Slovakia’s Pro-Russian Populists Win: EU, NATO, Ukraine Shocked”

Bertrand Badie, professor emeritus at Sciences-Po Paris, analyzes the consequences of the success of the populists in the legislative elections in Slovakia on Sunday.

After the victory, announced on Sunday October 1, of the populist Smer-SD party in the legislative elections in Slovakia, Bertrand Badie, specialist in international relations and professor emeritus at Sciences-Po Paris, draws lessons from the election. Former Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico, at the head of the winning team, notably declared that in the event of victory, he would put an end to his country’s aid to Ukraine.

Franceinfo: With this victory in Slovakia, is this yet another populist rise in Europe?

Bertrand Badie: Yes, we must even present it in this way, in Europe, and beyond, because we cannot help but bring these European movements closer to those that we have found in the United States since the Trump’s election in 2016, and which constitute one of the major issues of the next American presidential elections. So, it is interesting to see how populism, and a form of radicalized nationalism, completely shake up the usual diplomatic situation, and the geopolitical situation. Geopolitics is overtaken by all these stirrings where ideology, social movements, attitudes, electoral behavior mingle. It’s a shock for the European Union, it’s a shock for NATO, it’s a shock for Ukraine.

Is this linked to a loss of Western power?

We see the idea of a homogeneous Western bloc coming into perspective over the weeks, months and years. This is perhaps the new element. We used to talk about the West in the singular, because it was the camp that opposed the Soviet camp, and because it was irrigated by a certain number of values that we believed to be stable. , and above all interpreted in the same way from one country to another.

However, the conceptions which form the West are diversifying, in particular under the effect of a nationalist retraction, which is the great event of recent years, these last decades. It is explained by the fact that, more and more, States and people want to go it alone, because there is a very strong fear of globalization, because there is also a form of transmutation of American hegemony, which was considered the natural protection of the European world, and we see that the reality is much more complex.

If you put this together, you see a whole series of contradictions. Ideological, first of all: we see that left and right populism mix, a sort of social radicalism with conservatism in matters of morals and values. All this means that, ultimately, there are no benchmarks. Diplomacy needs benchmarks and order.

With this populist victory in Slovakia, is Russia gaining ideological ground in Europe, and is Ukraine losing it?

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Russia is gaining ground. What the Kremlin is aiming for is undoubtedly to divide what we call “the Western camp” and to ensure that this division has two effects. On the one hand, an effect of relaxation, that is to say that certain forces seem to have the wind in their sails when they speak of isolationism, of withdrawal from a war which risks being costly and dangerous; and, on the other hand, an effect of discord, disunity, which actually has the advantage of strengthening the Kremlin’s positions. I think we’re there. It is very interesting to compare the situation in Poland and Slovakia. Poland has a right-wing nationalist government, which was very pro-Ukrainian, and which suddenly evolves towards completely different positions, which surprise everyone. There, with Slovakia, we have a nationalist populism rather oriented to the left, hostile to strong mobilization behind Ukraine.

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