For years, far-right extremists from around the globe traded ideology and inspiration on the fringes of society and in the deepest realms of the internet. Now, the events of Jan. 6 at the U.S. Capitol have laid bare their violent potential, reports the New York Times. In chatter on their online networks, many disavowed the storming of the Capitol as amateurish bungling. Some echoed falsehoods emanating from QAnon-affiliated channels in the United States claiming that the riot had been staged by the left to justify a clampdown on supporters of President Donald J. Trump. But many others saw it as a teaching moment about how to move forward and pursue their goal of overturning democratic governments in more concerted and concrete ways.
It is a threat that intelligence officials, especially in Germany, take seriously. So much so that immediately after the violence in the United States, the German authorities tightened security around the Parliament building in Berlin, where far-right protesters — waving many of the same flags and symbols as the rioters in Washington — had tried to force their way in on Aug. 29. President Joe Biden has also ordered a comprehensive assessment of the threat from domestic violent extremism in the United States. A recent report commissioned by the German foreign ministry describes “a new leaderless transnational apocalyptically minded, violent far-right extremist movement” that has emerged over the past decade.
In 2019, FBI director Christopher Wray warned that American white supremacists were traveling overseas for training with foreign nationalist groups. A report that year by the Soufan Center, a nonpartisan think tank, found that as many as 17,000 foreigners, many of them white nationalists, had traveled to Ukraine to fight on both sides of the separatist conflict there. Most were Russians, but among them were several dozen Americans. The transnational links are inspirational rather than organizational, said Miro Dittrich, an expert on far-right extremist networks. “It’s not so much forging a concrete plan as creating a violent potential,” he said.
Additional reading: The White Power Movement’s ‘War on Democracy’