American conservatives have a curious relationship with Vladimir Putin: they recognize him as a macho and authoritarian traditionalist (which they like), yet he’s not an American, but a Russian (which they don’t like). And in a recent article, Pat Buchanan asks whether American paleoconservatives should try to drop their suspicion of all things Russian and embrace the Russian Orthodox supporting, pro-capitalist dictator. Here’s Buchanan posing the question:
Is Vladimir Putin a paleoconservative?
In the culture war for mankind’s future, is he one of us?
Buchanan’s answer is yes, writing the following:
As the decisive struggle in the second half of the 20th century was vertical, East vs. West, the 21st century struggle may be horizontal, with conservatives and traditionalists in every country arrayed against the militant secularism of a multicultural and transnational elite. […]
Putin says his mother had him secretly baptized as a baby and professes to be a Christian. […]
He [Putin] 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. […]
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. […]
In his [state of the nation] speech, Putin cited Russian philosopher Nicholas Berdyaev whom Solzhenitsyn had hailed for his courage in defying his Bolshevik inquisitors. Though no household word, Berdyaev is favorably known at the Russell Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal.
In other words, Putin, like American Tea Partiers, is a true Christian nationalist, but of the Russian variety, whose heroes are conservative heroes. And Buchanan contrasts President Obama unfavorably with Putin:
President Reagan once called the old Soviet Empire “the focus of evil in the modern world.” President Putin is implying that Barack Obama’s America may deserve the title in the 21st century.
Nor is he without an argument when we reflect on America’s embrace of abortion on demand, homosexual marriage, pornography, promiscuity, and the whole panoply of Hollywood values.
Our grandparents would not recognize the America in which we live. […]
America was de-Christianized in the second half of the 20th century by court orders, over the vehement objections of a huge majority of a country that was overwhelmingly Christian.
So Buchanan is saying the following: if you’re with the Enlightenment, and secular internationalism generally, you’re with Barack Obama and American liberals, and if you’re with the Anti-Enlightenment, and religious nationalism generally, you’re with Vladimir Putin and paleoconservatives like Pat Buchanan. Indeed, of America, Buchanan writes this:
[T]hough America’s elite may be found at the epicenter of anti-conservatism and anti-traditionalism, the American people have never been more alienated or more divided culturally, socially and morally.
We are two countries now.
Put another way: Putin and Russia are not your enemy. Obama and other American liberals are “the focus of evil in the modern world.”
Of course, this is just the old left-right fight that’s been ongoing since the French and American revolutions. And of course there are conservative nationalists in countries outside of the United States that think a lot like American paleoconservatives. Buchanan is just calling for international solidarity with other paleoconservatives. Buchanan wants paleoconservatives in America to join forces with other paleoconservatives across the globe in a fight against international Enlightenment humanism and feminism (as represented, for example, by Pussy Riot).
Here, for example, is Pussy Riot being dispersed with horse whips at the Sochi 2014 Olympics. Presumably, Buchanan is with Putin’s police on this:
And here’s the trailer for a documentary on Pussy Riot. Notice the provocation that got Pussy Riot members jailed in the first place was desecration of an Orthodox altar. From Buchanan’s perspective, Pussy Riot represents not a movement toward greater democracy, but a moral pestilence that would undermine the majority will of a Christian nation:
So if Buchanan is right that this is an international struggle between the Enlightenment left and the Anti-Enlightenment religious and nationalist right for the soul of humankind, which side are you on–and why?