With the old Confederate battle flag very much in the news as a result of the horrific racist shooting in Charleston, S.C. last week, politicians across party lines are rushing to consign the symbol of Southern secessionism to museums, rather than to state capitols in former Confederate states.
But support for the secessionist cause still remains strong in…the Kremlin.
In a piece published in Politico, reporter Casey Michel outlines the deeply strange connection between the Texas National Movement, a group that advocates for Texas breaking away from the Union, and authorities in Russia.
Nathan Smith, the self-described foreign minister of TNM, has been welcomed at far right rallies in Russia, and feted by state media for describing the U.S. as being “not a democracy, but a dictatorship.”
The Kremlin has also apparently harnessed its considerable army of Internet “trolls” to gin up discussions of Texas eventually seceding from the Union on various platforms globally.
References to Texas have become strangely common in statements of Russian officials, up to and including President Vladimir Putin who, as Michel notes, accused the U.S. of “grabbing” Texas from Mexico in a rambling speech to the nation last December. (Texas, in fact, established its own independence from Mexico, establishing the Republic of Texas in 1836, nearly 10 years before voting to join the U.S.)
According to Michel, Texas isn’t the only place where Russia is encouraging separatist movements. Calls in Scotland, Venice and Catalonia to secede from the U.K., Italy and Spain, respectively, have also received support.
But Texas is by far the favorite target, and that’s largely because it helps feed a storyline that Putin has been pushing for more than a year now: that the U.S. is deeply hypocritical in condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula last year and the Kremlin’s continued support of separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.
By invoking the memory of a revolution that took place 180 years ago — and didn’t actually involve the United States — Putin has sought to draw a sort of moral equivalence between his actions in Ukraine and the U.S. annexation of Texas in 1845, 10 years after the foundation of the Republic of Texas by its own citizens.
However, the Kremlin may be overestimating the alienation that Texans feel. Three of the last nine U.S. presidents, for example, have been from the state, and two more Texans, Rick Perry and Ted Cruz, are vying to win the White House in 2016.
Perry, probably the most high-profile advocate for his state, has made it clear that secession isn’t really in the cards. “We’ve got a great union,” he said during his last presidential run. “There is absolutely no reason to dissolve it.”
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