America’s neo-Nazi Terrorists Have a Powerful New Patron: Vladimir Putin

In recent weeks, the FBI has cracked down on members of the fascist paramilitary network known as "The Base," the English translation of "Al-Qaida." Law enforcement officials described the group as seeking "to accelerate the downfall of the United States government, incite a race war, and establish a white ethno-state."

In the lead up to a large open-carry gun rights rally in Richmond, Virginia, FBI agents busted Base members for planning to murder antifascist activists in their beds. Others faced arrest for plotting to initiate a civil war by killing police officers and gun advocates, potentially framing antifascists for the deaths.

Another Base member directed a 2019 campaign of "tagging" synagogues with swastikas, an effort he named "Operation Kristallnacht." A photo posted on social media by another suspected member shows a masked man shooting a target painted with a Star of David. 

But, surprisingly, this ultranationalist fascist network is not based in the United States at all. According to two independent investigations in The Guardian and the BBC, The Base's leader, Rinaldo Nazzaro, lives in Russia. 

– JoeNBC tweet

Neo-Nazi Rinaldo Nazzaro running US militant group The Base from Russia – BBC News

— Joe Scarborough (@JoeNBC) January 24, 2020

There was a time when U.S. far right paramilitaries had roots in rural America. Timothy McVeigh, the notorious 1995 Oklahoma City bomber, came from remote Lockport, New York, and bounced around militia movement in non-urban areas of Arizona and Michigan. In the 1980s neo-Nazi terrorist group The Order organized their armored car robberies and assassinations from northern Idaho.

When David Duke revived the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s, he did so from Louisiana, not Leningrad. When U.S. white nationalists attempted to invade the Caribbean island of Dominica, they didn't boast of their ties with foreign governments.

– EUG161 tweet

While originally The Base tried to encourage legal actions only among it's members, it soon transformed into paramilitary cells that openly share strategies for mass terrorism rooted in white supremacy.

— EUG161 (@161EUG) August 5, 2019

What has changed is the successful fascist evangelism of Russians like Kremlin-adjacent Aleksandr Dugin, Eduard Limonov, and their associates, combined with the growing need of U.S. far right groups for funding and sanctuary. The rise of once-obscure ideological strains of ultra-nationalism, promulgated through increased international collaboration, finds a useful fillip in Vladimir Putin’s growing interest in covertly disrupting U.S. social and political stability and norms.