Donald Trump’s choice for national security advisor met at Trump Tower with the leader of a far-right Austrian political party founded in the 1950s by ex-Nazis.
Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who the president-elect has tapped to coordinate national security in his administration, met several weeks ago with the head of Austria’s Freedom Party, which reached a cooperation agreement with Russia’s ruling party, reported the New York Times.
The agreement was seen a clear signal that the Kremlin is forging bonds with right-wing political parties across Europe as part of a coordinated effort to weaken Western democracies — including the United States.
Heinz-Christian Strache, the Freedom Party’s leader, announced the agreement Monday on his Facebook page, where he also revealed he’d met with Flynn last month in New York City at the building where Trump lives and has based his transition team.
The five-year, non-legally binding cooperation agreement calls for regular meetings and collaboration on economic, business and political projects between representatives from Russia and Austria — where the Freedom Party has gained political influence this year.
The agreement was signed for United Russia by Sergei Zheleznyak, a deputy to the party’s general secretary who is banned from the U.S. for supporting Russian actions in Crimea, the newspaper reported.
Zheleznyak welcomed the Austrian group to Russia by inviting them to cooperate on Europe’s “migration crisis,” which right-wing populists around the world have used to stoke anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant fears.
Flynn, who led the Defense Intelligence Agency until 2014 and was an outspoken critic of President Barack Obama, has ties to Russia and its leader, Vladimir Putin, and has compared Islam to cancer in a book and posts anti-Muslim conspiracy theories on social media.
It’s not clear what Flynn and Strache, the Austrian political leader, discussed during their meeting.
The Freedom Party’s candidate, Norbert Hofer, barely lost the presidential race in May, but it’s gaining public support over the two mainstream parties that have governed Austria since World War II.