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Meet the Texas Secessionist Movement: Brought to You by Russia

The Kremlin continues its care and feeding of American extremist groups.
November 29, 2021
Meet the Texas Secessionist Movement: Brought to You by Russia
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, questions DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing titled Oversight of the Department of Homeland Security, in Dirksen Building on Tuesday, November 16, 2021. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

A couple weeks ago Senator Ted Cruz was speaking at Texas A&M University when someone asked him his thoughts on the Texas secessionist movement. He replied that he wasn’t “there, yet.” It is important to understand that the modern secession movement is not a product of Lone Star pride. It’s an idea that has been force fed into the American conservative movement by Russia.

Secession is one of the Kremlin’s “active measures” campaigns: Promote fringe wackos abroad and hope that, eventually, they break something. This may not sound like much of a plan, but it sometimes works. Putin has been openly building his portfolio of wackos for a while. And the wackos have begun breaking things.

The shiny ball that caught Cruz’s attention was The Texas Nationalist Movement (TNM). TNM is Texas’s most prominent secessionist organization. In 2015, TNM attended a St. Petersburg gathering of worldwide extremists organized by Rodina—that’s “Motherland” in Russian—the fascist-adjacent offshoot of Putin’s United Russia party.

That gathering was a safe space where the likes of German Neo-Nazis, the KKK, Greece’s Golden Dawn, and Roberto Fiore (the Italian terrorist responsible for a 1980 bombing in Bologna that killed 85), could gather and praise Putin’s defense of Western (read: “white”) culture. Here, featured on Rodina’s website, is Nate Smith, TNM’s executive director, in attendance. Howdy! Russia’s info warriors were very pleased with his comments at the event. This skulduggery got so bad and Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russians who were working with the Texas secessionist movement in 2016 to—please put down your coffee—spread misinformation about Ted Cruz during the presidential primary in order to help Donald Trump.

There’s a nice symmetry there. Some day when when Hollywood comes calling the film can be titled, “From Victim to Dupe: The Ted Cruz Story.”

One of the nastier conferees at Putin’s 2015 conclave was the Council of Conservative Citizens, a group who was credited by Charleston shooter Dylann Roof in his manifesto for inspiring him to “take it to the real world.”

There’s a white nationalist group called Atomwaffen which venerates Roof as a hero. Atomwaffen was founded by a teenager in Florida using a messaging platform created by a Russian. You can find Roof’s manifesto—along with manifestos from other white nationalist killers—on 8chan, which has been relaunched as 8kun, by two Russians.

Fortunately for us, secessionists aren’t killing people—they’re not “there, yet”—but Putin’s propaganda can be convincing. Casey Michel notes that the fake Russian secessionist “Heart of Texas” Facebook page, which had more likes than the GOP and Democrat Facebook pages combined, organized a rally of white nationalists and AR-15 enthusiasts in downtown Houston in 2017.

Putin invests broadly in his pet extremist wackos. Richard Spencer used to appear regularly on RT where he commented as an expert on everything from Syria to U.S. cultural affairs. David Duke lived in Russia. The circular nature of this web can border on parody: Bringing it full circle to Texas A&M, Duke once rented his Moscow apartment to another American neo-Nazi named Preston Wiginton. Wiginton—a proud Aggie—organized presentations on the Texas A&M campus—the same place where Cruz was asked about secession!—for both Richard Spencer and Russian ultra-nationalist Alexander Dugin, a man who befriended Duke in Russia.

The only way to understand the neo-Nazi mob and the secessionist movement is as Vladimir Putin’s weapons. And Ted Cruz—despite having been on the receiving end of this in 2016—has no problem cozying up to them today.

In 2020, the FBI began cracking down on a nationalist group called The Base—that would be the English translation of “Al Qaeda.” Several members were for plotting to murder anti-fascist protesters in their sleep in Richmond. They also wanted to instigate a race war by killing cops and then blaming Antifa. They also carried out something they called “Operation Kristallnacht,” during which they tagged synagogues with swastikas. Where does The Base’s leader live?


Ted Cruz seems to think that the job of a United States senator is to shitpost on Twitter and own the libs. But playing at culture war can get people killed.

Cruz either does not know, or does not care, that this is exactly what Putin is trying to achieve.

Kristofer Harrison

Kristofer Harrison is senior managing director for a macroeconomic consultancy and is a Russia expert. Previously, he served as an official at both the State and Defense Departments during the George W. Bush administration.  Twitter: @ToferH.