The Forum for Democracy (Dutch: Forum voor Democratie, FvD), a far-right populist Eurosceptic political party, has announced a July 10th seminar titled “Understanding the Conflict in Ukraine.” According to the event description:
On February 24th, Russia invaded Ukraine. The event was immediately condemned by countries in the American sphere of influence: NATO, the EU, Australia, etc. Heavy sanctions were imposed. Russian assets were seized. Russian media were censored. The rest of the world was more hesitant to take sides. Countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East have refused to condemn and sanction Russia for what Moscow claims is a defensive operation to protect Russia’s national security and interests. What exactly is the background of the current conflict in Ukraine? So many questions begging for answers. It’s time for a debate!
Alexander Shulgin, the Russian Ambassador to the Netherlands, will be participating in the event, and the keynote is scheduled to be delivered by John Laughland, described as a lecturer in political science and history and author of several books.
As early as 2014, US media identified Laughland as the Director of Studies at the Paris-based Institute of Democracy and Cooperation, described as a Russian think tank founded in 2008 that “toes a blatantly pro-Kremlin line while not being formally connected to the government of President Vladimir Putin.” The Institute was said to be headed by Natalya Narochnitskaya, a former Russian Duma deputy who also served as the deputy head of the parliamentary committee on foreign affairs. The REFRL report described Laughland as “a British Eurosceptic whose views closely match the Kremlin’s on a range of issues, including Ukrainian politics”:
The institute’s director of studies is John Laughland, a British Eurosceptic whose views closely match the Kremlin’s on a range of issues, including Ukrainian politics. In a December interview with Russian state-controlled television, he denounced the role of the ultranationalist Svoboda party in Kyiv’s pro-European protests and accused the Western media of “propaganda” — echoing Moscow’s claims that the demonstrators and the government born out of the Kyiv protests are fiercely anti-Semitic. In 2004, at the height of Ukraine’s Orange Revolution, Laughland had also dismissed protesters as “druggy skinheads from Lviv” and accused Western-leaning presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko and his allies of being cozy with neo-Nazis. Asked about his institute’s financing, Laughland says the funds are provided by the Foundation for Historical Outlook in Moscow, which in turn is financed by unspecified private Russian companies. Laughland says that “guests from Russia” are regularly invited to take part in the roundtables and symposiums organized by the institute.
The FvD is headed by Thierry Baudet, a far-right Dutch anti-immigrant politician. Baudet is an adherent of the anti-Semitic “Cultural Marxism” conspiracy theory and was found guilty in December 2021 of “creating a breeding ground for anti-Semitism” over social media posts comparing the government’s coronavirus measures to the Holocaust. Baudet has recently been tweeting Russian talking points on the Ukraine crisis, including one recent retweet of a Chinese effort to spread Russian disinformation claiming the US was secretly researching bioweapons in Ukraine. In March, a Global Influence Operations Report (GIOR) investigation demonstrated the relationship between Baudet, a British philosopher close to Hungarian PM Viktor Orban, and an alliance of European nationalists and US conservatives. That investigation referenced a Twitter thread with numerous examples of Baudet’s Russian ties.