Putin & The American Right
In December of last year, Russian president Vladimir Putin announced to the world that Russia was and would remain a defender and promoter of traditional moral values. This followed earlier statements he had made to the same effect. He spoke of a growing global tendency that is “revising their moral and ethical norms, erasing their national traditions and the differences between nations and cultures” as well as the eradication of objective moral categories such as good and evil. Putin’s appeal was also explicitly directed to potential supporters of this position in other countries.
From some, such as Pat Buchanan, America’s most prominent paleo-conservative, the response was positive. But for many Americans, the idea of trusting, let alone allying with Vladimir Putin in a common cause is still too difficult.
It is worthwhile to explore both the prospects and the challenges that attend an alliance between American conservatives and the forces aligning themselves with President Putin’s vision. For starters, we are clearly not discussing all American conservatives. Conservatism in the United States is divided into different camps: there is the aforementioned “paleo-conservative” camp represented by Pat Buchanan and publications such as antiwar.com, the “neoconservative” camp represented by politicians such as John McCain and publications such as The National Review, and somewhere in between, a mass of divided and sometimes confused self-identified conservatives who are torn between these divergent forces.
The Ron Paul presidential campaigns of 2008 and 2012 breathed new life into the paleoconservative movement. It should be noted in passing that Ron Paul’s libertarianism is not identical with paleoconservatism, but there is fundamental agreement on matters of foreign policy, which in both cases can be classified as non-interventionist. For different reasons that, in the final analysis, do not amount to much, libertarians and paleoconservatives have the most to gain by fostering good relations with Russia and her allies. Neoconservatives, along with much of the Democratic Party (whose anti-war wing has been conspicuously silent in the Obama years) are interested in pursuing a policy antagonism and brinkmanship. This is a natural choice for the Democratic Party, which has pursued a policy of containment against Russia since the days of Harry Truman and is now the champion of the same social and moral outlook as Western Europe: a godless libertinism sustained by welfare policies and increasingly oppressive laws and regulations against traditional and/or religious movements.
The neoconservative leadership of the Republican Party, however, faces a number of difficulties and contradictions in its vehement anti-Russian foreign policy. While it is true that the iconic Republican leader of the 1980s, Ronald Reagan, pursued an aggressive anti-Soviet policy, he ultimately found a willing partner in Mikhail Gorbachev. What is perhaps forgotten is that the Republican Party opposed then-President Clinton’s campaign against Serbia in the late 1990s. More recently, Republicans were the most outspoken opponents of President Obama’s plans to launch airstrikes against Syria.
In other words, they opposed two military campaigns that were at least indirectly aimed at
isolating and damaging Russia. Though antagonists such as John McCain can thunder at Obama for appearing weak and “encouraging” Putin to annex territory, the reality is that the vast majority of the American people of all political persuasions opposed intervention. Some Congressmen and Senators reported a ratio of 99:1 against the proposed strikes among the constituents who called their offices to voice their opinions. Meanwhile the son of Ron Paul, Senator Rand Paul, is considered by many to be a top contender for the Republican nomination in 2016. It is not clear to what extent Paul Jr. shares the non-interventionist views of his father, but it does seem clear that he is significantly more opposed to interventionism than any other potential nominee – and that he speaks for a silent majority of Americans who are opposed to their government’s irrational and financially unsustainable attempts to prevent the reemergence of Russia or the emergence of China as world superpowers.
The leadership of the GOP faces a second difficulty which is not quite as serious at the present moment but which has the potential to worsen over time. Putin’s challenge to the morally-bankrupt leadership of the West forces the neoconservatives to reveal their approach to cultural conservatism for what it is: platitudinal and placating. It provides an opportunity for American cultural conservatives to see who their friends and enemies really are. How can Putin be attacked as an evil monster with any credibility when he is the only world leader of any importance defending natural moral law, emphasizing the importance of religion in public and political life, and taking up the cause of the world’s persecuted Christian minorities?
Of course many Americans are skeptical. It is common for Americans to assume that because Putin was once a member of the KGB, everything he says and does is necessarily a lie. If we were to grant for the sake of argument that Putin’s conservative worldview is some sort of elaborate façade, it would not change the fact that a world leader speaking favorably of these important causes has an objective effect on global affairs that transcends whatever his personal wishes and beliefs are. In any case, actions matter more than words: the Russian government under the leadership of President Putin has taken decisive steps to assert the role of religion in public life, to support and promote the family and the church, and to protect society from the ceaseless and subversive propaganda of sexual liberationists and social egalitarians. On a purely political level it is also evident to American conservatives that Putin generally acts in the best interests of Russia as a whole, while their own leaders pursue policies whose relation to their own interests is murky at best.
We might also grant for the sake of argument that Putin’s government is “authoritarian”, in spite of the great strides towards a balanced (as opposed to reckless) political and economic liberalization that he has overseen during his tenure. Apart from the fact that the American government itself cannot credibly critique the “authoritarianism” of other countries while spying on millions of its own citizens, there is no reason why Russia’s socio-political system must be identical to our own as a requisite for peace and cooperation between our countries.
For the United States, conservatives and libertarians want a robust free market economy, the protection of individual rights and liberties, the freedom to practice religion and form communities that reflect our values, and a strong national defense; it is hard to see why another countries’ failure to live up to some of these ideals, particularly when we ourselves have begun to slip away from them, should provide a cause for contention and mistrust.
The annexation of Crimea has the potential derail a conservative awakening on these important points. Cosmopolitan leftists in the United States have noticed the natural affinity between social conservatism in this country and Putin’s moral vision, and of course they seek to discredit conservatives by drawing attention to it. After all, Putin is a bad man, an authoritarian and now a conqueror! Republican politicians themselves have become reawakened Cold Warriors overnight; many who had denounced Obama’s war plans in Libya and Syria are now criticizing President Obama only because they feel he is not aggressive enough in his response to Russia’s absorption of Crimea.
The whole of America’s political class, left and “right”, are trying to outdo one another in anti-Putin bellicosity – and the American friends of Putin stand discredited in their eyes.
The geopolitically aware among us understand that Crimea’s attachment to Ukraine was not some sort of ancient and mutually-agreeable status quo. It was a bureaucratic decision made sixty years ago without any regard for the wishes of the people who actually live in Crimea. Even if one chooses to agree with the Western media and political establishment and regard the March referendum as “rigged”, one cannot deny that it likely had more genuine popular support than Khrushchev’s arbitrary and autocratic directive.
Nonetheless, no American political candidate can even hint at such truths lest he be universally reviled by the media and the political establishment. What we may hope for in a candidate such as Rand Paul is a commitment to terminate American support for anti-Russian regimes on Russia’s borders, and, by extension, the central aims of the neoconservative Project for a New American Century. A candidate that is truly devoted to the objective interests of the American people has no reason to continue an aggressive policy of containment and encirclement against Russia.
In the meantime, it is vital for American anti-interventionists to highlight the irrationality and obscene hypocrisy involved in our political establishment’s support for the Ukrainian opposition. The average American citizen obtains nothing by supporting Ukraine against Russia; all of the benefits accrue directly to the global banksters and their political puppets who hope to pry open and loot the Ukrainian economy the way they had done in Russia during the Yeltsin years. Moreover, before Putin became the number one enemy of the American political class, it was Iran that was demonized.
The neoconservative press insisted that Americans had a duty to fear and hate the Iranian regime because of its alleged anti-Semitism; now it supports an openly anti-Semitic, pro-Nazi regime in Ukraine. The Zionists and their allies in this country may not see the Ukrainian Nazis as an existential threat, but the logical impossibility of demonizing Iranian anti-Semitism while supporting Ukrainian anti-Semitism exposes their hypocrisy.
The same considerations apply when we consider all of the rhetoric we have heard for decades about “democracy” as the rationale for intervention abroad; the United States and the European Union supported a blatantly anti-democratic coup in Ukraine and cannot credibly present themselves as acting in the interests of democracy. At long last something resembling an honest account of the ultimate aims of US foreign policy, which has been continuous regardless of political party since the collapse of the USSR, may finally come to light in the popular and mass media.
In any event, American social conservatives have every reason to continue studying Russia’s moral transformation, to develop cultural contacts, and to express our good will and friendship towards a government that shares many of our core values. We have every reason to reject our own establishment’s support for the mass-murderers in Al Qaeda and the neo-Nazis in Ukraine, along with its ongoing ingratiation with the degenerate values of the sexual revolution.
It is not Putin, but Barack Obama who has threatened our religious liberties with the Health and Human Services mandate. It is not Putin, but a corrupt federal judiciary in the U.S. who have overruled the will of the people in states such as California on the issue of “gay marriage.” It is not Putin, but our own media and cultural elites who wage a never-ending war of mockery, hatred, and in some cases censorship and oppression against Christians on college campuses, in public schools, in work places, and in every media venue imaginable. The real war for us is here at home, and not on the Crimean peninsula.