The decline of Daesh in the Middle East has not meant that the issue of foreign fighters is no longer relevant to the EU. There is now another major conflict on the EU’s doorstep that has also been drawing significant numbers of foreign fighters for a few years, namely the Russo-Ukrainian War. This article investigates the phenomenon of far-right foreign fighters travelling from Europe to Ukraine. It makes three main inter-related arguments. First, although far-right extremists travelling to Ukraine constitute only a very small proportion of all the individuals joining the conflict and have turned up in smaller numbers than what had been predicted at some point, they represent a security risk to the EU and its Member States for a range of reasons. Second, despite these concerns, it is important not to exaggerate the scale of the presence of far-right foreign fighters in Ukraine, notably because this may play into the hands of the Russian authorities that have described the invasion of Ukraine as a ‘denazification’ mission. Third, whilst fully keeping the previous point in mind, it would nevertheless be in the interest of the EU and its Member States to place the issue of far-right foreign fighters travelling to Ukraine on the policy agenda, even if their number is relatively small. This is particularly important considering the rise of right-wing political violence, the potential for transnationalisation, the current strength of societal discontent in some European states, and the mainstreaming of previously fringe beliefs. A more coordinated approach towards dissuading those at risk of travelling to Ukraine could be developed, alongside preparing for the eventual return of those who have already travelled to the region.
- European Union
- Foreign Fighters