Why U.S. conservatives love Russia’s Vladimir Putin

Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin rides a horse in southern Siberia's Tuva region in this August 3, 2009 file photo. (Reuters)
Russian's Vladimir Putin rides a horse in southern Siberia's Tuva region in August 2009. (Reuters)

On Friday, I wrote a piece reevaluating the Russian position on the crisis in Syria, asking whether, in hindsight, Moscow's early attempts to preserve the regime of Bashar al-Assad ought to have been taken more seriously by the West. You can read the post here.

The reaction to the story, which was picked up by Drudge, was considerable. I had not intended the piece to be an overt critique of the White House's Syria policy — indeed, President Obama's caution on intervening in Syria echoes a realism perhaps shared in this instance by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Some of Obama's Republican critics were far more adamant about the need for robust U.S. military involvement in the Syrian conflict.

But, parsing the comments beneath the post (and trying to ignore a lot of the nastiness and ad hominem attacks), a clear theme emerges: the respect, if not total adoration, on the part of many American conservatives for Putin. Over the past year, we've seen a consistent trend in both the United States and Europe of conservative admiration for Putin, a strongman praised for his decisive leadership, Christian values and old-school nationalism.

These sentiments were widely on display among the 900+ comments appended to my piece, which I had the pleasure of sifting through. Below are excerpts that serve as a guide to American conservative support for Putin.

Many want a leader in Putin's iron-cast mold, free of the fluff and frills of American politicking:

Thomas Fournier
8/24/2014 12:08 PM EDT

Putin right? Why is anyone on earth surprised? President Putin is highly intelligent and by far the best leader in the world. The best leader I have seen in my life time. A man's man who makes his own decisions and loves his country and its citizens.

Steve Stahler
8/23/2014 10:44 AM EDT

OF COURSE HE WAS [RIGHT]!!!!!!! He is a world leader. He sees the world, not the next party, photo op, selfie.... Putin=Leader Obama=Loser in every category for a leader as well as human being.

David Goldman
8/22/2014 5:55 PM EDT

Putin is a former KGB colonel. 0bama is a former community organizer. Of course Putin is going to have a far better grasp of international affairs. That is obvious to anyone outside of the liberal echo chamber.

andycutler

8/22/2014 10:28 PM EDT

We would be wise to listen to Mr. Putin (and be aware that once we do he will try to manipulate us). He's a real professional, and a very talented one Mr. Obama is a not very talented amateur. Mr. Putin's job is to advance Russian interests, not ours. However American interests are not always diammetrically opposed to those of Russia. We both have a lot in common in our desire to maintain some semblance of international law and world order.

Some commenters just really, really like Putin:

t-bone51
8/22/2014 6:17 PM EDT
I intend to name my first born son, Vladimir. How does "Vladimir Erickson" sound?

JohnLeeHooker1
8/23/2014 1:52 PM EDT
arguably, Putin would be a better Commander in Chief than our dear leader

notenotions
8/23/2014 8:52 AM EDT
Too bad Putin wasn't born in the USA...

Others floated cultural arguments, including a hefty dose of prejudice and Islamophobia, explaining why Putin's brand of politics was preferable to the version they believe is espoused by the White House:

mcstamper
8/23/2014 12:45 PM EDT
Putin loves his country. That's difficult for many Americans to understand because we have been educated to hate our own country. Russia wants secure national borders. We (or at least the MSM and the liberal ruling elite) think that open borders and unrestricted illegal immigration are "so progressive". Putin is a grown man who understands the nature of power (and how, when, and where to use it). Obama and friends are children by comparison. Russia pays its debts and understand that national wealth comes from production and trade. America thinks that "wealth" comes from borrowing and printing money. Russia will survive the 21st century. We are headed into bankruptcy and dissolution.

neelynzus
8/23/2014 12:14 PM EDT
Putin was right. Right or wrong, he is a leader. Obama is a transformer. He has transformed us into a permanent welfare state with a back breaking national debt, a declining healthcare system, a hoard of invaders - probably including terrorists - from the south, deteriorating race relations, a corrupt DOJ and IRS, and no credibility on the world stage.

MissOgyny
8/23/2014 12:52 AM EDT

Of course Vlad The Redeemer was right! He IS the West's (and the World's) last great hope...and the Muslimes' [sic] most formidable Super Foe. Tactical brilliance and courage under duress are the least of Vladamir Putin's plethora of extremely laudable attributes...Thank the Lord that Putin has publicly avowed his unswerving dedication to protecting Christianity and Christians (as well as the rest of the Occidental world) from the Maniacal Muslime [sic] Menace.

garys_opinion

8/23/2014 2:06 PM EDT

Of course Putin was right. Russia has a lot more experience with Muslim terrorists than Obama does.
We have to get away from this regime change theories that don't work. Every time we've tried it in the Mid East it's failed. There are many factions there that want to kill each other, and we can't/shouldn't be trying to sort them out.

freods
8/24/2014 7:26 PM EDT

Another thing Putin is right about is that tribalism trumps multicultural globalism everytime. As Western elites try to cobble together a one world multicultural utopia, Putin stokes up Russian nationalism and enjoys an 80+% approval rating in his country

Doe John100
8/24/2014 12:21 PM EDT

Damn right Putin was right we should have stayed out of Assad's Syrian issues as well as left Mubaric [sic] in Egypt and Gaddafi in Libya alone. Now look at what we have to deal with a bunch of radical suicide bombing idiots that are hell bent on wiping out the non Islamic world. They where not perfect but they where a lot better than what took there place. All in the name of Democracy we now have a religious world war. There will never be a true democracy under Islam. Islam is a cancer that need's to be cured and wiped out.

Karen Brodsky
8/23/2014 5:17 PM EDT

Putin is smarter than the Obama admin??/ about Syria? about muslims??? is anybody really surprised??
Putin gets the real world, not the one big happy family world Obama & the west want...people might like Putin but if Russians were being decapitated the retaliation would be swift and not at all nice...the world takes Putin seriously.

And some seemed a bit confused about where the Soviet legacy was more apparent:

RichTheEngineer
8/22/2014 5:07 PM EDT
Putin at least isn't a blind Marxism/Leninism fool, unlike Obama and his fellow New Bolshevik Criminals. Their pathetic attempts to focus solely on domestic control, while ignoring rest of world will end up destroying this country.

CaptPhil
8/22/2014 7:02 PM EDT
It is too bad that we don't have someone within the Administration with the insight, intelligence and guts that Putin continues to demonstrate. Obama looks like a trained monkey compared to Putins polished and clever moves on the International chessboard. Someone rightly observed that Putin plays chess while Obama plays checkers! It is not all Obama's fault, however... he has surrounded himself with very bright but inexperienced academicians who share his zealotry for marxist and left wing political ideology. This will be this country's downfall!

Ishaan Tharoor writes about foreign affairs for The Washington Post. He previously was a senior editor at TIME, based first in Hong Kong and later in New York.
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