We are in the midst of a stunning realignment of national politics that is making friends of old adversaries and enemies of old friends. Nowhere is that more evident than in the far right’s newfound infatuation with Russia.

Two weeks ago, in Charlottesville, Virginia, 200 people gathered to hear alt-right leader Richard Spencer speak against the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee. In the style of Ku Klux Klan marches that once flourished across the South, the nighttime gathering featured burning torches and calls for an all-white nation.

Perhaps the most remarkable chant heard that day was this one: “Russia is our friend.”

Spencer gained fame, earlier this year, as the speaker at a gathering in Washington in which he concluded with calls to ‘Hail Trump’, while facing an array of Nazi salutes from his audience.

The goals of his “alt-right” movement are simple and clear. They want a white nation and racial purity, loosely modeled on Adolf Hitler’s ideas of Aryan supremacy. Achieving those goals would require the expulsion of 100 million Americans who are not European. But they do not stop there. As Spencer said in a recent interview, the future belongs to “white men,” meaning women must be returned to their primary duty of childbearing.

This is the face of the “alt-right” movement in America. It includes among its leaders President Trump’s chief strategist Stephen Bannon, who was flying on Air Force One last week, and could be seen at the side of President Trump in the centers of power in the Middle East and Europe.

Europeans, who have seen this phenomenon before, don’t call these racial purists by the trendy and polite-sounding “alt-right” title. They call them what they are – Neo-Nazis.

An alliance between Russian and far right movements across Europe and the U.S. would have seemed impossible just a few decades ago, before the collapse of the Soviet Union. Communism and fascism have been mortal enemies since Russia’s Bolshevik revolution of 1917. During World War II, Hitler considered Russians to be subhuman Slavs and communism to be the invention of Jews. His ferocious attack on Russia cost the country 30 million lives.

After the war, communists and free market conservatives continued to battle for decades in a global Cold War. Republicans were, in many ways, the loudest voices in that struggle. They were the party of Joe McCarthy, who destroyed people’s careers on the mere suggestion that they sympathized with communism. And the party of military hawks that called for accelerating the arms race, under Ronald Reagan, to bury the Soviet Union.

The Cold War ended in the 1990s, when the Soviet Union collapsed under the weight of its own lifeless economy. And that set in motion a series of dramatic changes that bring us to today. A corrupt circle of ruthless oligarchs, made wealthy by stealing the country’s energy assets and factories, seized control of the country. Communist dogma gave way to rampaging greed. Putin became the new Stalin. And all that remained of the old Russia was the habit of systematically eliminating all opposition.

Today, Putin’s Russia is the primary supporter of far right movements in Europe and the U.S. It provides indirect funding, in some cases, but mostly assists those movements by destabilizing elections with fake news, by launching cyber attacks and by leaking stolen documents designed to undermine the election of anti-Russian moderates and liberals.

The evolution of Russia from the beacon of hope to leftists around the world, in the 1920s and 1930s, to the source of inspiration to the far right is now complete. It is an irony of historic proportions.

Here in America, it seems it’s becoming fashionable to like the Russians. A day after the recent firing of FBI Director James Comey, President Trump hosted the Russian ambassador and foreign minister at the White House. Trump’s guests gleefully used the opportunity to engage in more irony, mocking the notion that they had interfered with American elections while sitting beside the new president. We only know this because Russia’s media was allowed to cover the event. The media of the “free world” was excluded.

If this was a Lewis Carroll fiction, it would suffer from its own implausibility.

Now we see elements of the ultra-conservative movement in America, including the president, angrily denying any Russian involvement in the recent election and calling it all a Democratic and media plot. Not so, say 17 national security organizations in the U.S., including the CIA, the National Security Agency and the FBI.

Many on the right now seem more inclined to believe the Russians than our own national security agencies. Blinded by partisan politics, they are putting their party ahead of their country, and the protection of our democratic institutions. It is one of the most astonishing developments in recent American political life,

There’s an old idea in politics, and in war, that “whoever is against my enemy is my friend.” This is what it looks like when that idea is taken to extremes. It becomes the work of the Mad Hatter.

Alan Caron is the owner of Caron Communications and the author of “Maine’s Next Economy” and “Reinventing Maine Government.” He can be reached at:

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