Patterico's Pontifications


Putin Apologists In The West and The Unfortunate Allure of Strongmen Political Leaders

Filed under: General — Dana @ 11:52 am

[guest post by Dana]

If you, like me, are appalled that some of our politicians, media pundits, and Americans (patriotic lovers of freedom!) sound like Russian apologists and pushing conspiracy theories and propaganda instead of fully condemning Putin for the unwarranted invasion of Ukraine, here are some thoughts on why this repugnant view is being embraced by the aforementioned.

First, Dan Hanahan worries that ultimately, Putin apologists here in the West truly believe in what Putin is doing, and by extension, I guess, believe in Putin himself:

Part of the explanation has to do with domestic tribalism. Some commentators are so inward-looking that they have pressed the invasion into the familiar narrative of Hunter Biden’s alleged improprieties there. Trump was always strikingly warm in his attitude toward Putin, whom he infamously believed more than his own security agencies and whose invasion of Crimea he endorsed. Even as Putin’s armored columns punched their way into Ukraine last month, the former president called him “a genius.” For some conservatives, that is enough — where Trump goes, they go.

But what is it that Trump and his followers see in Putin in the first place?… For a Reagan conservative, Putin’s flaws are obvious. He does not respect elections. He believes he can make up the rules as he goes along. He defines some of his people as “traitors” and encourages others to go after them. The sole principle of his foreign policy is Machtpolitik — let the stronger take from the weaker. He has replaced multiparty pluralism with a cult of personality. He can’t tolerate criticism.

Are Trumpsters as repelled by these things as Reaganites? Considering that list in an American context, I wonder… In a polarized age, people are readier to overlook the shortcomings of politicians who specialize in “owning” the other side. Instead of wanting to limit the state as a general principle, modern conservatives are happy to make use of it when it suits their ends. And whereas they used to support candidates who shared their principles, they now tend to shift their principles whenever their champion does.

How paradoxical, and in its way, how tragic. Ukrainians are fighting to establish a democracy on what they see as the American model — pluralist, law-based, and open. Yet Americans themselves are less interested in defending that model than they have been at any point in my lifetime. The likeliest explanation for the behavior of Putin’s American apologists is also the most disquieting one. They really do approve of what he is doing.

And despite having footage and evidence of the horrors the Russians are inflicting on the Ukrainian people, including the deaths of two Fox News journalists, useful idiot Tucker Carlson continues to supply the Kremlin with much-wanted propaganda to play on state media:

But the far-right Fox News host Tucker Carlson, the alternately flabbergasted and outraged primetime host and Trumpist standard-bearer, carried on presenting his conspiratorial show with such a seeming lack of regard that the Kremlin itself reportedly considers his equivocations over the causes of the conflict vital to its propaganda apparatus.

Even Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov – no doubt largely thanks to Carlson – had praise for Fox’s coverage of the conflict. “If you take the United States, only Fox News is trying to present some alternative points of view,” he said on Friday.

I believe the outrage that Carlson delivers is the goal. It is what his viewers demand and expect, so if shilling for Russia gets the ratings, he’s happy to deliver – no matter how wrongheaded and dangerously misleading it is, and no matter if it’s a gift to the enemy:

But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the daily images of suffering it has produced for US media, have complicated Carlson’s platform, at least in terms of the broader US media landscape, even if not within Fox itself.

“This balancing act he’s been playing on so many different levels is getting a lot more precarious,” said Bob Thompson, a former professor of media studies at Syracuse University and current director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture.

Carlson’s equivocation on Russian aggression is complicating the ideological real estate he occupies. “It’s not only confused, it’s almost dada,” Thompson says. “You see it playing out on the show when someone makes a rational argument and it’s deflected not with an alternative, but the abandonment of rationality.”

But that may also be what Carlson’s avid supporters and equally avid detractors come to see.

Finally, Kevin D. Williamson delivers a blisteringly brilliant take on the “allure” of strongmen:

The allure of strongman nationalist government — Vladimir Putin’s Russia, Xi Jinping’s China, Viktor Orbán’s Hungary, the America that Donald Trump and his acolytes dream of — has always been the promise of power. You can take the word of the foreign caudillos themselves or listen to the slavering of their American admirers — the story is always the same: While liberal societies slide into softness and decadence, illiberal societies have the resolve to spurn cheap gratification, particularly in the form of consumerism and sexual license, in order to secure the genuine common good.

That this line of analysis is almost invariably framed in sexual terms — the masculine patriarchal nationalist vs. the effeminate liberal globalist — says more about the psychology of the authoritarian follower than it does about the actual issues of political economy in question.

But the more important thing to know is that the promise of autocratic power is a lie.

Does Russia look strong today? Vladimir Putin’s thugs are pretty tough guys when the contest is, say, a five-on-one fight against an unarmed female journalist (Anna Politkovskaya) or when they’re quietly poisoning his critics with polonium-210 (Alexander Litvinenko), but they aren’t much in a real fight with Ukrainian patriots. Instead, they have been reduced to vulgar terrorism, bombing hospitals and residential buildings in an attempt to use atrocity as a substitute for victory. Meanwhile, Ukrainian farmers are towing abandoned Russian tanks around with tractors, taunting the cowards who left them behind.

Definitely, read the whole thing.

Postscript: A member of my household just had a video chat with an individual currently living in Russia (via VPN). The individual said that the young Russian people in his city are adamantly against this invasion and are wholly supportive of Ukraine. However, the elderly people are generally complacent in their views because, having lived through the Soviet Union, they simply don’t believe that things could ever be any worse than that.


71 Responses to “Putin Apologists In The West and The Unfortunate Allure of Strongmen Political Leaders”

  1. Hello.

    Dana (5395f9)

  2. Instead of wanting to limit the state as a general principle, modern conservatives are happy to make use of it when it suits their ends.

    It’s more complicated than that. The problem is that one side is philosophically attuned to the power of the state and the other side finds that spurning the use of that power only lets the other side win. The answer, of course, is dismantling that power but that’s a lot harder than it sounds. The voters want the state to “fix stuff” and that requires power, so the right finds itself in the position of using power it would rather not have, lest someone else use it against them.

    A metaphor of this problem is getting actual Libertarians to run for offices they philosophically think should be abolished.

    Kevin M (38e250)

  3. As for Trump and the caudillo thing, I think this is the result of a long-held frustration. Too many times the Right has taken what seemed like power and nothing really got done; Reagan being the only notable exception, 40 years ago.

    Then along comes Trump, echoing all the rants of talkradio, and promising to rip those pointy-headed bureaucrats a new orifice. FINALLY! Someone who talks the talk!

    But really, it’s not so much a wish for a strongman as a frustration with a generation of failed leadership. People don’t favor a populist strongman until the fan is deep in the brown stuff. It should never have gone that far.

    Kevin M (38e250)

  4. Similarly in Russia, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the dismembership of the Empire and the massively corrupt and inept “leadership” of Yeltsin, it is unsurprising that they opted for the return of autocracy. It may be alien here, but it is the historic norm there.

    Up to this point, Putin was pretty much an above-average Russian leader too. Much better than any of the Communists and most of the Tsars. It’s not hard to see why so many still support him.

    Kevin M (38e250)

  5. Dana – I think you will want to read this whole Sam Freedman piece, discussing whether Trump will be hurt by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

    I was especially struck by this paragraph:

    The extent to which partisanship rather than issues now drives US voter behaviour can be seen in YouGov polling which shows that Republicans are quite happy to memory-hole inconvenient facts. Just 19% think Trump withheld aid from Ukraine and just 28% think Russia interfered on Trump’s side in the 2016 election (despite every US intelligence agency confirming that they did). 60% now oppose the idea of Russia re-joining the G7 but just 19% did in 2018 when Trump suggested the idea. Rather astonishingly just 15% of GOP voters think Trump was too friendly to Russia as President but 58% think Biden has been!

    Sometimes exclamation points are appropriate.

    Jim Miller (406a93)

  6. @5 this place seems more like democratic underground (actually DNC public relations) every day. Under the definition of interference used is so broad as to be meaningless. When asked how they meaningfully interfered in the 2016 election or interfered with voting I get banned from pro democrat sites. The best they can come up with a few internet adds that nobody viewed many of which ran after the election. When I ask did russia send in its marines into the midwest to change the election like we did in the dominican republic in 1965 or overthrow the governments of mosadek, allende and numerous other governments around the world especially in africa and central america.

    asset (78f65e)

  7. Jim, to be fair the Democrat partisans believe all kinds of nonsense too. Like, say, “socialism hasn’t really been tried yet.”

    I wonder how many Democrats think Obama was tough on Putin.

    Kevin M (38e250)

  8. @5 here are some “inconvenient facts”:

    putin didn’t wage violent war against ukraine nor gain an inch of territory under trump’s watch

    all of that happened under biden as prez, and when he was veep

    JF (e1156d)

  9. Torpedoes Romney’s 20th century mind set and validates Obama’s Spock-like analysis that 21st century Russia is essentially the Rodney Dangerfield of regional powers- attempting to act like a superpower w/nukes to regain respect. More interesting- and revealing- is the ‘failure’ of U.S. intel to accurately assess Russian military strength and logistics- whether by intent to satisfy MIC lobbyist influences to purchase unnecessary weapons systems- or just plain incompetence. A lot of the out-of-favor ‘spooks’ goofed on the Hunter laptop -by accident or intent- as well. Echoes of Vietnam: leave it to the kids to battle against bad wars started by the old– as the young are the ones conscripted to fight them.

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  10. @6: It IS true that Russian did not attempt to interfere in Cuban elections in the Castro era, but they did have a hand in Korea, Vietnam, Greece, Iran (again Mossadegh), Nicaraugua, and places like Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, half of Finland, and most of the rest of eastern Europe.

    Kevin M (38e250)

  11. The ‘unfortunate allure’… aka ‘sucker bait’- and the West took it hook, line, Big Macs. VISA. Mastercard and sinker:

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  12. #7 Kevin – No doubt. I suspect, for example, that were you to tell the average Democrat that Obama admitted, during his first presidential campaign, that genocide might result from his proposed Middle East policies — as it did during his second term, that Democrat wouldn’t believe you. Nor would they believe that George W. Bush’s PEPFAR is estimated to have saved 20 million lives, so far.

    I used to be slightly amused by this partisanship, by, for example, members of each party believing it was OK to steal their opponent’s signs, but not OK to steal their signs. But it has gotten far worse during the last thirty years. And it is damaging our democracy.

    (One thing that especially troubles me about the ISIS genocide is that Obama himself seems to feel no guilt about the way he made it possible, even though he knew it might happen.

    Jim Miller (406a93)

  13. We know JF’s position on the war, so his “blame game” comment is unsurprising. Putin has been coddled by the West since 1999.

    Rip Murdock (d2a2a8)

  14. #8 The low-level war in the Donbas started in 2014, and continued all through the Trump presidency. If he made any efforts to end the conflict, I missed them.

    While the initial protests were largely native expressions of discontent with the new Ukrainian government, Russia took advantage of them to launch a coordinated political and military campaign against Ukraine.[32] Russian citizens led the separatist movement in Donetsk from April until August 2014, and were supported by volunteers and materiel from Russia.[33][34][35] As the conflict escalated in May 2014, Russia employed a “hybrid approach”, deploying a combination of disinformation, irregular fighters, regular Russian troops, and conventional military support to destabilize the Donbas.

    Russia’s latest invasion of Ukraine is another Putin escalation of a conflict that has simmered since 2014. The occupation of part of Ukraine by Putin forces since 2014 has been so brutal that it has turned even most Russian speakers in the region against the Czar, and his agents.

    Jim Miller (406a93)

  15. #10 And the Soviet Union interfered in France, for example, from 1920. They subsidized and controlled the French Communist Party, which, after World War II, often received 20 percent of the popular vote. (The story is told in Victor Loupan and Pierre Lorran’s L’argent de Moscou (Moscow’s silver).

    One can find parallels to that story in many other nations.

    Jim Miller (406a93)

  16. Putin’s war and the Chaos Climbers
    The real question, of course, is why this diverse array of rightists and leftists is tripping over themselves to carry water for Vladimir Putin’s preferred narratives of the war. The easiest and simplest explanation is that all of these people are basically on the same team — part of a new global axis of authoritarianism, with the extreme left and the extreme right basically indistinguishable in their desire to create totalitarian societies.
    Another, more subtle theory — which I’ve advanced myself — is something I call Last Bastion Theory. This is the tendency of people in the U.S. and Europe to view Russia as the distant protector of something they hold dear. For traditionalists, Russia can be seen as the last protector of Christianity, or of traditional gender roles. White supremacists might see Russia as the last White empire on the globe. And for leftists who view America as the world’s imperialistic Great Satan, Russia might seem like a bastion of resistance. Of course, the Russian government goes out of its way to encourage such perceptions. To all of these groups, the distant sphinx of the Kremlin might have seemed like a power capable of offering support while representing no threat.

    But I don’t think this completely explains it either. Once Putin’s rocket launchers rolled into Ukraine and started slaughtering the locals, it became clear that Russia’s rulers were not such a distant, safe ally after all. And the combination of incompetence and cruelty with which Russia has prosecuted the war makes Putin both a toxic and unreliable patron.

    And yet some people still defend Putin’s war narratives. ………

    The title of this post is a reference to a line from the TV show Game of Thrones, where the scheming nobleman Littlefinger declares that “Chaos is a ladder.” By disrupting the stability of the current regime, he intends to create space to move up in the world. In the same way, I see many of the above-mentioned figures on both the Right and the Left as Chaos Climbers — people who believe that the travails of the liberal order built after World War 2 represent an opening for their own fringe ideologies to advance their power.
    It was the failure of conservatism that gave rise to the Trumpist movement and the alt-right. Bush’s muscular interventionism ran aground in Iraq, laissez-faire economics crashed the economy in 2008, and Christian conservatism failed to halt the gay rights movement. The conservative paradigm that had taken over the GOP in the 70s and 80s failed all at once, and fringe elements — the alt-right, conspiracy theorists, Trump — sort of took over the party.

    Meanwhile, on the Democratic side, the socialist Left that started to revive itself with the antiwar movement and Occupy blossomed into a full-blown generational movement with the 2016 Bernie Sanders campaign that revived the DSA (Democratic Socialists of America), spawned a new generation of activist orgs like the Sunrise movement, and created a new (though still modest) socialist media. So far, despite fierce factionalism, the socialists have not yet succeeded in taking over the Democratic party like Trump took over the GOP. But in highlighting the failures of centrist Dems to curb inequality, revive unions, fix health care, or save the welfare state, they clearly hope to be able to pull off a takeover at some point.

    In other words, all of the people now pushing Putinist narratives are people who have been able to use chaos as a ladder to build up their own positions within the U.S.’ two political parties, to some extent. Establishment failures equal insurgent opportunities. That shouldn’t be too controversial.

    So where does Putin come into this? Both the liberal center-Left and the conservative center-Right are basically committed to upholding the global liberal order. Putin, by invading and attempting to conquer a sovereign state, challenges that order. If Putin succeeds, even modestly, it represents a failure for the U.S. establishment figures who tried to stop him. And establishment failures equal insurgent opportunities. Both the rightists and the leftists here are fighting against the Fukuyaman end-of-history idea that gives their own movements little space to move up.

    If Putin defeats the Ukrainians, the conservatives that are standing against Putin will look ineffectual and weak……..
    As for leftists, if Putin wins, it’ll represent another failure of what they perceive as the American empire. …….

    So Chaos Climbers on the Right and Left both have some incentive to want Putin to win — or at least for the war to be perceived as a NATO loss………

    Rip Murdock (d2a2a8)

  17. “putin didn’t wage violent war against ukraine nor gain an inch of territory under trump’s watch”

    Maybe because Trump was generating internal conflict within NATO and, by several sources, looking to pull us out of NATO in a second term. Why put your best agent in an uncomfortable position if you are gaining strategically? Even on the eve of the invasion, Trump was complementing Putin’s genius and mocking NATO’s stupidity. What better propaganda for an authoritarian?

    “More interesting- and revealing- is the ‘failure’ of U.S. intel to accurately assess Russian military strength and logistics”

    What exactly is this based on? Maybe just concede that your intelligence about Russian military capability was wrong and leave it at that. “Vlad, roll those tanks” indeed!

    “A lot of the out-of-favor ‘spooks’ goofed on the Hunter laptop”

    Fortunately using public office for personal enrichment was effectively a wash in 2020.

    AJ_Liberty (5f05c3)

  18. @17. What exactly is this based on?

    Pfft. :

    … and the MIC smiled.

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  19. @17. Pfft., part 2:

    ‘What did experts get wrong — and what does it mean for the next phase of the war? Michael Kofman, one of the most prominent U.S. authorities on the Russian military, told POLITICO in a lengthy interview that he and other experts “generally overestimated the Russian military, which is good. It’s very good.”

    … and the MIC smiled.

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  20. it’s not so much a wish for a strongman as a frustration with a generation of failed leadership.

    Yeah. What good is a politician who “believes” correctly but can’t persuade his (her, its) peers and voters to adopt and advance the beliefs?

    True on all sides, at all levels. Al Gore has utterly failed to advance his case against fossil fuels (largely because he’s totally wrong, but still…) Dick Cheney failed to secure the US oil industry against political interference. Cindy Sheehan failed to end the War on Terror. Newt Gingrinch failed to enact term limits or federal spending caps. Rick Perry failed to abolish useless federal departments like Education, Energy, and … uhm, that other one. Donald Trump failed to make Mexico pay for any portion of his unfinished wall. (The “remain in Mexico” thing wasn’t awful, though.)

    Vice President Harris has utterly failed to … express a coherent thought, as near as I can tell.

    pouncer (eac8f3)

  21. pouncer (eac8f3) — 3/21/2022 @ 3:50 pm

    Great comment, pouncer. I don’t know what you drink, but it sure ain’t kool-aid.

    felipe (484255)

  22. Thank you for this post, Dana. I always find myself edified by your thinking.

    However, the elderly people are generally complacent in their views because, having lived through the Soviet Union, they simply don’t believe that things could ever be any worse than that.


    This fairly describes the elderly eveyrwhere, too. Although I know things can always get worse, I feel I have given my blood, sweat, and tears, already, in abundance. What appears as complacency is actually the end-stage (acceptance) of grief. But I’m old – what do I know?

    felipe (484255)

  23. The FBI reported today that they will not be releasing quarterly crime estimates for any quarter of 2021 because not enough agencies reported data to the FBI.

    Also – FBI no longer reporting crime stats for Hispanics, which will now be combined with whites.

    So glad the adults are back in charge.

    Obudman (e7189f)

  24. Also – FBI no longer reporting crime stats for Hispanics, which will now be combined with whites.

    So glad the adults are back in charge.
    Obudman (e7189f) — 3/21/2022 @ 4:43 pm

    I guess this means my people are now accepted as civilized.

    felipe (484255)

  25. It’s worse than that, Obudman. They’ve been counting Jews and Catholics as white like from the very beginning.

    nk (1d9030)

  26. #25 nk – And some of those Catholics are Italian!
    For the humor-impaired: /sarc

    Jim Miller (406a93)

  27. Ukrainians want Putin’s mistress expelled from luxury Swiss hideout

    ‘We, the citizens of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, which is currently undergoing immense suffering, are uniting to appeal to the Swiss authorities,’ states the petition, which was posted on in in German, French and English and has so far received almost 55,000 signatures. ‘The public has just learned that the Russian political and media figure, and former [rhythmic gymnast], Alina Kabaeva, is hiding from the consequences of the sanctions imposed on the Russian Federation in YOUR country.’

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  28. “putin didn’t wage violent war against ukraine nor gain an inch of territory under trump’s watch”

    Why should he? Also, Hitler didn’t attack Spain or Portugal under the Franco and Salazar regimes.

    Kevin M (38e250)

  29. Traitors and symps are not really very complex. Those who are not after the thirty pieces of silver are after a “daddy”. You know who would probably understand them best, I think? The bartender at a leather bar.

    nk (1d9030)

  30. 27. Better: Take slow steps to evict her…if this goes on.

    Sammy Finkelman (46ec7d)

  31. 14. Jim Miller (406a93) — 3/21/2022 @ 1:45 pm

    #8 The low-level war in the Donbas started in 2014, and continued all through the Trump presidency. If he made any efforts to end the conflict, I missed them.

    It stayed in the Donbass.

    But it stayed there starting in the Obama presidency,so what Trump did basically was continue the Obama policy, except stronger. Putin tried to turn Trump against the Ukrainian government, through disinformation he fed through Giuliani, and somewhat succeeded for awhile in 2019. Not long enough or sure enough for him to do anything.

    Sammy Finkelman (46ec7d)

  32. putin didn’t wage violent war against ukraine nor gain an inch of territory under trump’s watch

    Putin was at “violent war” in eastern Ukraine through all Trump’s single term, gaining well more than an inch of territory.
    Putin’s navy commandeered a Ukrainian navy vessel in Kerch Strait and held their sailors hostage for months.
    Trump was basically silent about both violent acts, and sanctioned Putin for neither, but he did lobby for Putin to join the G7 to make the G8 again, and he endorsed Putin’s illegal invasion of the Crimean region of Ukraine because they speak Russian there.

    Paul Montagu (5de684)

  33. this place seems more like democratic underground

    It’s funny, because so many Trumpists sound like CodePink activists at an ANSWER rally these days, they way they talk about opposing assistance to Ukraine.
    I can’t speak for those “pro democrat sites”, but the Mueller and Senate Intelligence Committee reports made clear that Putin launched a “sweeping and systematic” cyber and propaganda attack on the United States in 2016, and it was a lot more than “internet ads”.

    Paul Montagu (5de684)

  34. It’s funny, because so many Trumpists sound like CodePink activists at an ANSWER rally these days,

    Trumpies range between “Trump was tough on ISIS and he would never have let the bad guys win anywhere, because he was all for asserting America strength!” and “Trump brought our troops home and didn’t get us into any wars, and he’s right to think NATO is obsolete, and why should we care about what happens somewhere else?”

    Then there are those who had been portraying Putin as a great champion of religion and Russian culture against the secularism and liberalism and globalism that the U.S. was promoting around the world (they say), and those who bought into Trump’s notion that Ukraine is the really corrupt, evil place, not Russia.

    The latter group aren’t bothered by Russia’s interference in Ukraine (or Georgia or Belarus). Some have suggested that the U.S. was behind the “color revolution” or “coup” that brought down a Kremlin loyalist in 2014, and some have pushed the biolab propaganda as a way of trying to absolve the great “Christian” leader Putin of guilt for the horror he is inflicting — and instead put blame on America, and on NATO.

    Radegunda (adfe4c)

  35. Then there are those who had been portraying Putin as a great champion of religion…

    The irony, Rad, is that church attendance in Putin’s Russia is around 2%. For a dictator who proclaims to be defender of the Christian faith, his country is about as godless as your typical communist atheist state.

    Paul Montagu (5de684)

  36. The Bulwark gives some examples of the trouble with having Trump be the highest profile spokesman for the GOP on Russian aggression and the appropriate response

    It’s just not the word salad, but the immaturity and recklessness of many of his ruminations, especially his curiosity with using nuclear weapons. International crises is exactly the reason that Trump needs to fade into the sunset.

    AJ_Liberty (3cb02f)

  37. church attendance in Putin’s Russia is around 2%.

    I pointed out to a MAGA tradcon that the U.S. population is still considerably more religious than a number of countries that have an official state church or a national church, but he didn’t want to admit it. I also pointed out that Christianity itself arose in opposition to the state — and that its later association with state power had some harmful results for moral integrity — but that also went through deaf ears.

    I could have pointed out that one influence behind the Founders’ commitment to freedom of religion was the Great Awakening, with its principle that religion should not be controlled by temporal powers. I’m sure that would have been dismissed too by someone determined to believe that the absence of an established religion was really just a sneaky way to destroy religion in the long term.

    What the tradcons can’t explain is how state sponsorship of a particular creed & denomination would make people more inclined to accept it as unquestionable truth. In the U.S., religion has mostly been passed down through families. Or searchers for meaning find it on their own. If one generation turns away from what the parents taught, would they be more willing to accept the same teachings on the authority of the state?

    Radegunda (56bf80)

  38. Putin’s Aggression Leaves His Right-Wing Fan Club Squirming

    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.
    Perhaps no one demonstrates the quandary more than Matteo Salvini, Italy’s leading right-wing politician, who has been an unapologetic Putin fanboy.

    He wore shirts with Mr. Putin’s face on them in Moscow’s Red Square and in the European Parliament. He said he preferred the Russian president to the Italian one. He incessantly echoed Mr. Putin’s calls to end the sanctions already on Russia for its annexation of Crimea. He mocked those who alleged he was in Mr. Putin’s pocket by saying, “I esteem him for free, not for money.”
    While some of his cohort have admitted that they perhaps assessed Mr. Putin incorrectly, Mr. Salvini has not been ready to make such a concession.

    On Thursday, he wrote on Twitter that he firmly condemned “any military aggression,” and then dropped off flowers at the Ukrainian Embassy. He eventually came around to acknowledging that Russia was the military aggressor but still seems to have trouble bringing himself to utter criticism and Mr. Putin’s name in the same sentence.

    “I am let down by the human being who, in 2022, tries to solve economic and political problems with war,” Mr. Salvini said in a radio interview. (Mr. Salvini’s spokesman, Matteo Pandini, insisted that he had also said “Putin started a war and so Putin is wrong,” but could not point to where he had said it.)
    Marine Le Pen, the leader of the (French) far-right National Rally party — which received a loan from a Russian bank — declared Russia’s annexation of Crimea was not illegal and visited Mr. Putin in Moscow before the last presidential elections in 2017. While she opposes NATO, Ms. Le Pen denounced Mr. Putin’s military aggression on Friday, saying, “I think that what he has done is completely reprehensible. It changes, in part, the opinion I had of him.”

    Her far-right rival in the presidential campaign, Éric Zemmour, has in the past called the prospect of a French equivalent of Mr. Putin a “dream” and admired the Russian’s efforts to restore “an empire in decline.” Like many other Putin enthusiasts he doubted an invasion was in the cards and blamed the United States for spreading what he called “propaganda.”

    But on Thursday he, too, denounced the invasion…..

    In Britain, Nigel Farage, a key proponent of Brexit, had not believed Mr. Putin would invade Ukraine. “Well, I was wrong,” he wrote on Twitter on Thursday, though he maintained that the European Union and NATO had unnecessarily provoked Russia with expansion. “Putin has gone much further than I thought he would.”

    Other right-wing forces around Europe have sought to square the circle by condemning the violence, but shifting the blame away from Mr. Putin.
    The last major leader to visit Mr. Putin before the war, President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil, who was once told by Mr. Putin that he expressed “the best masculine qualities,” has decided instead to hold his tongue. But he perhaps showed his hand when he rebuked his vice president for saying that Brazil opposed the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
    Silvio Berlusconi, the former prime minister of Italy who wore furry hats with the Russian in his dacha in Sochi and received a “big bed” from Mr. Putin as a gift, has condemned the violence but had not said anything publicly about his old pal……..

    “(Matteo Salvini) wore shirts with Mr. Putin’s face on them in Moscow’s Red Square and in the European Parliament.”

    Vladimir Putin, the Che Guevara of the far right.

    Rip Murdock (d2a2a8)

  39. Other right-wing forces around Europe have sought to square the circle by condemning the violence, but shifting the blame away from Mr. Putin.

    Not just in Europe. Some Americans have tried to do the same, with their talk of biolabs and U.S.-funded color revolutions and NATO expansion as a threat to the pure, authentic, traditional, Christian, Russian culture.

    Radegunda (56bf80)

  40. The Putin apologists are also claiming in Disqus comment threads that the Azov Battalion are being targeted in Mariupol, they just happen to be in all these apartment buildings and cultural centers, so they had to be destroyed. The Pulitzer-level reporting by an AP guy, who spent 20 days in the city while it was being bombarded, shows what was really going on.

    Paul Montagu (5de684)

  41. Paul, the Putin-stans are having a tough time posing as the defenders of virtue now. They’ll use whatever they can get.

    Radegunda (56bf80)

  42. @33~41: who called in the straw man flash mob?

    JF (e1156d)

  43. Why the MAGA Movement Loves Putin
    …….[T]he Republican establishment doing the bare minimum to support a U.S. ally being invaded by an adversary should not obscure the raging pro-Putin sentiment on the Right. Pay attention to what Tucker Carlson, Steve Bannon, and others are saying because the sentiments of the Far Right are a leading indicator of where the party is headed. Donald Trump’s birtherism and racist nationalism was laughed at by all of the Republicans until he won the nomination. The same is true for the apocalyptic anti-government ignorance of the Tea Party. Therefore, it’s worth understanding why the Far Right is so enamored with Putin and other authoritarians around the world. The answer helps explain how Trump rose to the top of the party and why the next Trump may be more dangerous than Donald.
    1. Addicted to Strength: The concept of strength is the axis on which Republican politics has long rotated. Every Republican political campaign is about portraying the GOPer as strong and the Democrat as weak. ……. The type of strength and how it is used is irrelevant. When strength at all costs is emphasized at the expense of empathy, compassion, and morals, Putin can become the ideal leader for a morally bankrupt political party.

    2. An Apocalyptic Mentality: The public tends to gravitate towards strongman-like figures out of fear. And fear is a central feature of Republican messaging. ……Putin’s restorative nationalism is appealing to this segment of the population. His death grip on power and aims to restore the Soviet Union is essentially a platform to Make Russia Great Again. Supporting Trump doesn’t necessarily equate to becoming a political apologist, but the sentiments driving the very Far Right to embrace Trump above all else are the same sentiments causing the folks to side with Putin right now.

    3. White Power: There is something grossly ironic about the America First movement idolizing a former KGB agent trying to reestablish America’s greatest adversary. But “America First,” really means “White America First.” As Emily Tamkin wrote in the New York Times: “Many of the admirers of the world’s strongmen on the American right appear to believe that the countries each of these men lead are beacons of whiteness, Christianity and conservative values… The white nationalist Richard Spencer has referred to Russia as ‘the sole white power in the world.’” Matthew Heimbach, a founder of the Traditionalist Worker Party, told The Times in 2016, “I see President Putin as the leader of the free world.” ……..

    4. The Perverse Incentives of the Internet Attention Economy: Donald Trump, Steve Bannon, and Tucker Carlson have a lot in common. One of these commonalities is an inherent understanding of how to get and maintain attention in a media ecosystem powered by outrage. There is financial and political incentive to say outrageous things that generate backlash. You get attention for what you said and then you get to scream “cancel culture” when people get mad. …….

    Rip Murdock (d2a2a8)

  44. They aren’t straw men at all.
    For one thing, I unfortunately have to deal with some people who are scrambling to explain why they weren’t wrong in praising Putin as a defender of Christianity.
    Second, have you listened to Tucker Carlson or Candace Owens or Michael Flynn lately? Just for example.
    Third, I hear bizarre audio clips and I see people posting far-right tweets, and headlines and ledes from publications I don’t read (anymore), and I’m gobsmacked by where some people’s thinking has gone. It’s anti-NATO, it’s blaming the U.S. for the uprising against Yanukovych, it’s suggesting that Ukraine somehow had it coming. Or at the very least, that we shouldn’t care one whit if a big powerful nuclear-armed country brutally swallows up its smaller neighbors in the name of antiglobalist national sovereignty.

    Radegunda (56bf80)

  45. Putin? Trump? Biden? Reagan???? Lest you forget, “…the significance of the passage of time…” 😉

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  46. Michael Goodwin interviewed Trump at MAr-a-Lago just before the massive Russian invasion

    Trump sid he got along best with the tough guys. There are two storries Michael Goodwin has but Trump did not say that. He doesn’t say who did.

    But supposedly…

    There are other stories making the rounds, too, and they are even more provocative. One has it that Trump — noting that Putin seized land from Georgia when George W. Bush was president and seized the Crimean peninsula when Barack Obama was president — warned Putin against a land grab on his watch.

    “If you move against Ukraine while I’m president,” Trump is said to have told the Russian leader, “I will hit Moscow.”

    Putin reportedly scoffed, “No way,” leading Trump to say, “All those beautiful golden turrets will be blown up.”

    A similar story involves Chinese President Xi Jinping. It was during his visit to Mar-a-Lago in 2017 when Trump famously [i.e. that part is confirmed from other sources] interrupted their chocolate cake dessert to declare he had just ordered the US military to fire 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian air base after the Syrian government used chemical weapons against rebels and civilians.

    During that same visit, Trump reportedly told Xi that any military move against Taiwan would be met with an attack on Beijing. Xi, like Putin, is said to have been stunned, though it is possible neither man believed Trump was serious. While it is also possible that both accounts are exaggerated, it is a fact that neither man made the moves Trump is said to have warned against.

    Also, there’s another thing that definitely did happen.

    Also published February 23, 2022, in a column by Holman W. Jenkins Jr in the Wall Street Journal:

    If Mr. Putin had rightly understood what was going on, his calculations might well have been different.

    A delicate observation also needs to be made: He saved his Ukraine depredations for the Obama and then the Biden administrations, though his expectations of Mr. Biden so far seem to have been disappointed. His biggest misreading may have been of the events of Feb. 7, 2018. That was the day U.S. ground and air forces in Syria destroyed an armored Russian mercenary column, killing an estimated 90 Russian citizens and 100 recruits of other nationalities, at a cost of zero injuries to U.S. service personnel.

    Using established “deconfliction” procedures, the Pentagon tried to warn the column off. When the effort failed, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis later told Congress, he gave the order that the advancing group “was to be annihilated. And it was.” It was the bloodiest encounter between U.S. and Russian forces since Woodrow Wilson’s intervention in the Russian civil war in 1918.

    Mr. Putin may have thought he was testing the Trump administration. He erred. He was testing a system of government and politics and global engagement that’s bigger than one man.

    Note: He’s not saying Trump did this. He’s saying Trump’s appointees did this/

    Sammy Finkelman (02a146)

  47. More from that Michael Goodwin interview with Donald Trump: (published the following Sunday, February 26)

    My question to Trump was this: “You constantly claim the election was rigged, that you actually won and your victory was stolen.

    “But if I am a voter who agrees with you on most policies but disagrees with you about the election results, or is just tired of hearing you talk about it so much — should I vote for you? Is it a litmus test that I must agree the election was stolen?”

    Trump shook his head and said no without elaboration before asking me a question: “But because I won, how can I not talk about it?”

    After ticking off the roster of states where he has alleged fraud, including Georgia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan, he added, “Everything I said was true, and it’s being proven as we speak.”

    In the earlier article Trump said he had already made up his mind about running or not running for president in 2024 but was keeping it secret till after the general election this November.

    The Capitol riot, along with Trump’s own efforts to get the election results overturned, are major black marks on his tenure and a serious hurdle if, as likely, he runs again in 2024.

    I raised the issue by telling him about the comments of a New Yorker I met with in Florida. The man, well-known in business and philanthropy circles, said that although he did not vote for Trump in either election, he had always liked him and they had been friends for years.

    But he could not forgive the president’s post-election conduct.

    “I’m afraid if he runs and wins, it will be our last election,” the man said to me.

    When I relayed the story to Trump, he sighed and, seemingly discouraged, asked the man’s name. When I declined to reveal it, he said he doubted his accuser had been a real friend.

    But he quickly switched gears and said the accusation reminded him of the fearmongering by Democrats and the media that greeted his 2016 candidacy.

    “If Trump gets in, he’ll start World War III,” he said in mocking those claims. “But I’m the one who ended wars that others started.”

    He also cited the historic Abraham Accords forged under his watch, which saw Israel normalize relations with four Muslim nations. Any other president would get the Nobel Peace Prize for that breakthrough.

    All Trump’s flaws and achievements will probably get another airing in the next presidential election. With rallies, fundraising and endorsements, he is laying the foundation for another White House run.

    Has he made a final decision? “In my own mind, I have,” he said. “After the midterms, I’ll announce something.”

    As I said before, the only way he can know his decision is if he has decided not to run.

    Sammy Finkelman (02a146)

  48. I said this in the weekend thread a few days ago, but I suspect a lot of this is reporters reporting the controversy. Yes, there are some far-right types who will defend Putin because Trump or partisanship or whatever, but I suspect a majority of the people are more mainstream and abhor what Putin has done.

    Nic (896fdf)

  49. There is a passage in Ernie Pyle’s Here is Your War that I think is relevant. Pyle was wondering why so many Algerians did not support the allies after the North African landings, and came to this conclusion:

    Most of the minor peoples of the world expect discipline. They admire strict rulers because to them strictness is synonymous with strength. The Algerians couldn’t conceive of the fact that our strength lay in our freedom.

    Out of it all I gathered a new respect for Americans, sloppy though we might be. They may call us Uncle Shylock, but I know of no country on earth that is actually less grabby. (p. 45)

    (At that time, about 15 percent of the population of Algeria was of European descent, a mixture of French, Spanish, Italian, and Maltese. The large cities were about half European.)

    Jim Miller (406a93)

  50. Williamson is a repulsive human being. Thats been clear since he told small towns and the people there to die in the name of progress. He continues his repulsive behaving by tying Trump and Orban to Xi and Putin.

    Tell the fake conservative to look at the destruction taking place at home by the radicals who spit on our Constitution and believe in remaking our nation into their Soviet utopia.

    NJRob (c34c0a)

  51. Thats been clear since he told small towns and the people there to die in the name of progress.


    Paul Montagu (5de684)

  52. You’d think, I mean really, that Alabamans would know better than to trust a New York country club Republican, right? Or are the 1960s that long ago?

    nk (1d9030)

  53. There’s a good case that Putin has shot his military wad, and it’ll take awhile for him to replenish, if he can do it at all. At this point, it’s inevitable that Putin is going to lose his war, IMO.

    We have pretty good intelligence that the Russians have deployed 75% of their best fighting formations to Ukraine (these are the ones wasting away now). Maybe they send the other 25%, but even that won’t make much of a difference in the short term.

    Basically, because of a shortage of trained, professional (motivated) personnel, if Russia is going to fight this long war some are mentioning, they are going to have to create almost an entire new army.
    So you would need to staff a new army. With what? Forced conscripts or out of shape reservists? Not the easiest of sell if your media is telling the Russian people the war is a great success.

    Then you need to train your new, mostly conscript military (can’t imagine many would volunteer). If you don’t want them all to be cannon fodder that’s not a fast task. Basic training plus advanced training. From this moment; would be almost a year til they were ready?

    And of course you need to competently organise and equip this new army while under harsh sanctions. Could they do it? Again possibly. But would require mass commitment and willingness to sacrifice for Putin. We will have to see. I’m skeptical.

    Because of this, I think we’re going to see stories like this, where the Ukraine army is going to take back what was taken from them.

    80% of the Irpin urban territory has been taken back by Ukraine

    If only Mariupol can get more Ukrainian reinforcements, sooner the better. And there are other signs, like his climate envoy bailing and his defense minister, Shoigu, out of public view since March 11th.

    I could be terribly wrong, but I’m not convinced Putin will resort to bio or chemical or nuclear attacks on Ukraine, because the the rest of the world would turn its back on the short little dictator, including the Xi regime. There would be too much political blowback from buying Putin’s dirty oil, IMO.

    Paul Montagu (5de684)

  54. I do agree with NJRob — and those who have read my comments about Trump over the past six years will know that I mean it sincerely — that Trump does not belong in the same category with Putin and Xi. He belongs with Larry and Curly.

    Putin and Xi are strong leaders who have control of their respective countries. Trump is a stooge poking other stooges in the eye.

    nk (1d9030)

  55. “Williamson is a repulsive human being”

    Go back and read the article……which is about the strengths of western democracy over authoritarianism.

    “He continues his repulsive behaving by tying Trump and Orban to Xi and Putin”

    The only swipe at Trump, “the America that Donald Trump and his acolytes dream of”, was earned through Trump’s rhetoric which was up until Ukraine’s 11th hour pro-Putin, anti-NATO, and dismissive of Ukraine and Zelensky. It was only the decisive public blowback that pushed Trump to change tack and start saber rattling, though his lack of military knowledge, diplomatic sense, or ability to communicate clearly makes his pivot near incomprehensible (something about threatening Putin with our nuclear submarines…..really?!).

    But objectively did/does team Trump have an authoritarian streak…obviously muted by the institutions, norms, and checks of a democracy…as long as we work to keep them? They certainly worked hard to craft such an image……and holding on…desperately….to this notion that he actually won an election and to continue to press and repeat the lie is something new to our system. Something concerning with respect to those norms important to democracy. His language about curtailing adversarial press, Muslim bans, praise for the Tiananmen Square crackdown, his admiration for North Korea’s brutal Kim, his taking the word of Putin over our intelligence services, his improper pressuring of Zelensky and Raffensperger for naked political gain, and his willingness to torpedo any GOP opposition in a sort of massive loyalty scam….all of this deserves some sort of criticism, doesn’t it? Or does the fact that your fervent support mean that you too own this garbage….and criticism cuts too close to home?

    AJ_Liberty (3cb02f)

  56. Regarding NATO, Putin’s past belligerence was more about his neighbors’ moves toward democratic reforms, says Person-McFaul and Russia’s former Foreign Minister.
    When Putin invaded in 2014, it was about Ukraine moving closer to the EU, not NATO.

    Paul Montagu (5de684)

  57. “Williamson is a repulsive human being”

    NJRob (c34c0a) — 3/23/2022 @ 7:48 am

    Go back and read the article……which is about the strengths of western democracy over authoritarianism.

    That is what NJRob finds so repulsive.

    Rip Murdock (d2a2a8)

  58. Oh, I dunno, guys! I mean who hasn’t seen a young woman with a butch haircut, a ring through her nose, and a rainbow flag midriff top, and not wanted to see Mariupol bombed to rubble? No conservative, for sure.

    nk (1d9030)

  59. The skunk at the party:

    Putin plans to attend G-20 summit despite calls to exclude him

    Russian President Vladimir Putin plans to attend the Group of 20 summit that is being hosted by Indonesia this year, Russia’s ambassador to the Southeast Asian country said Wednesday. Western nations are reportedly trying to exclude Moscow from the G-20, a group of the world’s largest economies.
    “Not only the G-20, many organizations in the West are now trying to expel Russia,” (Ambassador Lyudmila Vorobieva) said. “The reaction of the West is absolutely disproportional.” She said that expelling Russia from the economic forum would make it more difficult for nations to solve global “economic problems.”
    ……(A)ny move to exclude Russia from the forum could be vetoed by other nations. China on Wednesday called Russia an “important member” of the G-20.

    Rip Murdock (d2a2a8)

  60. How Russia and Right-Wing Americans Converged on War in Ukraine

    After President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia claimed that action against Ukraine was taken in self-defense, the Fox News host Tucker Carlson and the conservative commentator Candace Owens repeated the assertion. When Mr. Putin insisted he was trying to “denazify” Ukraine, Joe Oltmann, a far-right podcaster, and Lara Logan, another right-wing commentator, mirrored the idea.
    As war has raged, the Kremlin’s talking points and some right-wing discourse in the United States — fueled by those on the far right — have coalesced. On social media, podcasts and television, falsehoods about the invasion of Ukraine have flowed both ways, with Americans amplifying lies from Russians and the Kremlin spreading fabrications that festered in American forums online.

    By reinforcing and feeding each other’s messaging, some right-wing Americans have given credibility to Russia’s assertions and vice versa. Together, they have created an alternate reality, recasting the Western bloc of allies as provokers, blunderers and liars, which has bolstered Mr. Putin.
    ……..As Western intelligence showed that Russia was preparing to invade Ukraine, Mr. Putin declared Ukraine an American colony with a “puppet regime” and denied that he planned an invasion.

    In the United States, Mr. Carlson also called Ukraine “an obedient puppet of the Biden State Department.”

    On Feb. 16, Russian state-owned media claimed that Ukraine had “fired mortar shells” at a separatist enclave within Ukraine backed by Russia. Charlie Kirk, a conservative activist, quoted the Russian media’s false assertion on his Telegram channel to 256,000 subscribers. Days later, Mr. Kirk also described the heightened situation as a “border dispute.”
    On Feb. 24, Mr. Putin delivered a speech justifying an invasion of Ukraine. It was transcribed in full on Infowars. On Twitter, Ms. Owens, the conservative commentator, repeated Mr. Putin’s claim that NATO was expanding eastward toward Russia, blaming the United States for the war. She urged her three million followers to read Mr. Putin’s speech directly to learn what was “actually” going on.
    …….After the far-right podcaster Mr. Oltmann said on his Feb. 24 show that he would “stand on the side of Russia,” his co-host, Max McGuire, pushed back.

    “Russia’s the bad guy in this situation,” Mr. McGuire said. Mr. Oltmann and Mr. McGuire did not respond to requests for comment.
    ………Joseph Jordan, a white nationalist podcaster who goes by the pseudonym Eric Striker, repeated Russia’s claim that a pregnant woman who was injured in the bombing of a Ukrainian maternity hospital had faked her injuries. In his Telegram channel, Mr. Jordan told his 15,000 followers that the hospital photos had been “staged.” He did not respond to a request for comment.
    “Our acquaintance, the host of Fox News Tucker Carlson, obviously has his own interests⁠,” (said Olga Skabeeva on the Russian program 60 Minutes), airing several clips of Mr. Carlson’s show where he suggested the United States had pushed for conflict in Ukraine. “But lately, more and more often, they’re in tune with our own.”

    Rip Murdock (d2a2a8)

  61. Tucker Carlson: Fellow Traveler or Useful Idiot?

    Kevin M (38e250)

  62. @61. Conservative. 😉

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  63. Rip,

    You’re a leftist. You project your faults onto others.

    NJRob (765a54)

  64. Rip,

    You’re a leftist. You project your faults onto others.

    NJRob (765a54) — 3/23/2022 @ 12:06 pm

    You consider anyone who disagrees with you a “leftist.”

    Rip Murdock (d2a2a8)

  65. No, Tucker Carlson is not a conservative. After all, he has been a big apologist for Donald Trump, that RINO. And he is now an apologist for former KGB agent, Putin. QED.

    Jim Miller (406a93)

  66. @65. Except he is:

    ‘Tucker Swanson McNear Carlson is an American television host and conservative political commentator who has hosted the nightly political talk show Tucker Carlson Tonight on Fox News since 2016.

    Carlson began his media career in the 1990s, writing for The Weekly Standard [defunct conservative rag] and other publications. He was a CNN commentator from 2000 to 2005 and a co-host of the network’s prime-time news debate program Crossfire from 2001 to 2005. From 2005 to 2008, he hosted the nightly program Tucker on MSNBC. He has been a political analyst for Fox News since 2009, appearing as guest or guest host on various programs before the launch of his current show. In 2010, Carlson co-founded and served as the initial editor-in-chief of the right-wing news and opinion website The Daily Caller, until selling his ownership stake and leaving in 2020… Carlson has been described in the media as a conservative or paleoconservative.In 2021, Time magazine said Carlson “may be the most powerful conservative in America”.’ – source,

    Try his Swanson Turkey Pot Pies. 😉

    “D’oh!” – Homer Simpson [Dan Castellaneta] ‘The Simpsons’ Fox TV

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  67. He’s considered conservative (because of who he aligns with)

    Sammy Finkelman (02a146)

  68. You consider anyone who disagrees with you a “leftist.”

    Rip Murdock (d2a2a8) — 3/23/2022 @ 12:11 pm

    If it walks like a duck. Quacks like a duck.

    On and on. Your clown nose on/ clown nose off isn’t fooling anyone.

    NJRob (eb56c3)

  69. Rob,

    Is Patterico a conservative? Dana?

    lurker (cd7cd4)

  70. 59. I don’t know that Putin is going to leave Russia anytime soon.

    Xi has not left China since the pandemic began. Putin traveled to Beijing.

    Leaving increases the risk of a coup.

    Sammy Finkelman (c04aa1)

  71. If it walks like a duck. Quacks like a duck.

    On and on. Your clown nose on/ clown nose off isn’t fooling anyone.

    NJRob (eb56c3) — 3/23/2022 @ 6:22 pm

    Unlike you, I don’t reduce my disagreements with others with personal insults. For example, I didn’t personally call you “repulsive. “

    Rip Murdock (d2a2a8)

Powered by WordPress.

Page loaded in: 0.1107 secs.