Though Thierry Baudet stepped down for a month from leadership of the FvD political party in November 2020 over leaked racist and pro-Nazi text messages internal to the party’s youth wing (led by FvD International’s board member Freek Jansen), Mr. Baudet was in December 2021 found guilty by the Amsterdam District Court of “creating a breeding ground for antisemitism” based on his published social media messages. The Dutch government determined that Mr. Baudet was “downplaying the Holocaust” through comparisons of those unvaccinated against coronavirus to Holocaust victims. Days before his temporary resignation in November 2020, fellow FvD party member Nicki Pouw-Verweij alleged in an open letter that Mr. Baudet responded to her concerns over antisemitism in the party with the statement “Where does your crusade against antisemitism come from? Almost everyone I know is an antisemite.” Following these repeated links to antisemitic rhetoric, Mr. Baudet’s Forum for Democracy party, previously prominent in Dutch politics, largely fractured, though it and its associated think tank remain active in far-right circles.
Listed on the website as a Director of FvD International think tank is John Laughland, a fixture in Kremlin-linked think tank and propaganda circles with previous connections to at least two other IEI-Watchlisted entities: as a Director of Studies at the Institute of Democracy and Cooperation in Paris and as an expert at Dialogue of Civilizations. Mr. Laughland, who frequently appears in Russian-supported media and whose opinions have routinely been published or amplified by outlets linked to narrative laundering operations, can also be traced to overlapping tenures on certain projects directly and indirectly involving sanctioned Russian ultranationalist Aleksandr Dugin (more below).
Joining Mr. Baudet on the board of FvD International in 2022 are Freek Jansen and Joris van den Oetelaar, both party members of FvD. Mr. Jansen leads the aforementioned youth wing of the FvD party and has twice defended the group in light of leaked racist and antisemitic text messages. Both Jansen and van den Oetelaar are directors of Baudet’s Amsterdam Media Group, a publishing house offering far-right and conspiratorial content from Baudet and Laughland along with other select authors; furthermore, Van den Oetelaar and Baudet were briefly suspended from speaking in Parliament over failing to disclose this association.
Mr. Baudet, who under the FvD party has served in the Dutch House of Representatives since 2017, launched FvD as a party in 2016 against the backdrop of a campaign against the European Union’s signing of an association agreement with Ukraine. A 2020 investigation by Dutch outlet Zembla revealed text messages sent from Baudet to his former co-founder during 2015 referencing alleged payments received from Russian national Vladimir Kornilov, a longtime Kremlin propagandist with alleged links to Vladimir Putin. Baudet has denied receiving any funding from Kornilov or the Russian government, stating that the text messages– which read “Maybe Kornilov wants to pay some extra,” and “Kornilov cannot compete with that with all his money”—were sent in jest.
Dutch paper der Volkskrant reports that in 2020, Dutch intelligence services became concerned and warned Baudet personally that Russian elements could be attempting to infiltrate or influence FvD and become close to Baudet himself. The Netherlands’ domestic intelligence service (i.e., AIVD) expressed concerns about a particular woman active in FvD circles whom they had noted frequented the Russian Embassy, from which she was suspected to be collecting cash. Post-security concerns, Mr. Baudet took no action while maintaining or even increasing his pro-Russian stance.
On 6 July 2023, FvD hosted, via Twitter spaces, EU-sanctioned Russian ultranationalist philosopher Aleksandr Dugin (who was also sanctioned by the US in 2015 for his role in the illegal annexation of Crimea and illegal occupation of Donbas). Previously, on 6 October 2022, the very day EU sanctions against Dugin were announced, FvD International reposted an interview with the philosopher. Originally published by the magazine of FvD party’s youth wing on 5 February 2022, the article decries Dugin’s perception by the West as a “Rasputin-like figure” whose “ideas are so dangerous they cannot be described with a pen.” The day after sanctions were imposed and the article on Dugin was posted, Director John Laughland was detained and questioned by British counter-terrorism agents at Gatwick Airport, allegedly over his ties to Russia. Mr. Laughland published details of his detention on the FvD International website. Furthermore, days after the attempted August 2022 assassination of Mr. Dugin, which US intelligence believes was authorized by elements of the Ukrainian government and during which Dugin’s daughter was killed, Laughland penned an article for FvD International stating that the attempt was “aimed at anyone in Europe who takes a dissenting view on the Russian-Ukrainian war – and that includes many people in FVD, from the leadership downwards.”
FvD and Laughland’s repeated writings on Mr. Dugin refer to him as “not a man of power” but merely “a man of ideas” and “simply a public intellectual and regular TV talk show guest” whose place on Western sanctions lists is only due to “thoughtcrime”. This attempted reputation laundering through the framing of Mr. Dugin as an innocent bystander targeted for his intellectual thought must contend with the reality that he served as a founder of the Eurasian Youth Union (ESM) in 2005 and the role it played in cleaving off parts of Donetsk. For example, in 2006 individuals travelled to an ESM camp in Russia where they subsequently attended lectures by Dugin and received training in hand-to-hand combat; moreover, ESM acknowledges that it maintains a covert presence in Ukraine, and as per sanctions imposed by the US Department of Treasury, has “actively recruited individuals with military and combat experience” to fight on behalf of the so-called “Donetsk People’s Republic,” a term created by the Russian government to describe Russian-occupied territory on Ukrainian soil.
Two years prior to the first invasion of Ukraine by paramilitary units, this so-called "Donetsk People’s Republic" opened its first “embassy” in 2012, located at the Moscow headquarters of ESM. In 2022, Dugin’s Geopolitica outlet was sanctioned by the United States for amplifying and spreading disinformation aimed at western as well as other audiences. In the end, Dugin was neither sanctioned nor targeted for alleged assassination for his profundity of thought but rather for his active participation in undermining the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine and disinformation campaigns.
Pro-Kremlin talking points and propaganda, along with far-right conspiracy theories, are consistently promoted by FvD International and the party itself, to include Mr. Baudet who behaves as a de facto lobbyist for Moscow in addition to evangelizing an increasingly conspiracy-laden worldview. For instance, in a Parliamentary debate on 28 February 2022, Mr. Baudet stated he does not see Ukraine as a sovereign nation-state. Even outside of Parliament, Mr. Baudet has referred to Russian President Vladimir Putin as “the hero we need, the man who is exposing the globalists” to say nothing of advancing the “Great Reset” conspiracy theory wherein he alleges that a ‘global elite’ is leveraging the coronavirus pandemic to dismantle society and enforce a world government. Not only has Mr. Baudet spread Russian disinformation surrounding the 2014 downing of passenger airliner MH17 by Russian-supported separatists, he also campaigned against the joint international investigation into the incident. A former co-founder of the party and onetime director of FvD International, who separated from the group in 2019, referred to Baudet in 2022 as a “Manchurian candidate” and “plaything of a foreign power”.
Mr. Baudet remains an active participant in the transnational far-right milieux. On 14 October 2023, he delivered a speech at the ReAwaken America Conference at the Trump Doral hotel in Tampa Bay, Florida, as part of a far-right Christian nationalist tour organized by Michael Flynn, a former US National Security Advisor who twice pled guilty to lying to US investigative authorities regarding secret communications with the Russian ambassador, and noted conspiracy theorist Clay Clark. Highlights from Mr. Baudet’s speech include an assertion that “uncontrolled immigration … dilutes organic communities” and dogwhistles such as railing against ‘globalists’, a ‘politically correct’ term that often doubles as an antisemitic trope.
Third sector organizations such as nonprofits, think tanks, or foundations possessing meaningful links to or behaviours consistent with: malign influence and finance; financial and organised crime; narrative or reputation laundering; or espionage, amongst others, may morally corrode the nonprofit space. Additionally, any organization engaged in or associated with such activities can potentially serve as a vector for undermining western institutions and values as well as transatlantic relationships. Open-source information indicates Forum voor Democratie International’s senior leadership and its direct as well as indirect activities warrant the designation of this organization as a “high-risk NGO”. Therefore, FvD International has been placed onto the Institute for European Integrity’s NGO Watchlist.