One of the reasons why many people outside the US think president Trump is a complete moron is because of his reluctance to paint white supremacist groups in a bad light. I mean, come on.. Let’s face it, it’s fairly obvious that white supremacist groups are at the very least, racist and at most, bigots.
Trump however, has often opted to describe the violent actions by these groups as the action of “a small group of people” and not a rising global threat. That’s literally what he said last March. His habit of minimising the threat of white nationalist violence in the US, especially when compared to other terror groups however, seems to have come to an end.
On Monday, The Trump administration designated a Russian white supremacist group a “foreign terrorist organization” and hit its members with sanctions. The announcement, which would have hardly been surprising under any other administration, comes as a shock as it is the first time that a white supremacist group is being labelled as such.
It is believed that the group in question, the Russian Imperialist Movement (an ultra-nationalist paramilitary group based in St Petersburg), offered military training to neo-Nazi fighters and aided election interference in the US. There have also been rumours of the groups involvement in bombings at several locations in Sweden between 2016 and 2017.
The label, which has most frequently been used for for Islamist extremist groups, gives the US government authority to block American citizens from providing material support or engage in financial dealings with such groups.
The strangest part about this whole announcement is the fact that the group is relatively small and does not have major international reach, so it’s unclear what kind of practical impact it will have, if any. Imagine what it must be like for members of the group to go to sleep as mere racists and bigots and wake up as international terrorists who are also racists and bigots. Wild.
While this change in tone from the Trump administration is sudden, I have to say it’s a great call. Far-right extremism is purportedly what inspired the 2019 Christchurch shooting at a mosque in New Zealand and attacks in Scandinavia. While the slapping of the terrorist label on this specific group raises some eyebrows, it’s a great start from Donald Trump.
Could the Trump administration finally be concerned about the growing global threat from white supremacist movements? I sure hope so.