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The far right’s love affair with Putin

The right’s fallen idol. Alexey Nikolsky/Sputnik/AFP/Getty

How ironic it will be, says Andrew Sullivan in The Weekly Dish, if it is Vladimir Putin who kills off the far right’s infatuation with authoritarianism. In both the US and Europe, the love letters idolising the Russian president’s “reactionary zeal” have flowed for years. “Russia is like, I mean they’re really hot stuff,” Donald Trump chortled in April 2014. Just two weeks ago, amid the pre-Ukraine invasion posturing, he marvelled at Putin’s tactics: “This is genius.” Nigel Farage said Putin was one of the world leaders he most admired, and a “very canny” political operator. Eric Zemmour, the French far-right presidential candidate, described him as “the last bastion against the hurricane of the politically correct”.

Putin’s Russia, like Viktor Orban’s Hungary, appealed to many hardcore right-wingers in the West because of the brazenness of its “ethnically-homogeneous nationalism”, compared with the “simpering, multicultural globalism” of EU types and Barack Obama. The Western right saw the two strongmen, Putin and Orban, as “cultural traditionalists, standing up to Western decadence, as it staggers into its Drag Queen Story Hour hellscape”. Trump’s former strategist Steve Bannon summed it up: “Putin ain’t woke. He’s anti-woke.” For besieged social conservatives, Putin loomed like some “phantasm of strange hope”; just as Trump longed for the 1950s in America, so Putin longed for the USSR of the same period. But now the world is mocking the “decrepitude and amateurishness” of Russia’s army – and Putin looks neither smart nor strong.