The Trump-Putin controversies have stirred memories of the Cold War.
But the world has changed.
The Soviet Union was a peculiar animal. The regime emerged from a popular revolution in 1917 against a gigantic autocratic, semi-feudal Czarist empire. It claimed to be socialist and it definitely had social protections associated with socialism. But economic and political backwardness produced a regime that had old Czarist bureaucrats and commissars running things and a Communist Party pushing the brutal process of rapid industrialization rather than a capitalist class such as happened in the West. The Soviet Union would become a superpower but after its fall, it would disintegrate into several nation states.
Many Republicans have been pumping up their chests and hyperventilating about Vladimir Putin and the Russian Federation. A few years ago, Barack Obama was calmer. He said that “Russia is a regional power that is threatening some of its immediate neighbors — not out of strength but weakness … I continue to be much more concerned when it comes to our security with the prospect of a nuclear weapon going off in Manhattan.” However, recent events have increased Russia’s tensions with NATO and the U.S. Ironically, quite a few rightwingers in the United States and Europe consider Putin to be a heroic figure.
In 2013, paleoconservative intellectual Pat Buchanan authored a piece entitled “Is Putin One of Us?” in which he noted that while a “de-Christianized” United States has been embracing “homosexual marriage, pornography, promiscuity, and the whole panoply of Hollywood values,” the Russian president has stood up for traditional values. He praised Putin’s disparaging of homosexuals, feminists and immigrants.
“Putin may be seeing the future with more clarity than Americans still caught up in a Cold War paradigm,” Buchanan said. He reassured his readers that “Putin says his mother had him secretly baptized as a baby and professes to be a Christian.”
Buchanan is a political commentator and politician who was a senior advisor to Presidents Nixon, Ford and Reagan. Over the years, he has gotten in trouble over anti-Semitic and racist remarks.
He said the Russian president “is seeking to redefine the ‘Us vs. Them’ world conflict of the future as one in which conservatives, traditionalists and nationalists of all continents and countries stand up against the cultural and ideological imperialism of what he sees as a decadent West.”
In a rather startling observation for a conservative, Buchanan said:
“President Reagan once called the old Soviet Empire ‘the focus of evil in the modern world.’ President Putin is implying that Barack Obama’s America may deserve the title in the 21st century.”
Fast forward to 2016. Buchanan is supporting Trump. Putin is saying that Trump is “brilliant and very talented” while Trump says, “I’ve always felt fine with Putin” who is a “strong” and “powerful” leader unlike that weakling Obama. When told that several journalists critical of the Putin regime were murdered, Trump casually shrugged it off.
The Trump-Putin bromance is not unique. Putin has warm alliances with far-right parties in Europe which have politics similar to Trump — from Britain’s UKIP party to Jobbik in Hungary, The National Front in France, Golden Dawn in Greece, the National Democratic Party in Germany and Bulgaria’s Ataka party.
The most conspicuous example is Marine Le Pen’s National Front in France which, according to the New York Times, “confirmed taking an $11.7 million loan from the First Czech-Russian Bank in Moscow, which has been tied to the Kremlin. She has denied a news report that the money was just the first installment of an eventual $50 million in loans to help her party through a presidential election in 2017.”
Le Pen has endorsed Trump. So has her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, the founder and former leader of the party. He is notorious for outrageous statements such as his claim that the Nazi occupation of France wasn’t “particularly inhumane”and for suggesting that Ebola might solve Europe’s “immigration problem.”
American and European officials have claimed that Russia is fighting economic sanctions over its annexation of Crimea by spreading disinformation and funding both right-wing and left-wing parties throughout Europe.
“Russian influence in the affairs of the far right is a phenomenon seen all over Europe,” said a study by the Political Capital Institute, a Hungarian research group. It predicted that far-right parties, “spearheaded by the French National Front,” could form a pro-Russian bloc in the European Parliament. It said 15 far-right European parties are “committed” to Russia.
If Trump is elected, perhaps Putin will also have a friend in the White House.
This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.