Russian state media have extolled the recent election of Jeremy Corbyn to the head of Britain’s Labour Party as the Kremlin continues to expand its influence among European political extremists.
Corbyn received nearly 60 percent of the votes in Saturday’s leadership election for Labour, the major opposition party in Britain once led by Tony Blair. The left-wing Member of Parliament has been critical of NATO and expressed opposition to imposing sanctions on Russia for its support of separatists in Ukraine. He also previously referred to members of the terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah as "friends" when he welcomed them to Britain.
Russian news outlets lauded the victory of a candidate with views closer to the Kremlin line. RT, a Russian-funded propaganda network, noted that Corbyn was "an admirer of Karl Marx" and had won "one of the key races in recent times."
Neil Clark, a British journalist interviewed by RT, said that his election was "a wonderful day for British democracy."
"What this campaign showed is a massive disconnect between the establishment elite who told us Corbyn couldn't win," he said.
Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey, a columnist for the pro-Kremlin outlet Pravda.ru, wrote that Corbyn "has the Establishment on both sides of the Atlantic shaking in their boots." He praised the new Labour leader for challenging the "lobby" of NATO officials, who have condemned Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea last March and its ongoing provision of weapons, troops, and money to Ukrainian separatists. Nearly 8,000 people have died in the Ukrainian conflict since last April.
"Predictably, the national security button will be pressed as enemies and dark forces are invented to justify NATO's existence and new members are sought to bolster its budget and cater for the lobbies for which NATO is the cutting edge," Bancroft-Hinchey wrote.
Corbyn has also called for abolishing Britain’s Trident nuclear system.
The Russian embassy in Britain has traded barbs with David Cameron, the UK’s current prime minister and the leader of the Conservative Party. When Cameron said on Twitter that a Labour Party led by Corbyn is "a threat to our national security, our economic security and your family’s security," the Russian embassy responded: "Just imagine UK media headlines if Russian President called a leading opposition party threat to national security?"
Alexander Yakovenko, Russia’s ambassador to the UK, tweeted congratulations to Corbyn and also expressed "hope for positive change" in relations.
In Washington, John Kirby, a spokesman for the Department of State, said on Monday that, while American officials do not comment on "internal political matters," the U.S.-UK alliance will "continue very, very strong" regardless of changes in party leadership. The Obama administration has assumed several positions seemingly at odds with Corbyn, including U.S. support for economic sanctions on Russia.
Corbyn is the latest European leader to express a desire for closer relations with President Vladimir Putin. Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s far-right National Front, has denied reports that her party received millions in loans from a Russian bank as a result of her support for the Kremlin. Le Pen has visited Moscow several times and praised the Russian president.
Even members of France’s main center-right party, the Republicans, have moved closer to Putin in recent years. Nicolas Sarkozy, the former French president who leads the party, has said that "Crimea can’t be blamed for choosing Russia."
Putin’s courting of extremist politicians, including some who now lead their countries, could undermine U.S. and European efforts to punish Russia for its intervention in Ukraine. While some of the fighting in eastern Ukraine has subsided, there are also reports that Russian troops have continued to supply advanced weaponry to the separatists, including T-72 tanks and anti-aircraft missiles.