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15th Apr 2024

Wilders says Russia is 'no enemy' ahead of Moscow visit

  • Until recently Wilders (r) has been much less vocal about defending Russia than his French ally Le Pen (Photo: European Parliament)

Russia is "not an enemy" to the Netherlands, Dutch anti-EU politician Geert Wilders said in an interview published on Wednesday (22 November), ahead of a visit to Moscow in the New Year.

The far-right opposition MP, who leads the second-largest party in the lower house of the Dutch parliament, said there was "hysterical Russophobia" to which he wanted to provide a counter-narrative.

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  • Wilders will visit Moscow early next year (Photo: EUobserver)

"Russia is not our enemy, and we should not make it one," he told Dutch weekly magazine Elsevier. "Russia is on our side."

Wilders said it was understandable that Russia feels threatened by the expansion of the northern Atlantic alliance Nato.

"I'm a big fan of Nato and of the Americans, but Russia has a good point here," he said.

The interview comes ahead of a visit early next year of Wilders to Moscow, which has been behind several attempts to undermine the EU and is under sanctions because of the invasion of Crimea and support for insurgents in Ukraine.

Wilders has not been as outspoken about Russia as some other far-right politicians who defend Russia, like French former presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, whose National Front party has received a loan from a bank with ties to the Kremlin.

Wilders stressed in the interview that he would not accept loans or gifts from Moscow. "I never did and I never will."

He said his visit to Moscow would be his first in ten years.

But members of his Party for Freedom have supported a pro-Russia position in the European Parliament on several occassions.

They voted against two resolutions in March and April which criticised the situation in Crimea and the arrest of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny respectively. The texts were adopted by 74 and 79 percent of MEPs.

Fake news

Nevertheless, some of Wilders' critique of 'Russiaphobia' has some merit.

Last week Dutch politicians were up in arms over a warning from newly-appointed minister for interior affairs Kajsa Ollongren that Russia may be influencing Dutch political opinion through fake news.

But her letter to parliament was criticised for giving only one example of a website of fake news, which journalists later said was nowhere to be found.

Wilders' Moscow visit should also be seen in the context of his anti-Islam views, and the fact that as a leader of a party outside of government the MP is searching for ways to stay noticed.

Wilders said that Russia should be seen as "an ally in the fight against terrorism and mass immigration from Africa".

Dutch group combats Wilders' rhetoric online

Volunteers have gone online for the past two weeks, in an attempt to persuade potential voters for the anti-EU and anti-Islam leader to vote someone else.

Opinion

Eastern partners, eastern problems

The EU must hold out the olive branch of possible membership in the distant future - but the current domestic problems in the ex-Soviet states, let alone their links to Russia make more than that difficult.

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