Amid a raging backdrop of far-right violence in the U.S., the Russia-based former leader and founder of a neo-Nazi terror group has turned his attentions to a new project: re-establishing secretive paramilitary training across the U.S.
Rinaldo Nazzaro, 47, a former Pentagon contractor originally from New Jersey who is said to have worked on targeting operations with U.S. Special Forces, founded and led the Base until a nationwide FBI crackdown dismantled the organization and close to a dozen of its members were arrested for, among other things, an assassination plot and planning a mass shooting. While some of those members languish in jail, Nazzaro’s new training project is designed for a “system collapse”—neo-Nazi lingo for a potential second civil war—and seeks to unite local cells into a national patchwork of future combatants.
“To fulfill our political aspirations, we are relying upon the gradual emergence of lawless regions, within the United States, where federal authorities are unable or unwilling to restore law [and] order,” said Nazzaro in a post on Telegram, the encrypted messaging app popular among terrorist organizations and extremists.
Nazzaro claims he is now on an American no-fly list, and is believed to be trying to coordinate this online and covert network of trainers and recruits to do work in firearms, battle drills, urban reconnaissance, and other paramilitary skills—even offering to pay for local training, inside the U.S.— from St. Petersburg, Russia.
Nazzaro did not respond to a request for comment.
The news that a former Pentagon contractor with a high security clearance is actively attempting to train new potential domestic terrorists from Russia is sure to raise concerns in American law enforcement and intelligence circles that are already suspicious of the foreign support of the violent coup attempt on Capitol Hill weeks ago.
Though the project’s effectiveness and numbers are unknown, Nazzaro is actively trying to resurrect his ambitions to influence the American far right, even in the face of the spectacular demise of his former organization and those in the neo-Nazi movement questioning his credibility.
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“We will be forming a cadre of trainers [composed] of at least one lead trainer in each region of America,” said Nazzaro in a Telegram post. If a potential participant of the project needs money for more training, Nazzaro will, he said, “partially subsidize commercial survivalism & self-defense training for one select member of each local group willing to share his new-found knowledge and skills with comrades.”
Nazzaro is framing the project as a legal organization with ambitions to provide survivalist and self-defense training. (Nazzaro originally advertised the Base in 2018 with much of the same terminology, describing it as a “network” and not a group.)
In a series of personal videos published to Bitchute—a fringe video hosting site—Nazzaro says his project is not intended to have an immediate impact, but to be felt across decades. He provides handbooks on insurgency, paramilitary warfare techniques and a road map to what an American insurgency would look like should the U.S. government fall.
“By no later than the 90 day-mark, plan to go on the offensive by clearing and holding the nearest town. You will commandeer the town and this will serve as your new base of operations,” one post reads, before telling followers there may come a time where they will need to kill American citizens if their insurgency is challenged.
“Any resistors must be dealt with swiftly and somewhat harshly in order to set the tone and establish your authority.
The CIA, FBI, and State Department all declined to comment on the status of Nazzaro and whether or not he is wanted by the U.S. government. Emails to Maria Zakharova, spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry, asking about Nazzaro’s status inside the country also went unanswered.
According to Joshua Fisher-Birch, a terrorism analyst at the Counter Extremism Project, Nazzaro’s latest experiment seems like a rip-off of how he first crafted the Base, which went from being a network to a terror group in a matter of months.
“Nazzaro’s new project is incredibly similar to the stated purpose of the Base, to create cells of white supremacists in the United States and provide them with weapons and survival training while publicly claiming that it’s all for legal self-defense purposes,” he said. “Just like the Base, this new network and or group also poses a threat by trying to bring together neo-Nazis and white supremacists, help them make connections, and increase their lethality.”
For years, members of the Base knew Nazzaro was operating from Russia and joked he was part of the FSB—the prolific Russian intelligence agency known for foreign interference campaigns—suspecting he had orders to meddle with the American political landscape through the terror group.
At one point, members openly wondered how Nazzaro, known to them under the aliases “Roman Wolf” or “Norman Spear,” had so much spare cash. For example, Nazzaro had purchased a multi-acre property in Washington State that he intended to use as a training compound for the terror group. (Previously, the BBC reported that he had links to the Kremlin.)
Nazzaro denied allegations he was working for Russian intelligence and against the U.S. “I am not a Russian agent,” Nazzaro told VICE News in response to the allegations in October. “I have never had any contact with Russian law enforcement, military, or intelligence officials.”
Late last year, Nazzaro appeared on a Kremlin-backed television news special giving a full-throated denial about any claims he was a neo-Nazi terrorist and leader, calling into question the vast reportage on his now-dead terror group, and stating he was simply a family man looking to provide survivalist training to willing Americans.
Fisher-Birch said Nazzaro’s continuing presence in Russia certainly raises questions about his affiliations to intelligence agencies there, which according to the New York Times looked at the far right as a potential vehicle for sowing chaos in the U.S. before and after the November presidential election.
“It’s also important to note," he said, "that Nazzaro is presumably attempting to organize this new group while in Russia, which raises questions regarding his status and connections there.”
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With files from Mack Lamoureux.