from the conclusions this paper draws:
    • Activists, journalists, and politicians should point out the pro-Russian connections of individuals and parties across the political spectrum and challenge the credibility of these entities via political debates.
    • The personal and organisational connections of left-and right-wing politicians and parties and their Russian counterparts should be mapped across Europe.
    • As individuals  and movements  on  the  left  and  right  grow  in  influence  across Europe, the continent must wake up to their insidious means of funding.
    • Parliaments across Europe should amend current legislation or pass new legislation that forces politicians to declare all media appearances they make, whether they receive money for them or not.
    • Academics, commentators, and others should raise awareness in the West of the nature of the Russian regime.

To read the full policy paper click here