How times change. The people who used to believe the Soviet Union could do no wrong were left-wingers. Now, it’s far-right “paleoconservatives” who reflexively support Vladmir Putin’s Russia, according to Jamie Kirchick:
But with the twilight struggle long over, opposition to communism no longer offers the unifying appeal to American conservatives as it once did. And Putin’s cynical talk about protecting “moral and ethical norms” has earned him fans among the arch-traditionalist, isolationist wing of the conservative movement, the paleocons.
“Is Vladimir Putin a paleoconservative?” former Nixon speechwriter, Republican presidential candidate, and paleocon godfather Pat Buchanan asked in his nationally syndicated column. Buchanan, a fundamentalist Catholic who lost his pundit job at MSNBC in 2012 after publishing a book lamenting “the end of white America” and “the death of Christian America,” lauded Putin for signing into law last year a measure prohibiting the “propagation of non-traditional sexual relationships to minors.” That act was followed by a wave of violent homophobia in Russia, and determined protests from democratic governments, including the United States. Standing defiant, Putin lashed out at his Western foes for “requiring…the mandatory acknowledgement of the equality of good and evil.” Buchanan took this as a swipe at the West’s increasing acceptance of homosexuality, writing that, “To equate traditional marriage and same-sex marriage is to equate good with evil,” thereby casting all of those people engaged in same-sex relationships as “evil.”
Paleocons like Buchanan have always looked at America with alarm, nostalgic for the days when the country was segregated, gays were in the closet, and quotas were placed on the numbers of Jews admitted into universities. “Our grandparents would not recognize the America in which we live,” Buchanan writes. “America’s embrace of abortion on demand, homosexual marriage, pornography, promiscuity, and the whole panoply of Hollywood values,” validates Putin’s critique. But if one judges a society by these socially conservative metrics, it is Russia, not America, which performs poorly. Russia has both the highest abortion and divorce rates in the world. And last year, the State Department downgraded Moscow to its lowest tier of countries with regards to efforts at combatting human trafficking. Like the infamous former New York Times correspondent Walter Duranty, who denied Stalin’s famines in Ukraine, Buchanan is either unaware of these facts or willing to ignore them in his attempt to uphold Russia as a bastion of virtue, so enamored is he with Putin’s assault on gays.
The paleocons’ esteem for Putin’s Russia goes deeper than mere admiration for his standing up to what they see as a bullying, interventionist America. For the paleocons, Putin evokes the values that made America great, before the disasters of multiculturalism and cosmopolitanism wreaked their havoc on American society. Writing in the current issue of the American Conservative, the magazine Buchanan founded, William Lind faults Americans for not failing to take off their Cold War goggles and realize that Russia no longer presents a threat to the Western way of life; if anything, Lind argues, it is Russia that today embodies the traditional values forsaken by a post-Christian West. We simplistically conflate Russia with the Soviet Union, Lind alleges, “forget[ing] that Tsarist Russia was the most conservative great power, a bastion of Christian monarchy loathed by revolutionaries, Jacobins and democrats,” a rather clear repudiation of democracy itself. Democrats had ample reason to loathe Tsarist Russia, of course. Not only was it a country that carried out frequent pogroms against Jews (something which probably doesn’t bother Lind, who at a 2002 Holocaust denial conference, spoke of a plot seeking the “destruction of Western culture” carried out by “guys” who “were all Jewish), it was one of the most unequal societies on earth, bounded by a tiny, noble aristocracy at the top and a vast peasant class at the bottom. Indeed, it was Tsarist Russia’s punishing inequality and its refusal to reform that sowed the seeds of the Bolshevik Revolution. That Lind, Buchanan, and other paleocons would romanticize such a backwards, agrarian society is hardly surprising, given their wistfulness for the antebellum, pre-industrial American South, a “humane and decent civilisation [sic],” in [Daniel] Larison’s words. “The defeat of the Confederacy, though the Confederate political experiment does not exhaust the richness of Southern culture and identity, was a defining moment when the United States took its steps towards the abyss of the monstrous centralised [sic] state, rootless society and decadent culture that we have today.”
Lind praises Putin for having “saved and strengthened the Russian state” after the “chaotic Yeltsin years,” failing to mention that Putin did so by pulverizing tens of thousands of civilians during the bloody Chechen Wars. “Washington elites” failed to appreciate the awesomeness of Putin because they were “blinded by their worship of the clay god ‘Democracy.’” All in all, Lind exhorts the magazine’s dwindling readership, “American conservatives should welcome the resurgence of conservative Russia.”
Still, it’s not just the extreme right to admire Putin’s Russia. Extreme leftist George Galloway, who never met an anti-Western tyrant he wouldn’t
take money from support, now has a show on the Russian English-language “news” channel.