Letter from America

Why far-right Republicans are praising Putin

One of the strangest strands to emerge from the invasion of Ukraine is to see America’s right support the Russian president, writes Holly Baxter

<p>In Vlad we trust? Trump and Fox News host Tucker Carlson admire ‘strongman’ Putin </p>

In Vlad we trust? Trump and Fox News host Tucker Carlson admire ‘strongman’ Putin

Out of war comes the strangest discourse, and the strangest of the strange when it comes to Ukraine is the Republican Party’s affection for Putin. The leading voice for conservatism in America has somehow fractured along lines no time traveller from the 1960s, 70s, 80s or 90s would believe.

In the early 1990s it was a common claim among Republicans campaigning for office that their party “won the Cold War” (as oxymoronic a statement as that may be). Ronald Reagan telling Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall is an iconic American moment that schoolchildren across the US learn about in history class. John McCain, the Republican challenger and Arizona senator who ran against Barack Obama in 2008, was dismissed as out-of-touch by his opponent for saying that Russia was still the country’s most dangerous enemy; but McCain kept saying it until his death, repeatedly referring to Putin as a “thug” and a “killer”. Anti-communism is an American value, but especially a Republican one: while you might hear Democrats or independents like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez talk about the benefits of socialism, no Republican would be heard dead uttering the phrase in any sentence that didn’t also include the word “evil”. Indeed, despite Democrats claiming they are the natural choice for “people of colour”, Republicans win votes again and again from Cuban and Venezuelan Americans and their descendants because of that unrelentingly anti-socialism stance.

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