Is Vladimir Putin emerging as some sort of conservative hero? Earlier I left a comment saying that I would not write a post about such things, as I don’t need the headaches. But an article I read made me decide to take that back. After all, if other people are already discussing the issue, I can just link it here as a sort of throwaway post and not have to put much thought into it myself.

Anyway, this post by David Ernst explores it in all its unpleasant details.

Russia’s rightward turn renders Putin’s regime immune to the criticism of western liberals, and polarizes western conservatives. It therefore strains the Atlantic alliance, and neutralizes the claims of policymakers in both Europe and the United States that Russia’s resurgence presents a threat. Thus it strengthens Putin’s hand in the former Soviet periphery, Eastern Europe and in the Middle East against the moral, legal and political objections of Western governments. Moreover, it establishes an entirely new ideological precedent for autocratic regimes who seek to challenge the American led world order. As Ukraine’s liberals seize the initiative against a government that enjoys Putin’s backing, they will look to the Western world for validation and support. The West could easily respond in kind; as of late however, its leaders have either been too reluctant, or have forgotten how. If Western Europe and the United States are serious about sustaining a world order that prevents conflict, enables prosperity and promotes liberty and the rule of law, then their governments should defend it on those terms. Evidently, the Kremlin has figured out how to either shut them up or turn them against each other.


To hear a former KGB colonel bemoan the “erosion of ethnic traditions and differences between peoples and cultures,” and the “destruction of traditional values from above” is at the very least amusing, if not astoundingly mendacious. Putin is nevertheless speaking to sentiments that an increasing number of Westerners share. Moreover, he is the only statesman of any noteworthy stature who is publically addressing them.

In the United States, Putin’s right turn has exacerbated old divisions among its conservative intelligentsia. The reaction of some conservatives to Putin’s December speech has been positive, if not affirming. Putin’s call to return to traditional values and scorn for elites who willfully promote “abortion on demand, homosexual marriage, pornography, promiscuity, and the whole panoply of Hollywood values” compelled Pat Buchanan to wonder aloud whether Putin “was one of us?” Writing in The American Conservative, William Lind went so far as to claim that “American conservatives should welcome the resurgence of a conservative Russia.” Such praise for Putin couldn’t more strongly contrast the loathing of other American conservatives. Writing for National Review, the Stanford classicist Victor Davis Hanson compared Putin to Milton’s Satan, arguing that “he winds up existing to warn us in the West of what we are not.” Throughout the Cold War, American conservatives were predictably unified in their ideological stand against communism. Indeed, the Soviets faced few enemies as unyielding as those who shared the views of either Mr. Lind or Mr. Hanson. Evidently, Putin has divined the formula for polarizing his more traditional opponents.

There’s a lot more. Obviously, Putin knows there’s a sucker born every minute. More in The Atlantic, Reason, and The Daily Beast.

(“Great right hype” is more like it… Divide and conquer is one of the oldest KGB tricks in the book, and homo-baiting demagoguery carries little political cost, especially in Russia.)

MORE: Politics makes strange bedfellows. And politics makes me sick. (I mean that more literally than you might imagine…) God, how I hate the “red meat conservative” WorldNetDaily-style right wing. My problem is that I hate the left wing much, much more.