Russian President Vladimir Putin has emerged as a hero of several prominent alt-right figures, raising new questions about the Kremlin’s influence on the far-right, white nationalist movement that has asserted itself as a new force in American politics.

Whether Russia has played a direct role in awakening the American alt-right, whose resurgence as a crusade against establishment politics coincided with the rise of President-elect Donald Trump, is debatable.

But the extent to which the alt-right has found a natural ally in Russia’s current zeitgeist — which perceives the US as a globalist, imperialist power working on behalf of liberal elites — is hard to overstate.

Self-described white nationalist  Matthew Heimbach, who said he identifies as a member of the alt-right, has praised Putin’s Russia as “the axis for nationalists.”

“I really believe that Russia is the leader of the free world right now,” Heimbach told Business Insider in a recent interview. “Putin is supporting nationalists around the world and building an anti-globalist alliance, while promoting traditional values and self-determination.”

Heimbach described the US’ current foreign policy as aggressive and imperialistic, and he criticized NATO’s military buildup in eastern Europe as an example of how the US is trying to promote a “global conflict” with Russia.

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Self-described white nationalist Matthew Heimbach gives a speech titled “Primed for the Fight” at the Stormfront Smoky Mountain Summit in 2013. Screenshot/YouTube

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