Putin And The Right

Arwa Mahdawi is a columnist for the Guardian, and she devoted a recent column to a question many of us have been asking–especially since the brutal, unprovoked attack on Ukraine by Russia– to wit: what is it about Putin that has won the hearts and ((to the extent they have them) minds of the American Right?

Yesterday’s post offered one theory; Mahdawi essentially concurs.

She begins by noting Tucker Carlson’s defense of Putin and his assertion that the U.S. has employed propaganda to make our citizens believe Putin is “a baddie.” She also points out that Carlson is” far from the only person on the US right to have a soft spot for old Vlad.”

Trump, of course, famously called Putin’s assault on Ukraine “genius”, “savvy” and “smart”.

For those of us who can’t understand why the American Right is so enamored of the Russian autocrat (and other anti-democratic strongmen around the globe), Mahdawi has an explanation similar to the one offered yesterday.

While I haven’t called up every white nationalist group in the US and Europe for comment, it is fair to say the Russian premier has a fervent fanbase among the far right in the west. Why is this? They love what he has done with Russia. They love the way he has dismantled women’s rights. They love his attacks on gay and transgender people. They love his dismissal of western liberalism. Their values align perfectly.

There is also a whiff of antisemitism in the right’s support for Putin. On Sunday, for example, Wendy Rogers, a Republican state senator in Arizona, tweeted about the Ukrainian president: “[Volodymyr] Zelensky is a globalist puppet for Soros and the Clintons.” “Globalist” and “Soros” are well-established dog whistles, of course. (Zelenskiy is Jewish.)

Rogers’ comments on Zelenskiy came shortly after she attended a white nationalist convention in Florida, where she praised Nick Fuentes, its Holocaust-revisionist organiser, and proposed hanging “traitors” from “a newly built set of gallows”. A very normal thing for a politician to say! Fuentes, meanwhile, urged the crowd to applaud Russia and had them chanting: “Putin! Putin!

Putin’s racism, homophobia and misogyny aren’t the only things that endear him to the Right . They love what I’ll call his “John Wayne masculinity”–his willingness to demonstrate what Mahdawi calls “muscle.”

A Yahoo News/YouGov poll from January found that 62% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents reckon Putin is a “stronger leader” than Joe Biden; that number rises to 71% among those who name Fox News as their primary source of cable news.

Those numbers, and yesterday’s, reinforce an observation I’ve previously shared: a depressingly significant portion of the American population (and media) has yet to grow up. That portion of the population has retained a cartoonish vision of what “strength” and “leadership” look like. A disturbing number of pundits–including many who are working for reputable media outlets– utterly fail to appreciate the skill, savvy and resolve with which Biden and his administration strengthened NATO and the West, and forged an unprecedented alliance to bring Russia to its economic knees–without sending American young people to die.

I fully expect to see those pundits commiserating with Rightwing complaints about gas prices (mask mandates are disappearing, so they will require some other indignity to assign to the administration). Meanwhile, television screens and Internet sites continue to testify to the horrors being rained on innocent Ukrainians by the “strong leader” that Carlson and his audience so admire.

It will be interesting to see how Putin’s fawning Rightwing fans react to the undeniable evidence of his brutality. As a column from the New York Times put it,

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….The stain of Mr. Putin’s new reputation threatens to taint his fellow travelers, too.

I would like to believe that “taint” will be widespread–that it might even cause those on the Right to reassess their grievances and bigotries– but I doubt it. What they are really fighting–as I indicated yesterday– is maturity, modernity and the necessity of living with complexity and ambiguity and people who don’t look like them.

They won’t give up their tribalism, or their cartoon version of America.


  1. Putin’s “fellow travelers” have already been tainted. The Trump lemmings will follow anything their dear “leader” tells them to follow. It’s a cult of idiots directed by two of the worst humans this species has ever produced. The pantheon of social criminals now gets to add two more dastardly creatures to their halls. Hitler, Rasputin, Stalin? Move over, fellas. There’s two more MFs on the way to add more stink to your hall of infamy.

    Carlson is merely a whore to these 25% of lip-strumming morons on the right. He is their mouthpiece, or as my great grandmother used to say: “An empty barrel makes the most noise when you hit it.”

  2. Those that openly admire Putin so much should pack up and move to Russia. I would gladly help them pack their bags.

  3. The only empire-building post WW2 has been the USA which has used NATO and the IMF to expand its reach by creating massive debt to other countries.

    To this day, we still call it the “defense industry.” There is nothing defensive about it because it spreads like cancer, our version of capitalism – an economic system requiring unsustainable growth.

    Oddly, all of the “leaders” the USA installs in foreign countries after their CIA coups are right-wingers. Anti-socialists for sure. Why?

    Because they are installed to steal resources from the people who owned the resources under socialism. You see, the people tend to retaliate when that happens, so the USA needs a strongman to deny the counter-insurgencies.

    The problem is that China and Russia have caught on to the game, and all empire advances in their backyards are being rolled back. The only ones benefiting from USA-style capitalism are the oligarchs.

    Everything else is propaganda. I seriously doubt that most of the videos shown on TV about Ukraine are even real. Our media is that bad.

    Trump may wish to be Putin because of his intelligence, but Trump is a reality TV host who paid someone to write a book about himself. He’s a dimwit. So is Joe Biden – a hollowed-out puppet owned by the oligarchy on Wall Street.

  4. If you need proof of the threat Putin poses, look no further than Hungary. Orban certainly knows that success in Ukraine would lead to new incursions and as much as he loves having Vlad as his buddy, he has no desire to be “back in the USSR!”

  5. Liz,

    You’ll learn to just ignore Todd’s posts. Imagine what the editorial page on his tiny newspaper must be like.

  6. Putin may have enamored the “right” but is in full control of the “left”; not only in this country but he is in full control of NATO, EU, all of our allies throughout the world and such as Iran and North Korea are only waiting for Putin’s signal to push those buttons on their nuclear weapons. He is controlling the skies; ordering a “no fly” zone over Ukraine for Russians and a “no fly” zone over Russia by Ukraine could put some control in the hands of those who are merely tin titular control and are now arguing over how to control Russia’s economy while saving our own rather than their terrorist genocidal destruction of Ukraine as they argue. Does anyone believe Putin will stop when he has destroyed the country of Ukraine and slaughtered its citizens? Putin wanted a war; like Trump he wants to “nuke ’em”; beginning with Ukraine’s nuclear power plant; is he merely watching wind directions to do so when the killing will blow away from Russia rather than over it? Trump might have the answer; their goals and thought processes are in sync.

    World leaders continue talking around Putin’s control, that elephant in the room they are trying to distract us from. Putin has declared those sanctions are a “declaration of war”; he sees the real world as it is, maybe that is why our own “right” is enamored of him and his “war” he declares is only Russia’s “military occupation of Ukraine”. This is not the end of his terrorism; this is the beginning of the end. But the end of the world as we know it is in his cross hairs.

    Liz Shopes; to answer your question, as I posted from Facebook yesterday, “Without freedom of speech, we would have no way to know who the idiots are.”

  7. Vern, good morning brother! Yep, yep and yep.

    Todd, Lord have mercy! It’s not necessary to stir the pot that deep my brother. Don’t be an apologist for autocracy.

    The Evangelical power brokers that love to visualize the warrior Jesus Christ, a warrior that’s found nowhere in historical context, shows the willingness to be purposefully ignorant of Christ’s law and or history!

    We have a very good Romanian friend, Nikolai Szeleky and his wife Mimi, they are so freaked out by what their family members are sending them, videos and news articles from local media, he says the night sky lights up like a thunderstorm in the distance. Why do you think Tic Toc has stopped live streaming? The Chinese are trying to shore up their propaganda in support of their buddy to the north, Vlad the Impaler! Live streaming by Ukrainian locals just is not conducive for the lie.

    I really believe it’s going to end badly for Vlad, and just as bad for those supporters of his! The Chinese trying to drum up support for russia, I suspect it’s not going to have a huge kumbaya moment in China by their civilian population. They’re very well aware of how Xi Jumping is following their own autocratic trajectory which left true communism in the dust. China’s treatment of The Uyghurs are a prime example of There own genocidal issues! And, also, China’s push towards what they consider cultural purity. Boy, does that sound familiar?

    When my uncle Roger went into Auschwitz during the second world war, all the people claimed they knew nothing about what was happening right under their noses! And by underneath their noses I meant the stench of death. And when they made the locals go and bury the dead that were piled up like cordwood, they felt put upon and mistreated. Not sad at all of these Innocent lives that had been stamped out without so much as a whimper from anyone except fellow prisoners.

    To deny this type of autocratic driven Holocaust is ridiculous because I remember my uncle telling us the stories and how some of those soldiers blew their brains out on seeing what transpired in these concentration camps.

    I will say, that Ronald Reagan absolutely had FEMA camps built for holding millions of people in case of some sort of insurrection by South Americans and or African Americans. I didn’t believe it until I researched it, so, we can see the drive towards autocracy is not something new in this country. Take a look at Louis Onorato Gulffrida (Ronald Reagan’s FEMA chief) and his paper he wrote in the war college. This was the foundation for the program called Rex 84 which stood for readiness exercise 1984. I will say, this was indelibly linked to the Iran Contra affair. Where are the United States imported large amounts of drugs into this country to amass an under the table pile of cash to fight secret wars even before Iran Contra. This decimated black communities! Why do that? Fear! Greed! And because they could.

    Folks call this ancient history, but it’s written in history! If you dig deeper, and read the reputable reports, reports due to “Muckrakers,” much of this is documented.

    Todd is right about one thing, the United States is built on the back of slavery, the poor, the disenfranchised, the blood of our original Natives, and the voiceless ethnicities used for cultural cannon fodder!

    Manifest destiny? American exceptionalism? American romanticism! All promoted by the white ruling class, where the only concern was the bottom dollar. Compassion be damned, all of this in the name of God!!!

  8. Heather Richardson Cox posted an interview with President Biden yesterday. I did not get a chance to watch the entire interview, but the written introduction to the interview was intriguing. She wanted to explore Biden’s views on the the conflict between the American ideals that all men are created equal, laid out in the Declaration of Independence, versus the strict property protections for the American ruling class laid out in the Constitution.

    I don’t think I have ever had this schizophrenic split pointed out so starkly. This might also explain why with the rise of liberal democracy, finds desperate conservatives believing any means justifies the end.

    I am sorry to say, from this point of view Todd is justified in some of his rants.

  9. ” I seriously doubt that most of the videos shown on TV about Ukraine are even real. Our media is that bad.”…..Well…..no. Once again, TS crawls out from under his rock that shields him from rational thought to share his fever dreams.

    And John: please share your ‘research’ about Reagan’s FEMA camps.

    Other right-wingnuts say it was Hillary behind the camps, and as I recall, a local conservative lawyer lady years ago said there was one in Beech Grove at the railyard: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uyaLK7WJbpw and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i1UpN3ZyOOE.

    Now the RWnuts say the camps are being prepared for anti-vaxxers.

    Jeez. Give me a break. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FEMA_camps_conspiracy_theory.

  10. I have it from unquestionable authority that Putin is a secret fellow traveler who has portraits of Marx , Lenin and Stalin in his wallet next to his Card.

  11. Thanks, John Sorg.

    Thanks also for once again exposing the Reagan administration as inherently complicit in human terror. While the right (Read: Todd’s real oligarchs) praises Reagan as a saint, his ideological minions used him to mouth their anti-Constitution plans like “trickle-down” economics. What a farce! THOSE oligarchs still beat the drum for un-democratic “government” that gives them all the money and all the power over others.

    BTW, EVERY “great” society was built on the backs of slaves – to one extent or another. Slavery appeared coincident with economics/big agriculture. To that extent, why should anyone be surprised that slavery is an integral part of ultimate capitalism. “Trickle-down” or “Supply-Side Economics” is just a smoke screen for enslaving people forever so the rich can get richer until their house of B.S. cards collapses – as it always has. Our current “quiet” example is student loan debt. With minimum wages slowly creeping up while price gouging (It’s not inflation, per se.) screams to the top of the charts, permanent indentured servitude to the banks and the employers is guaranteed.

    Yeah. America is great. We remain the ONLY industrialized nation without universal healthcare. The attitude from the right? Work ’em to death and pay ’em as little as possible while we’re working them to death.”

    How’s that for a Monday rant? If this isn’t enough, buy my non-fiction books on Amazon.com. LOL.

  12. No, they won’t grow up! It’s the Peter Pan syndrome. “They love what he has done with Russia. They love the way he has dismantled
    women’s rights. They love his attacks on gay and transgender people. They love his dismissal of western liberalism. Their
    values align perfectly.” “They” are terrified of anything that would not have made it into a script for “Leave it to Beaver!”

    All of the effort the conservatives have been putting into their version of American politics, for the last 50 years has been
    an attempt to establish just those values here. So, why would they not love a bare-chested, cross wearing, “Real Man?”

    John, that is a great line, “Without freedom of speech, we would have no way to know who the idiots are.”

    I believe this is worth repeating, and so I do it here: “Todd is right about one thing, the United States is built on the back of slavery, the poor, the disenfranchised, the blood of our original Natives, and the voiceless ethnicities used for cultural cannon fodder!
    Manifest destiny? American exceptionalism? American romanticism! All promoted by the white ruling class, where the only concern was the bottom dollar. Compassion be damned, all of this in the name of God!!!”

    I watched the HCR interview with Biden and recommend that others do the same.

  13. There seems to be among Americans some confusion between values and authority. Self governance and the commensurate freedom are values here, though on the decline. That is what all of our wars have been fought over. Not to impose, imposition is antithetical to democracy, but to grant them to others. A world safe for democracy. Sometimes the necessity to engage the military as a tool is unavoidable in the ever ongoing struggle between authority and democracy. We can see in the Ukraine the pain of democracy trying to survive the imposition of authority.

    What’s telling is the pearl clutching of the right over our withdrawal from Afghanistan subjecting those people to Taliban authority versus the admiration for Putin for destroying the Ukraine in an effort to become their Taliban, their authority. It’s pure hypocrisy based on authorities who look like us versus those others.

  14. Regarding Putin and some
    other leaders we know and have known:
    “The measure of a man is the size of what it takes to upset him.”
    “How little true manhood comes from testosterone alone!”
    “Only the man who is ruled by something higher than personal ego can be trusted to rule anything else.”
    “An ego driven man seeks to create an ego-kingdom whose purpose is to serve him and make him happy.”
    Don Jones
    Wisdom for the Journey
    (no longer in print)

  15. the dark money gnomes who have for 40 years set the course for this discussion,have made inroads.education of our young and not so young,has been in fail mode. since much of this discourse is fueled by social media,we send our kids home to that,and the results are ongoing. we can relate to the past,we were educated to democracy,and its rewards. now the gens have been spoiled into believing its all free,as they chew on that silver spoon. media fails, maybe some reality on the 6 pm mews,the bodies and debris. paul manafort should be proud for his efforts. oleg deripaska should be well off from hi$ aluminum rolling plant in kentucky,mcconnell $o much wanted and side stepped our sanctions on russia and deripreska and his billionaire status in russia.. ( and how he got there)
    when right wing politics have stepped over the foundations of our democracy to spew the hate and lies to thier advancement,its obvious, the less educated have been sucked into a game,they will find,will only leave them confined in a world that hates them.. all in America…

    one last note to the truckers who feel unwanted. our industry is riddled with corruption that only makes us look bad, youve wasted a moment on your silly ass mandate,fueled by rightwing BS.
    when getting paid on time, regulations that dont work,logging,getting loans to start a buisness and banks who hate us,and places to safely park,rate far higher to us,than a buncha slags who cant see over thier steering wheels.. if you really are American red white and blue,you would be thinking like a American you say you are…your being led by people making money off our backs..

  16. “What’s telling is the pearl clutching of the right over our withdrawal from Afghanistan subjecting those people to Taliban authority versus the admiration for Putin for destroying the Ukraine in an effort to become their Taliban, their authority. It’s pure hypocrisy based on authorities who look like us versus those others.”

    So, you admit Joe Biden’s actions subjected the people of Afghanistan to Taliban authority,and you’re worried about Republican hypocrisy? You are not a serious person. You need to scrutinize your very own hypocrisy,sheesh.

    Btw,Biden-Inflation is going to kill the Democrats in November. Start your uncontrollable sobbing today.


  17. Perfection, that subjective sense of “how things oughta be according to me,” is an unattainable concept but one each of us should nonetheless strive to attain. The problem is when we try to sell our view of “how things oughta be” on each issue that comes before us to our fellow citizens (and others) who have their own ideas on “how things oughta be,” failing which we label and disparage one another, and I am guilty as anyone.

    Thus I call Trumpers all kinds of names and the Trumpers reciprocate – which doesn’t solve or even pretend to solve the underlying issues in governing. We are wasting time and energy on insulting rather than governing by debate and compromise, quite a departure from the model left us by our Founders. (Of course we don’t do duels for insults anymore as we did then, otherwise many today would not be with us. See Burr-Hamilton.)

    Of course Todd’s oligarchs and propaganda outlets such as Fox stoke the fires and threats of future impeachment of Biden and are happy to see us not governing but instead at one another’s throats since this draws public attention away from their “small government” (read one we own) pretense. These are the same people who complain about a rich Soros from Hungary who helps fund some progressive programs while ignoring the billions of dollars flowing into our elections and investments in our economy from Putin and his oligarchs, accompanied by the blathering of a totally compromised and incredibly ignorant Trump, who tells us that Putin’s invasion of Ukraine was “savvy.”

    The foregoing insults and disparaging demonstrates that I have not attained anything near perfection either subjectively or objectively, so I comfort myself in the faint hope that Trumpers and their ilk will ultimately give in and we can get back to governing via debate and compromise again, which I thought our now sidetracked representatives were elected to do.

    That’s enough self-reflection for today. It’s back to the brawl.

  18. Gerald: you’re right, of course. We hurl word bombs back and forth. I haven’t attained anything near perfection, either. I share your faint hope.

  19. Hey Bourgeois; Trump made the pact with the Taliban in Afghanistan to remove our troops, it was sadly a legal pact which had to be followed by President Biden’s administration and military. He secured more time for evacuees to be found and make arrangements to evacuate. Trump’s deadline was in May, those three additional months secured by President Biden probably aided thousands to prepare and travel to evacuate. The difference between the Taliban and religious Afghanistan citizens was for many, a matter of degree and they chose to stay.

  20. The rest of TFG’s sentiments in praise of Putin were:
    “So, Putin is now saying, ‘It’s independent,’ a large section of Ukraine. I said, ‘How smart is that?’ And he’s gonna go in and be a peacekeeper. That’s [the] strongest peace force,” Trump said, adding that that was the kind of show of force the United States could use on its Southern border.”…NPR
    You can bet that there are those along the southern border who would firmly agree and support such an action.
    TFG’s administration set the conditions for withdrawal from Afghanistan. They also set the stage for Putin’s actions in Eastern Europe.
    NPR had a piece today about how Israeli Prime Minister Bennett flew to Moscow and met with Putin to try to broker a peace deal. Apparently, there are Israeli citizens who are applauding Putin because of the cozy relationship between Israel and Russia over Russian control of Syrian airspace and containment of Iran. Those same citizens hold animus toward Ukraine for its long history of antisemitism. Those same citizens seem to forget the history of pogroms and the Pale of Settlement. {“Originally formed in 1791 by Russia’s Catherine II, the Pale of Settlement was a region designated for Jews. For political, economic, and religious reasons, very few Jews were allowed to live elsewhere. The area mostly falls within today’s Poland, Russia, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, and Moldova.”}
    Funny how that works.

  21. All this is true, and there’s a little more to the story. For the business community funders of the ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) network of the Koch brothers, they have been anti-democratic and dictatorial for years. They have sought for years to impose the top down authoritarianism practiced by many companies onto our government and all citizens. They strenuously oppose collective bargaining or other forms of shared decision-making as well as accountability for their own companies, but they demand adherence and accountability of everyone else.

    Their model state legislation seeks to eliminate authority of voters’ elected leadership and ownership of public assets and assign it instead to unelected private managers who can hide their actions, sell off public property, ignore the spirit and letter of laws and regulations written for public entities, and bear little or no accountability. It’s the way of dictators in the workplace, and they don’t want democracy spreading there or imposing expectations and accountability on their corporate hierarchies. To be sure, that’s not the way all CEOs and company presidents operate, but it’s the authoritarian ones who have immense resources and connections who are a danger to us all.

  22. Liz and Vernon, YES! And others who wax eloquently here, or try to. I also skip the long or poorly written comments.

  23. Jack,

    I really like your frankness on the truck driving issue. Absolutely positively right on the money. They are being led like slaves with hooks in their jaws! And, All the while working diligently against their own best interests!

  24. Max,
    look up Louis O. Giuffrida, “national survival racial imperative”/ US army war college.


  25. We do seem to have more trolls recently, or one troll creating several accounts. In any event, I follow the motto – don’t feed the trolls.

    So moving on – two contrasts we have to consider –

    1) Nobody is perfect, but we set our ideals. For the US (or liberal democracy proponents) it is fairness, equality, and the like. Our ideals are not murder and slavery. That is our history, not our ideals. History is slow. Compare the “white, male, Christian, landowner” voter with who is allowed to vote today. Redlining exists, to some extent, but covenants (can’t sell your land to “Negros, Jews, or Papists”) are illegal.
    The Trumpsters ideal is the “strong man”. The bully gets to do whatever he wants (always a he). Might makes right.

    2) Let’s compare Putin’s “good Russia” with Biden’s “bad USA”
    Putin – Protest the war or tell the truth, that it is a war – 15 years in prison
    Biden – Praise Putin on Fox – make millions especially when you lie

    I protested the Vietnam War and was against the invasion of Iraq (the second one). I have called our role in Chile evil, as well as what we did throughout Central and South America – nobody threatened me with jail.

    Now for negotiations – I ask (I really don’t have the answer) – How do you negotiate with someone who never wants to compromise, or even truly make a deal (it feels so much more “manly” to just dictate outcomes, even if you can negotiate for EVERYTHING that you want)? What was going to made with Majority Leader Mitch. Even as Minority Leader, he has little interest in compromise. Build Back Better and Voting Rights are simply NO, not a watered down bill, but NO. It’s Mitch’s way or the highway (also like Manchin who promised the “progressives” that Build Back Better would be worked on once the Infrastructure Bill passed – then reneged – because it’s his way or the highway.)

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