For aging Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers who are old enough to remember the Cold War, the admiration that the alt-right has for Russian President Vladimir Putin — a former KGB agent — is quite ironic. And that irony isn’t lost on conservative Washington Post columnist Max Boot, who is highly critical of President Donald Trump’s pro-Putin outlook in his December 4 column.
Boot, now 50, was born in Moscow on September 12, 1969 — back when Moscow was still part of the Soviet Union. But he was still a kid when his parents fled the Soviet Union and moved to Los Angeles, where he grew up. The Soviet Union ceased to exist in the early 1990s, and Putin is a right-wing authoritarian — not a communist. Boot, however, emphasizes in his column that Russia is still no friend of the United States.
“Of all the changes that have occurred in our politics since the rise of Donald Trump,” Boot writes, “the most gut-wrenching for me personally is to see the Republican Party transformed into the Kremlin’s ‘useful idiots.’ As a young refugee from the Soviet Union growing up in Southern California in the 1980s, I was attracted to the GOP because it was the party of moral clarity — the party willing to stand up to the ‘evil empire.’ How far we have come — in the wrong direction.”
Trump, Boot laments, praises Putin on a regular basis.
“Today,” Boot writes, “we have a Republican president who, while reluctantly acceding to sanctions against Russia, incessantly praises its dictator, Vladimir Putin — ‘a terrific person’ — tries to bring Putin back to the Group of Seven; conceals the details of their meetings.”
In addition to those things, Boot adds, Trump “undermines Ukraine, a victim of Russian aggression, by harping on its corruption while ignoring Russia’s own kleptocracy; allows the Russians to take possession of U.S. bases in Syria; and propagates Russian propaganda, blaming Ukraine for 2016 election interference.”
The Never Trump conservative goes on to assert that Trump is hardly alone when it comes to Republicans who serve as “useful idiots” for Putin.
“Trump is joined in spreading Russian disinformation by his secretary of state and other supporters, such as Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R-La.), even though the U.S. intelligence community has exposed claims of Ukrainian election interference as a ‘fictional narrative’,” Boot notes.
Another example of a Putin-friendly right-wing American, according to Boot, is Fox News’ Tucker Carlson — who recently declared, “We should probably take the side of Russia if we have to choose between Russia and Ukraine. That’s my view.”
“How did we get to the point where a ‘conservative’ TV star openly sides with an anti-American dictatorship over a pro-American democracy?” Boot wonders. “Most, but not all, of the blame lies with Trump. His affinity for Russia is as deep as it is mysterious.”
Boot observes that Trump was praising Putin four years ago, writing that Trump’s “admiration for Russia has been clear from the start. Almost exactly four years ago — on December 18, 2015 — Trump was asked by MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough about Putin’s habit of killing journalists and invading neighboring countries. Trump defended Putin as ‘a leader, unlike what we have in this country,’ and said, ‘Our country does plenty of killing, too, Joe.’”
Scarborough, a former GOP congressman, has been mocking Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as “Moscow Mitch” for shooting down Democratic election security bills. And Boot notes that McConnell “refused to join the Obama Administration in condemning Russia’s attack on our election. The GOP thus became complicit in Russian election interference.”
Boot argues that the “affinity” pro-Trump Republicans have for Putin isn’t only motivated by loyalty to Trump — they genuinely admire the Russian leader.
“While Republicans are primarily motivated by Trump toadyism, there is also an element of ideological affinity for Russia,” Boot stresses. “While all Republicans were staunchly opposed to the ‘godless’ Soviet regime, some of them admire Putin’s fascist regime — which combines crony capitalism with ultra-nationalism. Putin has marketed himself to credulous conservatives as a champion of Christianity, traditional values and the white race.”
Boot concludes his column on a blistering note, arguing that GOP no longer stands for Grand Old Party.
“The party’s transformation into a Russian lickspittle makes me sick,” Boot declares. “GOP might as well stand for Gang of Putin. That so many Republicans are just fine with it is yet another sign of how a once-grand party has lost its way. By turning into apologists and advocates for a Russian dictator, the Republican Party has become all that it once despised.”