Back in mid-December, the right-wing gadfly Patrick J. Buchanan created a minor stir with an op-ed column positing that Russian President Vladimir Putin is the new leader of transnational conservativism. Entitled “Is Putin One of Us?” this provocative piece noted how very paleoconservative many of the Kremlin boss’s public comments actually seem. Though hardly a household word in America, paleoconservatism is the branch of the right-wing movement that rejects post-modernism and still sticks uncompromisingly to “traditional values”; Buchanan – the former Republican operative and ex-Cold Warrior turned popular polemicist – can be considered the movement’s de facto leader, though the mainstream GOP these days keeps paleos at arm’s length, fearing being tarred with racism, sexism, and other Officially Bad Things.
While Putin’s remarks disparaging homosexuals, feminism, and unrestricted migration have raised much ire in the West, for Buchanan, the consummate culture warrior, they are a positive sign that, finally, a major world leader is on the paleo wavelength. To Buchanan and his ilk, Putin’s comments about traditional values are wildly encouraging, an indication that the cause of resisting post-modernism may not be lost after all. As Pat noted:
Putin says his mother had him secretly baptized as a baby and professes to be a Christian. And what he is talking about here is ambitious, even audacious.
He 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.
“We do not infringe on anyone’s interests,” said Putin, “or try to teach anyone how to live.” The adversary he has identified is not the America we grew up in, but the America we live in, which Putin sees as pagan and wildly progressive.
It should be noted that such thoughts are not unique to Buchanan, nor are they new in paleoconservative circles. Retired Professor Paul Gottfried, who coined the term paleoconservatism, has been adamant that, whatever the West did to triumph over the Soviets, it has lost the struggle against what some on the Right term “Cultural Marxism.” Another paleo thinker, the Serbian-born Srdja Trifkovic, maintains that, with the end of the Cold War, the United States switched places with the USSR and became the global force for revolution, waging wars to spread post-modern individual, social, and sexual values, while Putin’s conservative Russia stands as a bulwark against it.
But few Americans outside paleocon circles pay attention to such authors, so there was some shock in the media when Buchanan let the cat out of the bag about Putin’s circle of admirers in the West. Progressives were reminded that they had always regarded Pat as a quasi-fascist anyway, leading one Washington Post columnist to sum up Buchanan’s Putin piece thus: “The Intolerant International. Bigots of the world, unite.”
Moscow’s take, however, was rather different, and only two days after Buchanan’s op-ed appeared, a Kremlin newspaper ran an article observing that Pat actually was entirely correct: Vladimir Putin is indeed the de facto leader of global traditionalism and conservatism. The piece appeared in Rossiyskaya Gazeta, the Kremlin’s official paper, so it has regime imprimatur. Entitled “In the spirit of healthy Conservatism: Society’s demand for conservative policy has been building for a long time, and Putin has clearly responded,” the op-ed was authored by Aleksei Mukhin, a Kremlin-approved public intellectual.
Noting Putin’s recent move towards an open embrace of traditional values, Mukhin observed, “He has, in fact, taken the position of a global conservative leader. This was noted not just by his supporters, but also by longtime critics, including in the U.S. media.” Mukhin continued, extolling what he calls Putin’s “healthy conservatism”:
In his recent address to the Federal Assembly, the President confirmed the chosen direction toward conservatism, revealing the main components of the new policy: protection of traditional family values, and the consistent defense of his own position. This position is dear not only to Russians, but to the international community as a whole.
Few would dispute that today, on a number of key issues in global politics, it is Putin who not only expresses his own view or outlines Russia’s position, but also takes on the full weight of responsibility to defend the point of view of a significant part of the population of developing or even developed countries.
Moreover, among them are such states that traditionally oppose Russia in the international arena.
Additionally, Mukhin observed that Putin’s vigorous defense of national interests, traditional values, and state sovereignty has attracted admirers far beyond Russia:
Putin has made no secret of the fact that he acts primarily to provide protection for Russia’s national economic interests and directly for domestic producers, as a head of state should act: honestly and openly, not hiding behind humanitarian considerations and Pharisee morality.
Opinion polls show that this position gets the most lively response from Russians – for more than seventy percent of the population, it is important that the country’s leader enjoys authority among the people of other states.
Moreover, the current strengthening of Putin’s international image is by no means the result of the efforts of image makers and political strategists, but largely the result of his own vigorous activity.
After a sidebar extolling Putin’s triumphs in international diplomacy in 2013, including handling the Syrian situation ably, defending the Kremlin’s ally Assad while showing President Obama to be inept and incompetent, thereby restoring Moscow to a prominent role in global affairs, Mukhin returned to his main message:
Let us note that few world leaders today hold such a clear and consistent position on issues so “slippery” for tolerant Europeans and Americans as the protection of traditional (i.e. heterosexual) family values, the role of traditional religions, and a balanced migration policy. And it is clear that the approaches demonstrated by the Russian president in this direction are again dear to the majority of the population in various countries. In his address to the Federal Assembly, Vladimir Putin drew attention to the fact that, “today in many countries norms of morality and ethics are being revised, national and cultural distinctions are being blurred.” And, as the president noted, the result is that people are required to recognize the equivalence of good and evil – “concepts which are opposite in meaning.”
However, not all foreign politicians are willing to engage in polemics with their aggressive minorities, so Putin’s influence in the global arena is growing steadily. It is growing particularly among ordinary people, who are now beginning to subconsciously delegate their aspirations and shift their concerns to the Russian president.
Among conservative politicians, such positioning by Putin generally meets with understanding and support, whereas it is mostly liberal-minded competitors who are critical of it. It seems that, as a result, Russia’s president is seen as a leader, if not the main leader, of the “global party of conservative values.”
Sycophancy aside, this is an important message from the Kremlin that Moscow is seeking allies abroad who share its traditional values. Putin is now unambiguously the head of the international “Faith, Family, Nation” coalition. Might we soon see from the Kremlin a new Comintern for the 21st century, based not on global revolution but, in fact, resisting it? It’s significant that some are now taking notice of the increasingly visible ties between Moscow and the far-right in Europe, which openly admires Putin for all the reasons Mukhin’s op-ed elaborated. Pat Buchanan may have more correct than he imagined.
Thanks for overview about expanding conservative ideology from Putin. Putin now appears to be appealing to international conservatives but somewhere not far behind Putin is the influential philosopher of Eurasianism, Aleksandr Dugin. Dugin has had several years developing his ideas on Eurasianism and propagating them at Russian universities, in publications and on social media. His acolytes include American ex-pat Mark Sleboda, who takes pretty square aim at “liberasts”, both Russian and Western.
However, not sure whether this new Putin proposal actually builds on Dugin’s Eurasianism, counters it or side-steps it. How many American conservatives would really be interested in getting on a Eurasia band-wagon, after all?
Couple of references to Dugin.
Shekhovtsov. Aleksandr Dugin’s Neo-Eurasianism: The New Right à la Russe:
The Prophet of the New Russian Empire:
Sleboda index at Evrasia TV (Dugin fansite):
Dugin is, well, Dugin. His father was a GRU general, btw …
I’m not sure how much Dugin’s ‘Fourth Political Theory’ influences Putin. You may be overinflating it a little.
Now, I oppose Eurasianism because of the disaster that was the European Union in terms of bureaucracy and stolen sovereignty, and a body through which liberal social agendas were pushed. BUT, I encourage people to ask themselves which European countries are worth saving? The UK? No, totally debauched state. The Netherlands? Modern day Sodom. Sweden? New communist manifesto. These cultures are already dead. The ship has sailed. Switzerland and a few Eastern European states are solid and should be left alone, but I would not care a lick if Putin took Scandinavia and re-Christianized it.
Dugin has not been a serious influence on Putin in over a decade. Old news.
I would really enjoy your take on Dugin’s “Foundations of Geopolitics”(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foundations_of_Geopolitics) and how it potentially relates to Putin’s actions during his regime
I find Dugin interesting but highly eccentric; Putin flirted with aspects of Eurasianism a decade ago but seems to have moved on.
In my nearly two decades of internet political discussions, I’ve outed myself as a rightish traditionalist-cum-lite-libertarian person, and I’ve been approached by pro-Iranian-mullah commenters who have made similar appeals on behalf of the Iranian theocracy, believe it or not. Much like Buchanan’s Putin, the Iranian theocrats (and presumably their Sunni counterparts) were supposedly just about restoring traditional Islamic values and cleansing their society of decadent leftist Western influence.
But I think there’s a fundamental difference between what Pat thinks of as American conservatism and conservatism in other nation states: The American version isn’t plagued with ethnic or religious chauvinism. You could, of course, say that the American version stems from the Anglo-Saxon ethnicity, and that its universal claims have their likenesses reflected in other countries, but it isn’t quite the same. Our common-law heritage, passed through the Magna Carta, the Scottish Enlightenment, the American Constitution and Bill of Rights, contains statements about the nature of Man, of “Nature and Nature’s god”, and of government and freedom therefrom. But it asserts no special role for the Anglo-Saxon ethnicity, and particularly none that requires conquest and subjugation.
Then again, this might not be too obvious to a Catholic like Buchanan. 🙂 Just joking. Sort of…
I’d contest the notion that American conservatism is lacking in ethnic or religious chauvinism – it’s just lacking them by European standards. 😉
American conservativism is known for its Israeli ethnic chauvinism. 🙂
So Putin is looking for conservative values that will appeal to right-wing Europeans and Americans – opposing gay, migrant, feminist values. Bundling up and trotting out something for deeper post-Sochi consideration?
Looking to unite those who oppose both liberal values and oppose secular, economically-conservative values. Recent Russia MFA human rights report on EU comes out charging against propagation of “queer” values…
With at least some parts of America having issues with migrant labour (ie, from México), and with America’s gay-friendly level being in the lower-tier compared to European states of Pew survey, such thinking will indeed resonate beyond the Republican Putin fan club of American politicians such as Dana Rohrabacher.
The Global Divide on Homosexuality:
Russian Foreign Ministry Accuses EU of Gay Propaganda:
Dana Rohrabacher Claims He Once Lost A Drunken Arm-Wrestling Match To Vladimir Putin:
Secularism is in its final death throes. Its biggest proponents are countries and cultures in decline. And no, opposing secularism does not make one a theocrat. It makes one a theonomist.
I think the Putins of this world will always find a receptive audience, as people with “niche values” come to the forefront and suggest their (sometimes unique) viewpoints should become the norm.
Where -for example-is it written the Olympics are supposed to be a celebration reserved for those practicing alternative lifestyles ?
Were the original Olympians sometimes gay ? (Probably, but-so what ??)
Back in the ancient Greece there were two sexual orientations: dominating and dominated – that is all kinds of ‘ways’ were accepted. We like to believe that before Judeo-Christian, monogamous formation Ancient World was all like Aristoteles and Plato, but it’s the same as would someone judge mean intelligence of our civilization based on Albert Einstein theories. Not really dependable results from that kind of reasoning. 😉
Reblogged this on mrmeangenes and commented:
Conservatism and Liberality are apt to have divergent ideals , once we pass our national border.
The biggest problem with the idea of Putin as leader of a global “conservatism” is evident at the end of the Buchanan quote — the world is going to learn the proper way to live, from the guy who does not “try to teach anyone how to live”.
This is where paleoconservatism always falls flat, with its mystical belief that everyone “minding their own business” leads to optimal outcomes, which in the US at least is usually turned into an attitude of whenever a world leader or international power (that’s not the United States, of course) behaves badly, it must because of something we did.
But ultimately, you can’t build a mass movement around an ideology that holds you shouldn’t promote — shouldn’t even “teach” about — ideals you believe are most important. The contradictions in that position facilitate a permanently alienated opposition, at best. Oh, that’s right, we’re discussing paleoconservatism!
Dugin and Putin ideology is calculated and engineered in oposition to others. Dugin is a crazy person by the way – half mystic, half secret-service crazy talks aren’t the strongest marker of sanity IMHO. He claims openly that GRU is a sort of Freemason society, I thinkt that he thinks of himself of some sort of a wizzard. 😀 By the way, GRU would destroy into pieces some Freemason societies during the Cold War if they had even a slight chance.
And of course if there was someone like Ronald Reagan in the Oval Office, Putin would wear pink T-shirt and hang out with Elton John all the time, wedlock included. It is because every empire has to have some ideology and now RF have some ‘conservative’ glove with good old KGB fist wearing it.
Let’s not forget that it is Putin who is responsible for sniper attacks in Kiev, according to the former spokesmen of the Ukraine Security Service, Stanislav Reczynskij.
And it is ‘conservative’ Putin who forces Russian state on Chechenya and other national republics, including open assault on Ukraine’s sovereignty at this time, lately pressure on Estonia and imperialistic paranoia across Middle-Eastern Europe. There are also some Russian nationists who claim that RF is a ‘prison of nations’ and should resign from it’s imperial ambitions and focus on restoration of Russian nation which is, by the way, in much trouble – look at the stats of murder rate, alcoholism and birth rate of ethnic Russians. Those people are dying much like in prison.
And Putin himself has some good propaganda but not much more than that. Well, not counting how many hundreds of thousands of US documents now?
It is not a coincidence that it is now, when Ukraine needs US and strong Western support, some a****les sitting comfy by the fire shout praises for Putin. It’s all the same in my country, we call that sons of bitches agents of influence and sometimes – useful idiots.
The Ukrainian far right sides with the Western neo-Bolsheviks of the EU, neoconism and Soros. No doubt hard feelings over the Holodomor to some extent.
Don’t over-simplify it. Svoboda only see the EU as a means to an end. They know integration will empty Ukraine of its liberal college age kids who vote liberally. They will move west for the jobs, just as they did from Bulgaria and Hungary. Svoboda seeks not only to wipe out Russian influence but also any liberal influence from the west. These guys are unmistakably fascists.
This is how Putin’s conservatism really looks like:
Reblogged this on johncumpston and commented:
Who would have thought that a bipolar world would mean we’re the bad guys?!
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