How the American right stopped worrying and learned to love Russia

By | February 27, 2022

Emily Tamkin writes:

Last week, before Russian threats toward Ukrainian borders turned into an all-out invasion, one part of the American media landscape questioned why we weren’t supporting the invaders.

“Hating [Russian President Vladimir] Putin has become the central purpose of America’s foreign policy. It’s the main thing that we talk about,” Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson said on Tuesday. “It might be worth asking yourself, since it is getting pretty serious: What is this really about? Why do I hate Putin so much? Has Putin ever called me a racist? Has he threatened to get me fired for disagreeing with him?”

Interviewed on “The Clay Travis & Buck Sexton Show” on Tuesday, former President Donald Trump described Putin as “smart” and “savvy.” Then on Wednesday night, as reports of Russian explosions across Ukraine rolled in, Mr. Trump repeated his admiration for the Russian leader. J. D. Vance, a Republican candidate for Senate in Ohio, said during a Feb. 19 podcast interview with Steve Bannon, Mr. Trump’s former White House chief strategist, “We did not serve in the Marine Corps to go and fight Vladimir Putin because he didn’t believe in transgender rights, which is what the U.S. State Department is saying is a major problem with Russia.” Mr. Bannon, for his part, hailed Mr. Putin as “anti-woke” hours before Russia’s assault on Ukraine.

The American political right was long associated with Cold War hawkishness. But in recent years the trend has shifted toward fawning praise for autocrats, even those leading America’s traditional adversaries, as well as projecting our own culture wars overseas. Where once Russia and other autocracies were seen as anti-democratic, they have now become symbols of U.S. conservatism — a mirror for the right-wing worldview.

Supporting Mr. Putin, as well as other authoritarian leaders, is yet another way in which the political right is weaponizing culture wars to further divide Americans. [Continue reading…]

The New York Times reports:

For years, a global choir of right-wing politicians have sung the praises of Vladimir V. Putin. They looked up to the Russian strongman as a defender of closed borders, Christian conservatism and bare-chested machismo in an era of liberal identity politics and Western globalization. Fawning over him was a core part of the populist playbook.

But Mr. Putin’s savaging of Ukraine, which many of his right-wing supporters had said he would never do, has recast the Russian president more clearly as a global menace and boogeyman with ambitions of empire who is threatening nuclear war and European instability.

For many of his longtime admirers — from France to Germany and the United States to Brazil — it is something of an awkward spot. The stain of Mr. Putin’s new reputation threatens to taint his fellow travelers, too.

“It will be a decisive blow to them,” said Lucio Caracciolo, the editor of the Italian geopolitical magazine Limes, who considered Mr. Putin’s invasion an irrational, and potentially, a politically suicidal move. He said that members of the international ultraright who enjoyed a special relationship and financial support from Mr. Putin were “in serious trouble.”

“They put all their eggs in the same basket,” Mr. Caracciolo said. “And the basket is collapsing.” [Continue reading…]

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