by ROBERT BECKHUSEN
Of all the strange political relationships, one of the strangest has to be the one between Texan secessionists and right-wing Russian nationalists.
On March 23, the pro-Kremlin newspaper Vzglyad interviewed Nathan Smith, the third-in-command and chief of staff of the Texas Nationalist Movement. According to the paper, Smith is in Moscow to meet with the Anti-Globalization Movement of Russia — which supports separatist movements in eastern Ukraine.
Since last spring, Kremlin-backed separatists and Russian troops have fought a war with a pro-European government in Kiev. Smith didn’t take sides in the conflict.
Instead, he told the newspaper that Texas should secede from the United States to preserve its “cowboy” culture and to halt the state’s contributions to an “astronomical military budget.”
“I’m going to meet with a number of public organizations that are close to us in spirit and have common values with us,” Smith told Vzglyad.
What’s weirder is that the TNM has tried to take a savvier approach than other nationalist groups in the state. But partnering up with the Anti-Globalization Movement of Russia is … not very savvy.
The Anti-Globalization Movement lists several partners on its Website. These include the Russian nationalist group IA Rex, the Website Infodessa — which urges for the city of Odessa to secede from Ukraine — and the Veche organization, which seeks the “restoration of Russia as a cultural, civilizational and geopolitical unifying force in the former Soviet republics.”
Another partner is a social media group called FTU — for “Fuck the U.S.A.”
The TNM is the most visible Texan secessionist group, and holds occasional rallies outside the state capitol building in Austin. It functions more like a conventional political lobby — it has a PAC — and grew its numbers through social media following the success of the Tea Party movement.
Its politics broadly hew along the same lines as the Tea Party. The TNM wants limited government, low taxes and border security. That, and getting the Hell out of America.
“The Texas Nationalist Movement peacefully advocates for the political, cultural and economic independence of Texas,” the group’s Website states. “We do not levy war.”
The TNM emerged from the wreckage of the Republic of Texas — another secessionist group that imploded into three factions after a violent siege.
In 1997, several Republic of Texas militants took hostages and engaged in a standoff with state police at a compound in rural West Texas. One militant died in a shootout.
The Republic of Texas still exists — although it has renounced violence and has a different leadership. The group’s ex-leader, Richard McLaren, remains in prison for his role in the standoff.
But the current Republic of Texas does have two strange quirks.
For one, the group’s symbol includes a map of Texas with its claimed territory prior to 1845 — that includes half of New Mexico, a big chunk of Colorado and a long, narrow stretch of land extending into lower Wyoming. Plus the Oklahoma panhandle and bite-sized piece of Kansas.
The group also doesn’t believe Texas ever legally became part of the U.S., and that many contemporary laws do not apply to its members. For the same reason, the group doesn’t spend much time lobbying or petitioning, unlike the TNM.
As far as the Republic of Texas sees it, there are no legitimate authorities to petition.
In February, FBI agents raided a Republic of Texas meeting after the group demanded a judge appear at the group’s court — yes, the Republic of Texas has its own quasi-court. The judge had a “role in the pending foreclosure of a member’s home,” the New York Times reported.
Then there’s the weird connection between Russian nationalists and the TNM. We can take several guesses why it exists. For one, the Anti-Globalization Movement of Russia supports separatist movements in the West generally.
So there’s a common foe. But don’t tell the TNM.
“We are not an enemy to the United States and do not adhere to or give aid and comfort to their enemies,” the group’s Website states. “Therefore, supporting or advocating Texas independence is not treason.”
For the TNM, the group wants to rebrand Texan separatism as a credible force — and eschewing hostage-taking domestic extremism. At the same time, building support abroad might help the group bolster its credibility.
But there’s a contradiction in espousing American-style patriotism and building ties with an organization that itself partners with groups that hate the U.S. with a passion. Another one of the Anti-Globalization Movement’s listed partners is simply called Anti-U.S.A. News.
The relationship with Russian nationalists could also come from a misunderstanding of American and Texan political culture.
Vzglyad uncritically wrote that the TNM is “hardly a marginal group,” and stated it consists of more than 250,000 people. The TNM claims similar numbers, but it’s impossible to verify and seems largely based on Facebook likes.
A 2009 Rasmussen Reports poll, which was the last survey we could find on the subject, found that 18 percent of Texans support secession. That might sound like a lot, but the number corresponds with similar polls in other U.S. states.
Which is a bit of a problem for both Texan separatists and their Russian nationalist friends. One of the main reasons for any country to secede is to protect an independent identity. But as it turns out, Texans are a lot like other Americans.
Texas’s war record couldn’t cut hot buttermedium.com