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Good morning, everyone.

I would like to begin by thanking Minister Mehl and the Norwegian government for co-hosting with the United States this second meeting of the Counterterrorism Law Enforcement Forum.

The Norwegian government has been a global leader in the effort to counter racially or ethnically motivated violent extremism, or REMVE, as we call it, and we are excited to deepen this partnership with you as we work together with other partners to confront this transnational threat.

At the outset, it is worthwhile to note that while the United States uses the term, REMVE, we know that many of our partners, including many of you here today, refer to this threat as “violent white supremacy,” “far-right extremism,” or “extreme right-wing terrorism.”

Despite these differences in terminology, it is clear we are all talking about and facing similar threats.

I would also like to thank colleagues from the U.S. Department of Justice for co-leading this initiative with the Department of State.

Let me take this opportunity to acknowledge the representatives from Ukraine’s National Police and U.S. Embassy Kyiv who have joined us today as well.

Ukrainians continue to demonstrate heroism in defending their country against Russia’s brutal war of aggression.

To be sure, this not only is a fight for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

But it is also a fight for European and Transatlantic security and the principles enshrined in the UN Charter that undergird the international order.

REMVE and Russia’s malign actions may on the surface appear to be two distinct issues.  They are not, and I will lay out a bit later in my remarks why it’s both important and relevant to be discussing Russia at a REMVE forum.

Although in recent years there has been more focus on countering this strain of violent extremism, including by leveraging the strong counterterrorism and law enforcement architecture we have built together over the past two decades, enhanced cooperation and information sharing is critical to countering this threat.

Importantly, to tackle the challenge efficiently and comprehensively, we must foster greater collaboration not just among governments, but also in partnership with civil society.

The discussions we will have at this year’s forum will build on conversations in Berlin, and will broaden our understanding of the transnational REMVE threat and what we are doing individually and collectively to counter that threat.

As you all know well, REMVE attacks are on the rise.

In the last year alone, deadly REMVE attacks have occurred in Brazil, Germany, Slovakia, and the United States, to name just a few, and what is clear is that this threat is not confined to a specific country or region.

Many of the perpetrators of these attacks were themselves inspired by earlier REMVE attacks, including the tragic attacks that killed 77 people in Oslo and on the island of Utøya in July 2011.

Countering REMVE at home and abroad is a top priority for the Biden-Harris Administration.

Just a few weeks ago, President Biden said we all need to stand up to “the poison of white supremacy,” calling it the “most dangerous terrorist threat to [the U.S.] homeland.”

The transnational nature of the REMVE threat is increasing, with individuals and groups communicating, recruiting, financing, and sharing tactical training, including weapon-making instructions, both online and in-person.

We have also seen U.S. white supremacists seek refuge overseas.

One individual who played an active role in the 2017 REMVE attack in Charlottesville, Virginia, was active in Eastern Europe and ultimately arrested in Romania in March.

That arrest was due to information sharing and cooperation between U.S. and Romanian authorities.

REMVE actors are adept at exploiting technology to recruit new followers, and to rally support for their twisted ideologies.

They also exploit online platforms and take advantage of tech companies’ lax enforcement of terms of service that forbid spreading hate on their platforms.

As a result, these nefarious actors disseminate radicalizing content that can mobilize people to violence.

Additionally, the insider threat posed by REMVE actors within the public sector, and specifically within the security services, is a very real concern.

Members of military, law enforcement, and other current and former security service personnel engaged in REMVE activity can present a unique set of dangers given their knowledge of how security services investigate, respond, and counter threats.

Their specialized training makes REMVE activity by these individuals potentially even more lethal and damaging to society by eroding public trust in law enforcement and security institutions.

Just over a month ago, the International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law convened a number of governments and civil society actors for a discussion focused on addressing REMVE in the security services.

We are pleased that the IIJ, which is engaged in cutting edge work in this space, is here to brief on the key findings of that session.

When assessing the REMVE landscape, we often focus on the threat posed by lone actors with either no ties, or loose ties, to specific organizations or groups.

Lone actors pose acute challenges for those working to keep our communities safe from violence.

While known REMVE groups and lone actors certainly present serious concerns, I would like to highlight the dangerous and damaging role a particular nation state is playing in this area – specifically the Russian Federation.

Russia continues to maintain a permissive environment for REMVE actors, such as the Russian Imperial Movement, or RIM, which in 2020 the United States designated as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist for providing paramilitary style training to white supremacist groups and neo-Nazis across Europe.

This was the first time the United States designated a white supremacist terrorist group.

Russia seeks to leverage the activities of groups like RIM, for anti-democratic purposes and to destabilize communities and stoke ethnic conflict within our societies.

The Kremlin is also propagating REMVE narratives outside of Russia, with a particular focus on countries in Central and Eastern Europe that are current members or candidates for entry into NATO and the EU.

Following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, for example, the NGO, Moonshot, analyzed anti-Ukraine and anti-refugee sentiment in the Polish language online.

In one month, they found significant examples of “inauthentic and Russian-linked activity on Polish-language pages or accounts,” including narratives such as “those fleeing Ukraine were not refugees, but instead … part of an ongoing ‘demographic replacement’ or ‘Ukrainisation’ of Poland.”

We must expose Russia’s support of REMVE actors and deny them and their proxies the ability to spread their malign influence.

For years, Russia has also promoted a false narrative that Ukraine is a Nazi hotbed, and “de-Nazification” as one of the primary bases for its full-scale invasion.

The U.S. Department of State remains committed to countering these REMVE-related falsehoods.

We must push back using all tools at our disposal against Russia’s flagrantly false justifications for its war of aggression in Ukraine and also expose Russia’s role in transnational REMVE movements.

A good example which illustrates Russia’s hypocrisy on this front is the fact that Task Force Rusich, a neo-Nazi paramilitary group, has participated in combat alongside Russia’s military in Ukraine, including near Kharkiv, in 2022.

Rusich has a long history of fighting alongside Russia-backed proxies in the Donbas region of Ukraine, and in 2015, Rusich mercenaries were accused of, and filmed committing, atrocities against deceased and captured Ukrainian soldiers.

Last year, the U.S. Department of the Treasury designated Rusich and several of its leaders under Executive Order (E.O.) 14024, a Russia Sanctions Authority, for their role in the Ukraine conflict.

One of the sanctioned leaders, Alexey Milchakov, has developed a reputation for extreme brutality.

Milchakov is also sanctioned by Australia, Canada, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, as well as the European Union.

Another designated leader, Yan Igorevich Petrovskiy was expelled from Norway in 2016, after being declared a threat to national security.

It is vital to highlight and expose Russia’s deep hypocrisy and to shed light on Russia’s deeply concerning ties to REMVE actors, both at home and across Europe.

To that end, I am announcing that the Bureau of Counterterrorism is awarding $2 million to fund new projects designed to counter Russia’s disinformation about Ukraine and Ukrainian citizens who have sought refuge from Russia’s war of aggression.

These projects are intended to:

  • Identify which Russia-linked actors are most involved in spreading this type of disinformation and determining how and where these messages are being spread;
  • Develop an effective counter-messaging campaign to expose the Kremlin’s REMVE falsehoods;
  • Support university students in Moldova, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia to promote a united and resilient Europe by pushing back against anti-Ukraine narratives, particularly Russia’s falsehoods about refugees from Ukraine;
  • Increase policymakers’ understanding of the ways in which Russia supports REMVE movements in Europe; and
  • Develop a new program through the Strong Cities Network to train and mentor local government officials and community leaders in Germany and several Central and Eastern European countries to build community resilience against hate and polarization, focusing on locales where Ukrainian nationals and ethnic Ukrainians are now living.

Over the next two days, we will hear from law enforcement officials, criminal justice practitioners, and think tank experts about the REMVE threat countries are facing, the strategies governments are using to counter them, and the lessons learned thus far.

While governments are prioritizing measures against the REMVE threat, more needs to be done, including effectively countering Russia’s false narratives that serve to sow chaos and incite discord in our societies along racial and ethnic lines.

A more robust shared understanding and a coordinated international strategy will be critical in the years ahead as REMVE actors evolve and attempt to deepen their ties across our borders.

This forum will serve as a platform to increase attention, and improve collaboration and coordination.  It will also help us build important lines of communication among like-minded partners and practitioners working on countering this terrorist threat.

We look forward to the discussions throughout the forum and to further working with all of you and other partners to effectively address the global REMVE threat.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future