In the lead-up to the European elections, the Kremlin poured vast amounts of resources into attempting to tilt the results in favour of far-Right, pro-Russian politicians. All the familiar tactics were seen in the wild. Moscow hardly bothers to cover its tracks any longer: viral stories on TikTok and Instagram pumped out lurid claims about the opposition, hackers caused disruption, and, behind the scenes, Russian agents were hard at work within NGOs and political structures across the continent. 

At first glance, Vladimir Putin seems to have won an enormous victory. Sympathetic far-Right parties, including openly neo-fascist outfits in Slovakia and Bulgaria, won seats across Central and Eastern Europe. Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National performed so well — clocking 31.5% of the vote in France — that Emmanuel Macron was moved to call a national election in response. 

Russian politicians have been cock-a-hoop, declaring with confidence that the parliamentary results are a turning point in a broader war against the West. On X, an increasingly combative Dmitry Medvedev declared in his broken English that the results “come as a reflection of your inept policy of providing support to the bandera authorities in the f. Ukraine at the cost of your own citizens, your idiotic economic and migration policy!” A swathe of Russian media pundits followed his lead, proclaiming that the electoral results would lead to a definitive weakening in support for Kyiv and that “Russian culture and traditions are gaining more and more recognition in the West”. 

These leading commentators are assuring a Russian public, struggling with the economic and human costs of the country’s war against Ukraine, that a long-promised goal — one enshrined in official doctrine for close to two decades — is about to be realised: the creation of a “multipolar world” led by Moscow, and the rebuilding of a lost empire. 

Depicting Europe as the antithesis of Russian values, power and success has been central to selling this project to the Russian population. Indeed, it was the pro-Russian Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych’s decision to reject an EU Association Agreement in 2013 that led to the Maidan Revolution in Kyiv. In turn, Putin in large part decided to invade a few months later as Ukraine looked to be rejecting Russia in favour of Europe.

Thus the suggestion that Europe is about to be broken for good not only invokes the collapse of the EU; it also implies Russia’s inexorable rise, the recreation of an empire with Moscow at its heart, and the recompense for two years of bitter suffering in Ukraine.

Yet is the situation as promising as Medvedev and his ilk claim? Despite the successes of the European far-Right, it is hard to imagine that 2024 will be a major turning point in Moscow’s relationship with Europe, or that the European Union’s old guard is on its knees. Indeed, it may yet transpire that 2024’s elections will see a new pact between the centre-right and the Left that could tilt both Moldova and Ukraine — each a traditional part of Russia’s imagined sphere of influence — even further toward Brussels.

For all the headlines about far-Right successes, the most openly pro-Russian politicians struggled at the polls. The pro-Russian Latvia MEP Tatjana Ždanoka, who announced her “retirement” in February after allegations of spying for Russia were made public, saw her party fail to regain its single seat. Vocal pro-Russian Left-wingers such as the Dubliner Clare Daly, who was publicly backed by liberal celebrities including Susan Sarandon, also made their exits from Strasbourg. Voters might be angry about immigration and the political intransigence of Brussels, but they are not ready to embrace Moscow.

“Voters might be angry about immigration and the political intransigence of Brussels, but they are not ready to embrace Moscow.”

Meanwhile, it will be service as normal in the halls of power in Europe. The European People’s Party (EPP) — which contains all of the familiar big hitters continues to back Ursula von der Leyen as president of the European Commission — remains the largest bloc in the Parliament. None of its members are pro-Russian, and there is no indication that their views on providing support to Ukraine, let alone retreating from the Baltics and the former Communist countries of Eastern Europe, are about to change. Indeed, a resurgent Poland is leading a group of European countries determined to take on Putin, come what may.

Jostling for position behind the EPP is a bitterly divided rabble of Right-wing parties, only a minority of whom are outright pro-Russian. The most pro-Moscow bloc, the Identity and Democracy (ID) grouping of parties, gained a mere nine seats in the elections. But for the past two years, the group has been riven with infighting and allegiance switching as members such as the hard nationalist Finns Party have doubled down on their support for Ukraine and chosen to exit. Despite dalliances with pro-Russian positions, the far-Right in Italy and France remain pro-Ukraine. The crucial issues for the Right, even those more sympathetic to Moscow, are around economy, migration, and values — not about giving the Kremlin a grand strategic victory.

It is more likely that a centre-left bloc will cut a deal with the EPP grouping to offer Moldova and Ukraine new paths to integration, and possibly a route to membership. Even as Medvedev loudly declares the advent of a Russian-led multipolar world, Russia’s former subjects are fast heading in the opposite direction, toward a Europe that is ready to embrace them — and that is pumping great quantities of money and arms into Ukraine. 

After more than two years of total warfare in Ukraine, Moscow is further away than ever from recreating the Soviet and Russian empire. Europe has, once again, overwhelmingly rejected Russia and its useful idiots. The Kremlin’s stooges will keep claiming that the turning point is just over the horizon, but it is hard not to be reminded of the Soviet promise that global revolution is just around the corner. The more that promise is made, the more obvious it is that Russia’s star is waning.

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