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US politics

Why Putin is stoking the culture wars

Tucker Carlson announcing DeSantis’s new stance on Ukraine

Vladimir Putin’s best hopes of winning in Ukraine rest on one thing, says Ed Luce in the FT: the 2024 US presidential election. Both Republican front runners are now openly sceptical of providing more assistance to Kyiv: Donald Trump claims he’ll “end the war within 24 hours of becoming president”; Ron DeSantis said this week that further involvement in a distant “territorial dispute” was not in America’s interests. Those positions reflect the views of Republican voters, fewer than 40% of whom think the US should still be arming Ukraine. Tucker Carlson, the influential Fox News anchor, has described President Zelensky as a “despot”, a “corrupt strongman”, and Joe Biden’s “Ukrainian pimp”.

Increasingly, the war is turning into a cultural divide for Americans. “Much like wearing masks identified you as a liberal in the pandemic, the Ukrainian flag has become a symbol of woke culture.” And Putin is doing what he can to encourage this. That’s why, in what was surely this year’s “oddest moment”, he took time out from the war in Ukraine to have a pop at the Church of England – along with same-sex marriage in the US, the attempted cancelling of JK Rowling, and gender reassignment surgery. Clearly, he wants to cement the view on the Make America Great Again right that “Russia is the global champion of their anti-woke cause”. That would make it even easier for whoever wins the Republican nomination to abandon Kyiv for good.