Why the West’s right wing admires Vladimir Putin

Putin

Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin is widely admired by right-wing leaders in Western democracies – including Donald Trump, Nigel Farage and Marine Le Pen – a stark reversal from when conservatives were the staunchest of Cold Warriors.

Autocratic Russian President Vladimir Putin has garnered much admiration in recent years from a bevy of right-wing politicians who have praised everything from his single-minded pursuit of Russian national interests to his rejection of “elitist” liberal values.

Republican US President-elect Donald Trump, UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage and French National Front leader Marine Le Pen have all expressed varying degrees of appreciation for the Russian leader’s approach to international affairs.

This would seem to mark something of a reversal from previous decades, when Western conservatives took a more adversarial approach to Russia and its interests, shoring up international support for the alliances and agreements that isolated and contained Moscow.

And while many on the right have traditionally favoured robust interventionist foreign policies, the “new right” appears to be veering toward isolationism and a rejection of internationalism, preferring go-it-alone strategies of national self-interest that undermine support for both the EU and NATO, much to the Kremlin’s delight.

At the same time, identity politics have come to the fore in the form of a preoccupation with questions of national identity and the challenges posed by multiculturalism, the pursuit of liberal secularism and a sharp rise in immigration.

Nationalist, Eurosceptic and anti-immigrant

Speaking to the BBC on Sunday, National Front leader Marine Le Pen was unequivocal in rejecting the global status quo, telling BBC presenter Andrew Marr that it is the EU and not Vladimir Putin that poses the real threat to Europe.

Le Pen characterised the EU as an “oppressive model” of “unfettered globalisation that has been imposed upon us”, expressing the hope that one day it would be replaced by a “Europe of free nations”.

In a further rejection of internationalism, she said NATO had lost its raison d’être. “NATO continues to exist even though the danger for which it was created no longer exists,” said Le Pen, laughing off the suggestion that Moscow poses a threat to Europe.

“What is NATO protecting us against, exactly? Against a military attack from Russia? … In fact, NATO today has become a tool to ensure that its member countries comply with the will of the United States.”

This is “unbearable” for someone who values independence and sovereignty, she said.

Le Pen hailed Putin’s approach to global affairs as an example of “reasoned protectionism”, saying he is understandably “looking after the interests of his own country and defending its identity”.

Asked by the BBC about her views on immigration, Le Pen said France was simply not capable of handling any more arrivals. “We cannot take care of hundreds of thousands of people arriving here, because our first obligation is to protect the French people,” she said.

The National Front leader, who is a candidate for the French presidency next year, said the UK’s vote for Brexit in June and the recent election of Donald Trump in the US had been part of a “global revolution”.

Le Pen expressed the hope that France would join this revolt by rejecting elitism when it votes for a new president in April. She said the election would offer a choice between a “multicultural society, on which fundamentalist Islam is encroaching” and an “independent nation where people are able to control their own destiny”.