Vladimir Putin’s popularity among certain elements of America’s right wing is easy to understand. His image as a champion of nationalism vs. rampant transnationalism and Christianity vs. secularism is easily palatable to many conservatives, especially those in Donald Trump’s camp.
That’s according to Mike Gonzalez, a senior fellow at the conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation.
Writing for the conservative outlet The Daily Signal, Gonzalez, who is also a former member of George W. Bush’s administration, said that while Europe’s far-right factions are “smitten” with Putin, America’s right-wingers, emboldened by their European counterparts, are eager to jump on the bandwagon as well.
But Putin uses these conservative bona fides only when it suits him.
“If Putin wants to be seen as a defender of ‘traditional values’ and ‘spirituality,’ then why the diplomatic coziness with the likes of China, Cuba, and North Korea? There’s nothing spiritual about a communist dictatorship,” Tory adviser Peter Franklin said.
“The whole thing is a joke,” said David Kramer, a Russian expert who served as former assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor. “The only thing that matters to Putin is staying in power.”
According to Gonzalez, Putin’s Russia hardly embodies the ideals that conservatives idolize him for.
At home, Putin presides over a nation that is hardly puritanical. Russia has the world’s highest divorce rate, the highest rate of injecting drug users, and one of the highest rates of alcoholism in Europe, while abortions last year reached almost a million. Unsurprisingly, Russia population has declined under Putin.
But it may not just be a factor of organic admiration. His support from the American and European right wing may come from a financial incentive.
Observers point out that the support Putin receives from some quarters may have less to do with policy than with the fact he finances many of these parties. In France, Le Pen’s Front National has received at least 40 million euros from Russian-controlled banks. According to a paper, far-right parties from Hungary to Bulgaria to Austria all receive funding from Putin-controlled entities.
Thanks to propaganda outlets like Russia Today, “Russian disinformation campaigns have succeeded in spreading Moscow’s propaganda throughout the West,” Gonzales writes.
Read Mike Gonzalez’s full piece here.