Reinhard Heinisch on “The case of the Austrian Radical Right and Russia during the war in Ukraine”

Heinisch, Reinhard & Hofmann, Diana. (2023). “The Case of the Austrian Radical Right and Russia During the War in Ukraine.” In: The Impacts of the Russian Invasion of Ukraine on Right-wing Populism in Europe. (eds). Gilles Ivaldi and Emilia Zankina. European Center for Populism Studies (ECPS). March 8, 2023. Brussels.

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The right-wing, populist Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) has viewed Putin’s Russia as an effective constraint on what the Radical Right regards as a liberal cultural and economic agenda pursued by the European Union and the United States. The FPÖ remained a supporter of Kremlin policies, even after Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, and even signed a cooperation agreement with Putin’s United Russia party in 2016. Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the FPÖ has been careful not to be seen defending Moscow’s aggression. Instead, it has resorted to populist framing that casts the Austrian people as victims of national and Western political elites. Concretely, the party leadership claims that the country’s policies toward Russia are counterproductive and have been decided without the consent of the people. This approach is an extension of the FPÖ’s traditional Euroscepticism and anti-establishment positioning. It also appeals to Austrians’ longstanding preference for neutrality. According to polling data, the FPÖ is well positioned to outperform all other parties in the current issue environment.

Keywords: Austria, populist Radical RightEuroscepticism, neutrality, anti-establishment positioning, anti-Americanism.

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