Reviews | Vladimir Putin shouldn’t be a hero of the right
Tucker Carlson has regularly grazed the elite consensus on foreign policy against Putin, including in a heart-wrenching monologue this week, saying the Russian leader has his eyes on Ukraine only because he wants to protect the western flank of his country.
The cover of the latest print magazine Newsmax features a flattering image of the Russian leader with the phrase “Vlad the Great”. The article apparently isn’t that positive, but the cover wouldn’t look out of place if Putin framed it and posted it on his office wall.
The sources of Putin’s appeal to American populists are manifold. They admire his strength and daring to advance Russia’s interests. They think he has the right enemies, namely the same establishment that also despised Donald Trump. They see in him an antidote to the cosmopolitanism of the European Union, and a tonic reaffirmation of national sovereignty. They envy its retreat from trendy progressive causes and its alliance with the Russian Church to form a bulwark in favor of what they see as the traditional values of Western civilization.
Finally, the populist right nurtures a deep skepticism about American interventionism after the misadventures of the past 20 years and a reflex to believe that, if the foreign policy elite calls a foreign actor a bogeyman, it ‘is wrong – or, at least, likely to stumble badly in any action it takes.
The problem with all of this is that he is abstracted from the reality of Putin’s power, which makes him one of the most cynical and dangerous men in the world and a steward dreadfully unworthy of the interests of the Russian people. It is one thing to oppose NATO enlargement and to be mindful of Russia’s security interests; it is quite another to excuse Putin’s offenses and turn him into a model of conservative governance that he clearly is not.
It is possible for a political leader to defend national sovereignty, conduct an interest-based foreign policy, defend a common national culture, and fight awakened insanity without imprisoning political opposition, assassinating critics, invading and dismembering. neighboring countries, enrich a kleptocracy and install a de facto dictator for life. These are not accidental weaknesses; they are at the very heart of Putin’s repressive and corrupt regime.
Putin’s nationalism violates a pillar of true nationalism, namely that the nation belongs to the people, who deserve to govern themselves and not to see national wealth plundered by a ruling elite. Putin went to great lengths to see that there was no alternative to him. He immediately jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny after recovering from poisoning (an unfortunate “accident” that hits so many people and disturbs Putin) and cracked down on the street protests that followed. Meanwhile, Putin saw that a bunch of associates grew very wealthy, making these loyalists a mainstay of his regime.
While Putin shrouds himself in the symbols and rhetoric of the Orthodox Church, there is nothing truly Christian about his rule. Indeed, Russia persecutes unwanted Christians, namely Jehovah’s Witnesses and Baptists. The alliance with Putin’s state has corrupted the Orthodox Church, although the arrangement is unmistakably traditionalist – from the perspective of Russia’s long-standing and deeply rooted experience with authoritarianism.
There is something very strange about the fact that American conservatives find things to admire about Putin, given how Russian It is. Putin revived a form of the ideological basis of the regime of Tsar Nicholas I of the 19th century, “Orthodoxy, Autocracy and Nationality” – a trinity alien to the American project. Indeed, if at any point in the past 500 years a keen observer had been told that a selfish autocrat with no respect for individual rights or the rule of law ruled Russia, he would have replied: ” Why, yes, run. “That was never really the case in America, even before the Revolution, when we were ruled by the English crown.
So, Putin can’t teach us anything useful about how to honor America’s national tradition. Likewise, just because Putin is suing his personal interest in Ukraine, that does not mean that we cannot pursue ours.
Putin has an interest in projecting his strength; strengthen its geopolitical position at the expense of Ukraine; and destabilize Ukraine as much as possible, for fear of the emergence of a prosperous and autonomous state on its border which could give the Russian people their own boring ideas. America, too, has an interest in projecting force (and reassuring nervous allies), but also in avoiding the resurgence of a Europe where the fate of countries is decided by pure military aggression.
Presumably, Putin himself, who understands the politics of power, would be shocked if we just talked about letting him do what he wanted in a major geopolitical showdown because we love the cut of his jib.
The United States obviously shouldn’t go into a gunshot war over Ukraine, and it could be that Putin, much more willing to take the risk than America is, in the end. his will with Ukraine. There is no doubt that he has struck above his weight on the international stage. But there is a serious question as to how far this aggression is ultimately in Russia’s interest. Putin has managed to create a sham of great power, while also presiding over a second-rate country with a stagnant economy and huge weaknesses in its model of government. No victory in foreign policy will change that.
Its big strategic game is apparently to forge an autocratic alliance with Chinese President Xi Jinping, a move that – given the power disparity in favor of China – may not work for Russia in the long run. Either way, making himself the junior partner of a Chinese potentate determined to restore China’s greatness and become the preeminent power in the world is a funny way to defend Western civilization.
Definitely accept this invitation to CPAC.