A few days after securing the nomination to be the 45th President of the United States, Trump announced Steve Bannon, a man Politico labeled “an insurgent firebrand,” would be his chief strategist.
Prior to accepting the role in Trump’s administration Bannon was his campaign CEO. And before that, he ran Breitbart, a news platform that he once called the “platform for the alt-right.”
While Bannon may have no direct ties to Dugin, he is acutely aware of the Russian’s ideology. Bannon referred to Dugin while answering questions at a talk hosted by the religious right wing Human Dignity Institute in the summer of 2014.
“When Vladimir Putin, when you really look at some of the underpinnings of some of his beliefs today, a lot of those come from what I call Eurasianism,” said Bannon. “He’s got an adviser [Dugin] who harkens back to Julius Evola and different writers of the early 20th century who are really the supporters of what’s called the traditionalist movement, which really eventually metastasized into Italian fascism. A lot of people that are traditionalists are attracted to that.”
Bannon is referring to Dugin here. Dugin is a proponent of traditionalism — a philosophy in which all moral and religious truths come from divine revelation and are perpetuated by tradition — and counts Evola, an influential Italian fascist, as one of his influences. This speech took place in 2014, when Dugin’s support for the annexation of Crimea had him prominently in the news.
Bannon may have little love for Putin. In his speech, Bannon calls Putin a kleptocrat; and when he oversaw Breitbart, coverage of Putin and Russia was largely negative. But just because he disagrees with some of Putin’s goals, it doesn’t mean he disputes all of Putin’s methods, as he made clear during the Human Dignity Institute event.
“[W]e the Judeo-Christian West really have to look at what [Putin] he’s talking about as far as traditionalism goes — particularly the sense of where it supports the underpinnings of nationalism — and I happen to think that the individual sovereignty of a country is a good thing and a strong thing,” said Bannon. “I think strong countries and strong nationalist movements in countries make strong neighbors, and that is really the building blocks that built Western Europe and the United States, and I think it’s what can see us forward.”
For Bannon, Putin’s form of traditionalism can be used as a bulwark against what he believes to be America’s gravest threats — liberalism and “radical Islam.” Bannon said:
You know, Putin’s been quite an interesting character. He’s also very, very, very intelligent. I can see this in the United States where he’s playing very strongly to social conservatives about his message about more traditional values, so I think it’s something that we have to be very much on guard of. Because at the end of the day, I think that Putin and his cronies are really a kleptocracy, that are really an imperialist power that want to expand. However, I really believe that in this current environment, where you’re facing a potential new caliphate that is very aggressive that is really a situation — I’m not saying we can put it on a back burner — but I think we have to deal with first things first.
Despite the shared ideology, Bannon clearly doesn’t lionize Putin or Dugin on the same level as others in the racist alt-right circles. Putin and Dugin recognize parts of Islamic culture as closer to Russian than Western culture, whereas Bannon’s view of traditionalism has no place for Islam — as evidenced by his frequent references of a “Judeo-Christian west.”
“Mr Dugin and his ideological camp, by contrast, see parts of the Islamic world as a potential ally against the liberal-humanist demon,” according to a November report in the Economist, “and this, in turn, influences Mr Putin, who once said that in the view of ‘certain thinkers’ Russian Orthodoxy stood closer to Islam than to Western Christianity.”
Bannon seems to be ambivalent when it comes to Putin. On the one hand, he sees Putin as fighting jihadists in Syria (though the reality is more complicated), while on the other, Putin is clearly not a proponent of Bannon’s vision of a powerful “Judeo-Christian West.”
But that doesn’t mean Bannon isn’t above forming a partnership to fight liberalism, something held in equal contempt by Dugin. As the Economist reported, “whatever the differences [between Dugin, Putin, and Bannon, they] do want to be in vanguard of a fight against certain common enemies, including secularism, multi-culturalism, egalitarianism and modernity.”
Strands of Bannon’s ideology resembles Dugin’s. That being said, it may not be a coincidence that many online pro-Trump supporters also posts pro-Putin messaging. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Dugin’s name also makes frequent appearances in these messages.
“In one example, anonymous pro-Russia Twitter account holder @Ricky_Vaughn99, who has been acknowledged as one of the most influential tweeters for Trump, was interviewed on Radix Journal, edited by racist ‘alt-right’ figure Richard Spencer, which itself hosts numerous articles by and about Dugin,” the Herald reported in June. “The Ricky Vaughn 99 account has even retweeted videos in Russian. It’s like one big happy family generating social media buzz for Trump, Dugin and the cause of white identity.”