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Policy Brief

A Threat from Within? Exploring the Link Between the Extreme Right and the Military

07 Oct 2019
Policy Brief by Daniel Koehler

Right-wing violence and terrorism have slowly gained more academic and public attention in recent years, with an increase in anti-immigration and anti-government organised violence from the extreme right in most Western countries. Some evidence exists that right-wing extremists have attempted to infiltrate the military in their home countries to gain access to tactical training, weapons, and to recruit highly skilled new members. Research about the extent and impact of extreme right-wing links to the military is, however, scarce. In addition to the lack of insight into potential right-wing (or other forms of) extremism problems in the military, most armed forces have not developed effective countering violent extremism (CVE) tools. In this way, the incorporation of CVE in the military lags far behind the use of CVE in other aspects of counter-terrorism in the West. As the military, next to the police and intelligence, is a critical part of a country’s security infrastructure, it must also include specially designed mechanisms to protect it from infiltration and abuse from violent extremists and those planning terrorist activities. This Policy Brief will discuss available knowledge about extreme right-wing links to the military in Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States. It will conclude by formulating concrete recommendations for handling this potential threat.