January 07, 2021
Observers around the world were stunned to see a violent mob storm the U.S. Capitol building in a desperate, violent bid to overturn a legitimate presidential election and secure a second term for outgoing U.S. President Donald Trump.
But commentators from the far right of the political spectrum in Eastern Europe and the Balkans were in many cases encouraged by what they saw. Many took time away from marking the Orthodox Christmas holiday on January 7 to signal their solidarity with the U.S. rioters, many of whom waved flags of the racist Confederate States of America.
Andreas Umland, who has written extensively on political extremism around the world, wrote on Facebook that Trump was not as ideologically driven as many rightist figures around the globe. “Terms like ‘fascist’ do not sound quite right for him, as they assume a minimal degree of ideological information which Trump simply lacks,” Umland wrote. “Still, he is beloved by the far right — not only in the United States but across the world.”
Anton Shekhovtsov, a lecturer at the University of Vienna who specializes in neo-Nazism and other extremist movements in Russia and elsewhere, agrees, saying that Trump fits in among “contemporary right-wing populisms in Europe” that are “based on a combination of nativism, authoritarianism, and populism.” “Not only do they operate within the framework of democracy,” he wrote in an essay on the Eurozine website, “they also claim that they are better democrats — an anti-establishment idea resonating with many a disaffected voter.”
‘Fighters For Democratic Values’
A wide range of far-right figures across Eastern Europe and the Balkans found support for their views in the unfolding violence they were seeing in the United States.
In Ukraine, Andriy Portnov, a former lawmaker and deputy chief of staff for pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych, who was driven from office by a popular uprising in 2014, wrote on Telegram that the “uprising” in Washington “was the disgrace and shame of a banana republic.” “Any further glorification of our local coup looks even more ridiculous and even more marginal [than before],” he wrote.
In Belarus, which has been the scene of protests since a disputed presidential election in August handed a sixth term to strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka, a pro-Lukashenka Telegram channel attempted to depict a double standard in describing the Belarusian protests and the Washington rioting. “Let’s call things by their real names. It wasn’t an uprising but a ‘peaceful protest protected by the Second Amendment to the constitution,'” the channel wrote, citing the provision in the U.S. Constitution that protects the right to bear arms. “It wasn’t an insurgent mob but ‘fighters for democratic values.’ It wasn’t a pogrom in the Capitol, but ‘an educational excursion with interactive elements.'”
The thrust of the channel’s many posts on the topic was that Belarus is better off under the iron hand with which the authoritarian Lukashenka has ruled the country since 1994 than it would be following the lead of Western liberal democracies.
The pro-Serbian and pro-Russian head of Montenegro’s Movement for Changes, parliament deputy Nebojsa Medojevic — a Trump enthusiast and flamboyant advocate of various deep-state-type global conspiracy theories who has described COVID-19 as a plot by “global Satanists” — took to Twitter to describe Trump as “the first U.S. president since Kennedy to oppose the deep state and the rulers from the shadows.”
“They had to organize a huge election theft and destroy democracy in order to stop him,” Medojevic wrote, endorsing widely debunked claims of fraud in the November U.S. presidential election.
‘Serbia Here To Watch’
The Washington events found perhaps their strongest resonance with rightist and nationalist figures in Serbia.
Nikola Sandulovic, the head of the small nationalist Republican Party, posted on Twitter a photograph of a Trump supporter disrespecting a statue of former U.S. President Gerald Ford in the rotunda of the Capitol with the words: “THE SMELL OF FREEDOM, JUSTICE, AND TRUTH.”
He also posted an extract of a document from former Trump campaign lawyer Sidney Powell, claiming that it contained evidence of U.S. interference in Serbian elections through the election-services company Dominion. Powell’s assertions about Dominion’s alleged involvement in election fraud have been discredited.
The Serbian nationalist Twitter feed Slobodni Boem (Free Bohemian) wrote: “It doesn’t matter if America falls now or in 100 years or in 500 years. Serbia will be here to watch.”
Likewise, the nationalist Srbski Info Shtab (Serbian Information Headquarters) Twitter feed endorsed the Washington violence and said it demonstrated that “the global directors” must change things in America immediately “by establishing a dictatorship.” “But it also means there is resistance,” the post continued. “A resistance movement.”
Serbian nationalist Dejan Beric, who fought alongside Russian mercenaries in eastern Ukraine, posted a video on YouTube urging U.S. law enforcement not to use violence against “peaceful protesters” or infringe their right “to express their discontent to the government.”
He goes on to say sarcastically that he refuses to recognize U.S. President-elect Joe Biden and calls for sanctions against anyone who does.
Robert Coalson is a senior correspondent for RFE/RL who covers Russia, the Balkans, and Eastern Europe.