Russia’s anti-western ideology has global consequences

Yet despite the absence of Russian speakers, a form of Russia’s anti-Western ideology can be felt in Georgia, too. It’s a minority view that drifts in through religious leaders — part of the Georgian Orthodox Church retains ties to Moscow — through some pro-Kremlin political parties and Russian-backed media. But it finds indigenous support, taking the form of xenophobic, anti-European and, nowadays, anti-homosexual rhetoric. Sometimes it becomes an argument in favor of local oligarchs or economic clans and against foreign investment or rules that would create an even playing field. It always focuses on Western decadence, economic or sexual, and welcomes any sign of Western hesitancy. When President Obama told the world this week that Georgia — which has for a decade been striving with active U.S. encouragement to meet NATO partnership standards — is “not on a path to NATO membership,” he immediately strengthened that set of arguments in Tbilisi…

There are implications further afield as well. During his Brussels speech this week, Obama also declared that Russia leads “no bloc of nations, no global ideology.” This is true, up to a point: Russia’s “ideology” isn’t well-defined or clear. But the U.S. president was wrong to imply that the Russian president’s rhetoric, and his annexation of Crimea, has no wider echo. Of course there were the predictable supporters of Russia in the United Nations: Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, North Korea. More interesting are his new European friends. Nigel Farage, the leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) — an anti-European and anti-immigrant party that is gaining momentum in Britain — declared last week that the European Union has “blood on its hands” for negotiating a free-trade agreement in Ukraine. Marine Le Pen, leader of the French far-right National Front, has also said she prefers France to “lean toward Russia” rather than “submit to the United States.” Jobbik, Hungary’s far-right party, sent a representative to the Crimean referendum and declared it “exemplary.” These are all minority parties, but they are all poised to make gains in European elections this spring.