How US conservatives learned to stop worrying and love Russia

What I find astonishing is how opinions in the US towards Russia among self-styled conservatives has shifted dramatically over the recent past. During the Cold War, and even for some years after, it used to be that right-wingers were vehemently anti-Russia in their attitudes, since it was the largest component of the Soviet Union and thus emblematic of godless Communism. It was seen as directly opposite to the capitalist Christian values that they espoused, and demonization of Russia was rampant. It was the left and liberals who tried to tamp down this feeling, seeing it as dangerously inflammatory in a nuclear age when a military conflict between the two nations had to be avoided.

But how times have changed. Nowadays the right-wing is not only not hostile to Russia, they seem to be positively supportive and enamored of its president Vladimir Putin. We even had serial sex abuser Donald Trump (SSAT) make the astonishing statement that he would encourage Russia to do “whatever the hell they want” to any NATO country that did not meet its NATO obligations, though it was clear that he did not understand the nature of those obligations, speaking as if it consisted of dues to be paid (like the membership in his golf clubs) rather than what it really is, a commitment by each nation to spend a specific proportion of their GDP on their own defense forces.

Why the change? Back in February 2022, the radio program On The Media interviewed investigative journalist Casey Michel about possible reasons for this about-face. In a nutshell, he says that it is because the right feels that with the rise of social changes like the decline of Christianity, the rise in support for LGBTQ+ and women’s rights, the increasing multiculturalism, they have lost control of their own country which they think should be firmly dominated by white Christians. The election of Barack Obama was the ultimate sign of that degeneration. They see in Vladmir Putin’s Russia, the country they think the US should strive to be like.

You have elements of white nationalists, you have elements of far-right organizations in the United States, prominent far-right voices, this hodgepodge of right-wing or hard-right groups that all coalesced certainly by the mid-2010s into supporting Putin and his expansionism, and we still see evidence of that today.

One of the oldest is probably Pat Buchanan, a former speech writer for Richard Nixon. I think you’ve called him an intellectual flag bearer of paleo-conservatism. He said, “In the culture war for the future of mankind, Putin is planting Russia’s flag firmly on the side of traditional Christianity.”

Certain moments do stick out to you as signal flares about where things are going. Pat Buchanan asking out loud, “Is God now on the Kremlin’s side? If so, should American Evangelicals, should the American right be supporting Moscow over Washington, supporting Russia over the US?”

One of the great ironies in following all these white nationalistic figures and their over-weaning support for Putin lusting after this strongman type in Washington is they have a very particular view of Russia and of Putin in particular. He is a white masculine Christian European leader. They don’t usually refer to him as a dictator, but that’s obviously what they see him as, pushing back against same-sex marriage, pushing back against any kind of expanded understanding of notions like gender identity. They do not understand that Russia is this remarkably diverse country with great numbers of ethnic and religious minorities. I think they have this image that Russia’s a white man’s paradise for them without actually realizing what it’s like on the ground in Russia itself.

I think [KKK leader] David Duke is symptomatic of the hard right Christian nationalist, white supremacist contingent over the past two decades gravitating to, of all places, the Kremlin, which is such a whiplash from where things were during the Cold War, obviously when the Soviets were around. It is a 180 that I still haven’t wrapped my mind around.

These people see SSAT as being the person who could roll back the tide and take the US back onto the path being taken by Russia. They are eagerly looking forward to that outcome.

Many of us are fearful of what might happen if SSAT wins the presidency in November. But Michel warns us of what might happen if SSAT loses.

I’m not at all saying that this white Christian nationalistic outcome is the one that’s staring us in the face, but there’s certainly a possibility in which say Joe Biden runs again in 2024, wins again, Donald Trump refuses to concede, and we see an expansion of the January 6th type violence, and what flows from that? I have no idea.

It is going to be a grim year.

You can listen to the 13-minuute interview.


  1. Pierce R. Butler says

    … opinions in the US towards Russia among self-styled conservatives has shifted dramatically over the recent past.

    I’m so old I remember when conservatives supported the FBI!

  2. Deepak Shetty says

    say Joe Biden runs again in 2024, wins again, Donald Trump refuses to concede, and we see an expansion of the January 6th type violence, and what flows from that

    The US does seem to be hurtling towards a civil war , but it will be accelerated if Trump is re-elected not if he isnt. There is no consequence that I can think off that doesn’t worsen with his election.

  3. Kimpatsu3000 says

    Putin rules over a white, monoethnic state, which makes it paradise to people like Pat Buchanan.

  4. Silentbob says

    There’s a difference between jealousy and affection!

    One gangland boss might admire another gangland boss for his brutality -- but that doesn’t mean he isn’t itching to put a bullet through his head and take over.

    If Trump could press a magic button and wipe Russia off the map forever, he’d be smashing that fucker fast than you can say MAGA.

  5. lanir says

    Their changing view of Russia is really just more evidence of hypocrisy for me. Almost every stance conservatives take they act like it’s a deeply principled stance, so principled no one who isn’t a conservative could possibly take any stance that is that principled. And then every time they backtrack, change their minds, or issue some special exemption from their otherwise critical moral issue they’ve been using to bash anyone who didn’t agree with them.

    At some point along the way I started to think that if you removed the hypocrisy there wouldn’t be much left. I think that point of view is probably a bit exaggerated but I fear that it’s a very slight exaggeration. They still want to pretend to have principled stances but they keep insisting their naked greed for power is some kind of virtue. It’s not, it’s just a selfish, childish tantrum to get their way. And who can compare how conservatives in the US House of Representatives have acted with a young child throwing a tantrum and not walk away thinking about the disturbing similarities?

  6. Dunc says

    I don’t see why this is confusing. It’s not like US conservatives had any intrinsic objection to Russia as a landmass, or to the Russian language or culture -- they hated it, as the OP says, simply because “it was the largest component of the Soviet Union and thus emblematic of godless Communism”. That is no longer the case -- it’s now a common-or-garden hopelessly corrupt petrostate run by a strongman dictator, and US conservatives have always loved those. It’s what they want the US to be, so of course they’ve decided that they like it now.

    If anything, we should appreciate the fact that, on this issue if no other, they have actually changed their opinions when the facts changed.

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