Many far-right extremists, estimated to number between the hundreds and the low thousands, have flocked to eastern Ukraine to take up arms since civil war erupted in 2014. Hailing from across Europe, North and South America, and as far away as Australia, they’re drawn by the opportunity to fight alongside other right-wing radicals on either side of the conflict. Many see the battle as a crucial training ground for the defense of white Europe, where they can forge deep international links and gain combat experience they believe will be critical at home.
When they return home, they’re battle-hardened and more radicalized than ever, researchers say, and often fly below the radar of security services more focused on the returning jihadi threat.
“I believe Europe is in great danger,” Alberto Testa, an expert on far-right radicalization at the University of West London, told VICE News. He said eastern Ukraine had become a critical staging ground for the international “white jihad struggle” of the far right, where extremists could “train for what some would call racial holy war.”
Researchers warn that Ukraine is radicalizing far-right foreign fighters in the same way Syria has with jihadis — albeit on a smaller scale — creating a global network of combat-tested extremists who pose a security threat that is now beginning to manifest itself.
...Western security services haven't taken the far-right foreign fighter threat seriously enough, said Daniel Koehler, director of the German Institute for Radicalization and Deradicalization Studies, largely because they’ve overwhelmingly focused on jihadist foreign fighters returning from Syria and Iraq in recent years.
“It seems that intelligence agencies have not regarded them as even remotely as much of a risk as the jihadist fighters,” Koehler told VICE News.
But that’s slowly started to change, as fighters returning from Ukraine make their presence felt at home.
...Kacper Rekawek, head of defense and security programs at Slovakia’s Globsec think tank, said some recruits had seemed indifferent about which side they actually fought on.
“Sometimes it’s a matter of accident whether a fighter ends up on side A or side B,” said Rekawek, who has extensively interviewed foreign fighters. “They just want to take themselves to war, get this rush of adrenaline.”
...For many far-right foreign fighters drawn to Ukraine, the outcome of the war is almost a secondary consideration to other, more compelling, pull factors.
Rekawek said Ukraine fulfilled the need, expressed by many ideologues on the extreme right, for a “safe space” for Nazis outside the West, where they could network and organize beyond the prying eyes of domestic security services.Some Canadian radical right wingers are known to have joined their multinational clan in Ukraine. Others chose to get their combat training at home - on the taxpayers' dime. They simply enlist in the Canadian army.
When the story broke about the presence of right wing extremists in the Canadian forces, the generals were quick to say they were cracking down. Then again these are the same generals who vowed repeatedly to eliminate sexual predation in the ranks. Today the Trudeau government is paying out $900 million to victims of the generals' impressive success.
Back in my army days, there was a Nazi in my unit. Given that he had a tattoo of Himmler, it was a fairly open secret. (I don't know if he got it before he joined ). Nobody said anything. Good troop, nice guy, as long as you were white, and ignored the fact he was a Nazi.
Looking back, man that's creepy.
I think the reason why Western intelligence agencies haven't taken them seriously, is that they tend to be run or filled with right-wing reactionary types. They see more of a threat from any progressive movement trying to change the status quo or put people before profits. See the history of the RCMP Security Unit - / COINTELPRO etc. I think they would tend to think the nazis would be a sort of enemy of my enemy ally, because they'd be all for corporate oligarchy, so long as they get to hate. I can't prove it, but..
Pretty grim assessment, Stu. Grim but definitely plausible. Who gets a tattoo of Himmler? How does that go unnoticed?
Looking back, I'm kind of ashamed of how casual I was about it. In my defence I was just an ignorant kid at the time. Social conformity is a very strong human trait, and a rigid one like the military makes it worse.
That article about the Ukraine being a sort of Syria was definitely worrying. I'd imagine most, if not all are deeply authoritarian. So much violent hatred of difference.
Leave it to vox to downplay the overwhelming admiration and support among neo-nazis for Russia and the Putin regime. And of course you follow it up with a video from RT. But never mind, the horseshoe is just a myth, isn't it?
I didn't sense that they downplayed it, Anon. As a rule, White Supremacists love Putin, Trump, Orban and every other fascist. That's no secret. I think you're chasing your tail.
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