This is an answer I gave on Quora to a question “How does one make sense of the fact that Putin’s government is financing fascist parties in Europe? Didn’t the USSR fight a war against fascism?”
We know from school the Soviet Union fought against the Nazism/Fascism in WW2. And Nazi Germany was defeated. You can defeat and trash a country but an ideology is—ahem!—a virus. Now, to answer the question addressing a certain contradiction, we would need to look at it from a different angle.
Suppose, the USSR didn’t fight against the Nazism. Sounds absurd, right? But it would explain why the Putin regime so eagerly collaborates with and “unterstützt” (supports) the European far-right—and not that much the European left!
If the USSR didn’t fight against the Nazis in WW2, what did it then fight against? Because it did fight against something and it cost its people insurmountable losses and suffering. Well, it was in war with Germany. And it was in competition with the western Allies! Competition in war is… yes, it’s also a war. Not declared, not straight forward. But we all know how it ended almost immediately after the end of the World War—the Soviet Union continued fighting the West in a cold war.
Continued, because it had never stopped being hostile towards democracy and freedom. So was Nazi Germany. Clearly, the two very strong and powerful totalitarian hells could not miss each other. Of course, they befriended each other and closely cooperated like very close buddies before the war. Of course! And of course, each of them couldn’t wait to sink its fangs in the other’s neck as soon as the opportunity presented itself.
Of course! Because they both were hells and the only human trait they had was that of the ground floor of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs—survival, in which if I don’t subdue/kill/eat you, you will do this to me. A complete disregard of any value an inch higher than this.
So, you can safely conclude that at the end of WW2, presumably against the Nazis, even Germany was no longer an object. Germany was merely a battleground in the war the Soviet Union was fighting against the West. The USSR went a step further and conserved this state of affairs in the form of a puppet German state, the DDR, for give-or-take 45 years (just a detail).
The Stalin regime, the USSR, had in principle no ideological disagreement with the Nazi regime. Well, perhaps the Soviet ideology wasn’t so openly racist. But it did move entire ethnic populations around very uncomfortable sectors of its vast territory that costs thousands and thousands of lives—how is it different from the Nazis? And it didn’t shy away from heating the sense of superiority among the ethnic Russians up until the end.
Now that we know that it wasn’t really a war against the Nazism for the Soviet Union, but rather a very important stage of its war against the West, or against freedom and democracy, we are clearing up the air to see the reason why the modern regime in Russia is so keen on befriending the anti-democratic and anti-liberal sentiment in the West.
Well, the above does not explain why Russia would enjoy this path, and what the benefits are. This answer lies in the depths of the Russian psyche. Giving an answer to this question would automatically explain why Russia lets Putin and his thieves have it, why Russia “prefers” to suffer instead of organising itself into something less uncomfortable.
Answering the question what’s in it for Putin is easy, though. No, it has nothing to do with ripping off his country. It’s just that—he can afford it. He can afford to kick the West in his small way. And supporting the European far-right or someone else just as nonsensical is a no-brainer and they have an infrastructure in place for it. He does it because it gives some sort of headache to the West, it’s annoying and it’s within his budget.