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The Rise of Putinism
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“Abe tightens grip on power as Japanese shun election.”

So ran the page one headline of the Financial Times on the victory of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Sunday’s elections.

Abe is the most nationalistic leader of postwar Japan. He is rebooting nuclear power, building up Japan’s military, asserting her rights in territorial disputes with China and Korea.

And he is among a host of leaders of large and emerging powers who may fairly be described as the new nationalistic strong men.

Xi Jinping is another. Staking a claim to all the islands in the South and East China seas, moving masses of Han Chinese into Tibet and Uighur lands to swamp native peoples, purging old comrades for corruption, Xi is the strongest leader China has seen in decades.

He sits astride what may now be the world’s largest economy and is asserting his own Monroe Doctrine. Hong Kong’s democracy protests were tolerated until Xi tired of them. Then they were swept off the streets.

Call it Putinism. It appears to be rising, while the New World Order of Bush I, the “global hegemony” of the neocons, and the democracy crusade of Bush II seem to belong to yesterday.

Narendra Modi, leader of the Hindu nationalist party who was denied entry into the United States for a decade for complicity in or toleration of a massacre of Muslims is now Prime Minister of India.

“Members of the rightwing Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh,” the FT reports, “the Organisation of National Volunteers that gave birth to the Bharatiya Janata party headed by Mr. Modi — have been appointed to key posts in the governing party and cultural institutions.

“Nationalists have railed in public against the introduction of ‘western’ practices such as wearing bikinis on the beach, putting candles on birthday cakes and using English in schools — all to the chagrin of fretful liberals.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is another such leader.

Once seen as a model of the enlightened ruler who blended his Islamic faith with a secular state, seeking friendship with all of his neighbors, he has declared cold war on Israel, aided the Islamic State in Syria, and seems to be reigniting the war with the Kurds, distancing himself from his NATO allies and the U.S., and embracing Putin’s Russia.

Not since Ataturk has Turkey had so nationalistic a leader.

And as the democracy demonstrators were routed in Hong Kong, so, too, were the Tahrir Square “Arab Spring” demonstrators in Egypt, home country to one in four Arabs.

With the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, the Muslim Brotherhood came to power in free elections, but was then overthrown by the Egyptian Army. General Abdul Fattah al-Sisi is now president and rules as autocratically as Mubarak, or Nasser before him.

Thousands of the Muslim Brotherhood are in prison, hundreds face the death penalty. Yet, despite the military coup that brought Sisi to power, and the repression, the American aid continues to flow.

What do these leaders have in common?

All are strong men. All are nationalists. Almost all tend to a social conservatism from which Western democracies recoil. Almost none celebrate democracy or democratic values the way we do.

And almost all reject America’s claim to be the “indispensable nation” or “exceptional nation” and superpower leader.

Fareed Zakaria lists as “crucial elements of Putinism … nationalism, religion, social conservatism, state capitalism and government domination of the media. They are all, in some way or another, different from and hostile to, modern Western values of individual rights, tolerance, cosmopolitanism, and internationalism.”


Yet not every American revels in the sewer that is our popular culture. Not every American believes we should impose our democratist ideology on other nations. Nor are Big Media and Hollywood universally respected. Patriotism, religion and social conservatism guide the lives of a majority of Americans today.

As the Associated Press reports this weekend, Putinism finds echoes across Central and Western Europe. Hungary’s Viktor Orban has said he sees in Russia a model for his own “illiberal state.”

The National Front’s Marine Le Pen wants to bring France into a new Gaullist Europe, stretching “from the Atlantic to the Urals,” with France seceding from the EU superstate.

“Of the 24 right-wing populist parties that took about a quarter of the European Parliament seats in May elections, Political Capital lists 15 as ‘committed’ to Russia,” writes the AP.

These rising right-wing parties are “partners” of Russia in that they “share key views — advocacy of traditional family values, belief in authoritarian leadership, a distrust of the U.S., and support for strong law and order measures.”

While the financial collapse caused Orban to turn his back on the West, says Zakaria, to the Hungarian prime minister, liberal values today embody “corruption, sex and violence,” and Western Europe has become a land of “freeloaders on the backs of welfare systems.”

If America is a better country today than she has ever been, why are so many, East and West, recoiling from what we offer now?

Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of the new book “The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose From Defeat to Create the New Majority.” Copyright 2014

• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Nationalism, Vladimir Putin 
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  1. “Almost none celebrate democracy or democratic values the way we do.”

    I would hope not, since we do it with the starkest cynical hypocrisy, with our ruling oligarchs undermining it abroad and at home.

    • Replies: @The Anti-Gnostic
    , @Realist
  2. I doubt Turkey is embracing Russia, since Russia backs Syria and Turkey hates Syria (hence support for Islamic State).

    Otherwise I agree with the general view of the article. I think a lot of American movement conservatives don’t appreciate the extent to which America is the global font of cultural Marxism and the great enemy of normal (‘traditional’) society worldwide. As America’s stance has become more and more extreme, the backlash grows stronger. Of course most Americans don’t support cultural Marxism either, but can often easily be fooled into hostility towards ‘anti-American’ foreigners.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
    , @schmenz
  3. @Fran Macadam

    You don’t really believe that. How long do you think federal transfer payments to the old and the poor, backed by USG promises to itself, would last without the Fed’s open market operations and its preferred dealers’ network?

    If affirmative action, “fair housing,” gay marriage, and open borders were put up to a national referendum, everybody knows that would be the end of those programs, among many others. That’s why the demotic State is electing a new people.

  4. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @Simon in London

    Conservatives don’t like what they see today . But they have have been part of the process . They didnot revolt . They did not question the inexorable rise of militarism ,,crony capitalism ,and slow destruction of the religious authority in American lives .
    The conservatives have been eclipsed by the neoconservative
    who are animals with no American bones in the bodies and no American interests in the minds.

  5. J1234 says:

    And don’t forget Israel, Pat. To paraphrase the old country song – Israel was nationalism before nationalism was cool.

  6. Most of the rulers are not “nationalists” in the Western sense. Erdogan is a Muslim

  7. I will repeat myself, apologize for the truncated post above. Citing Putin and Erdogan as “nationalists” is misleading. They are imperialists, perhaps “nationalists” in the American sense of being patriots of a strong state, but both of them explicitly reject the ethnic nationalism of Western Europe. Erdogan is first and foremost a Muslim. His dream is to overthrow the ethnic Turk nationalism of Ataturk and restore an Ottoman style state where Islam is the chief marker of identity, not Turkishness. Putin is similar – he is not a Russian nationalist, he shows very little nostalgia for the Russian cultural world destroyed by the Bolsheviks, instead he dreams of restoring the Soviet Empire. Again, Putin’s vision is an ethnically inclusive state where anyone who is willing to profess loyalty to the state is welcome. Muslims right alongside Orthodox.

    Call me cynical, but most of these new “nationalists” reject the West not out of deep religious or moral conviction, but for a very simple reason – free markets undermine local control, and turn nation states into servants of global corporations and capital. Whether the citizens of these countries would live better and be happier under a free market system is a moot point. Globalization increasingly provides significant returns to fewer and fewer winners, and neither Putin, Orban, Erdogan nor Modi want to be reduced to second-rate bureacratic “leaders” like Obama or Cameron who basically have to kow-tow to industry lobbyists, hedge fund managers, and energy company CEOs before they can make any substantive decisions.

  8. This is the same old thing as ever.

    The weak and confused admire “strongmen.” I am currently amazed at how many of my European friends, particularly women, now have a little hard-on for Putin. He is a “strong man,” even though I could kick his ass in an actual fight, and my country would beat his into the ground in a real war (with nothing remaining of Western Civilization after dust settles.)

    Hitler got himself elected this way. Like countless others.

    It’s time for us to get our house in order (and our senate and executive and courts.) It is never time to admire or emulate strongmen. That’s for the fat part of the curve. That’s what happens when the populace loses faith in real government.

  9. schmenz says:
    @Simon in London

    Well said, and a very astute observation.

  10. Dutch Boy says:

    No nationalist would allow the mass entry of non-Russian Muslims into Russia that Putin has allowed.

  11. @J1234

    No matter how much nationalism in white, western countries is disdained by the elites, said elites will still always regard Israeli nationalism as “cool.” Just ask Sheldon Adelson.

  12. Tony says:

    What’s the negro situation in Russia?

  13. TomB says:

    For what it’s worth I think what Buchanan identifies is a really keen bit of observation.

    Unless, that is, one just counts us too as having seen the rise of “strong men.” In the guise, that is, of Nancy Pelosi and Diane Feinstein and Barbara Mikulski and Elizabeth Warren and Hillary Clinton and …

    Oh yeah, and if you discount their positive nationalist antipathies.

  14. fnn says:

    It’s good to have Russia as a partial counterweight to American cultural Bolshevism-but no one should have any illusions about that country. This from an American libertarian living in Kiev:

    And it’s absolutely insulting to locals to insinuate that they’re ignorant pawns of some global intrigue rather than artificially and desperately poor for no reason other than leftover Russian (soviet) bureaucrats in one of the most politically corrupt nations on earth. There is no rule of law here. None. Courts and police are bought. Last may I think I paid something on the order of 3K in bribes just to get people to do their jobs – not for any special treatment.

    Most people here look across the border into Poland and see what they COULD have. Most people look to Russia and see murderers who came in the middle of the night to kill relatives and families after Stalin killed millions of Ukrainians in the Holodomor: the Ukrainian Holocaust.

    The only difference between Canadians and Ukrainians’ which neighbor they have. Similar sizes and populations and similar (gentle) temperaments.

    I love these people and there is nothing on earth that justifies letting people who wish to be free come under Russian corruption ever again.

    Americans are ignorant, stupid and benevolent sheriffs yes. They fail to grasp what it means to live in a low trust society. The do not grasp that the lower the trust in a society the more necessary authoritarian rule is. That only generations of commercialism will change a low trust polity in to a moderate trust polity – even so corrupt and politically volatile as the Italians and the Romanians. Just as Russians fail to grasp that Americans actually believe they are acting in the moral interest of less advanced peoples. Americans foolishly believe that they yearn for liberty and prosperity, and merely need to be given the opportunity for self government. And look at the damage we have done. Russians cannot believe we do this with american idealism rather than russian pragamatism. That is because our idealism is as foreign to them as it would be to space aliens.

    Yet here in Ukraine we have a white, christian people (many of whom go to church, and yes, that’s important at this stage of development), who have very similar ethics, work habits, history, education, literature and mythology.

    And they want to be free.

    Yet in the coal mines of the east, in the decaying factories of the soviet era, in the desperate partly Russified slums, the idea of getting checks however small from the government from oil revenues is worth living under the rule of gangsters.

    We’re probably in this wretched fix today because the Brits spent much of the first half of the 20th Century plotting to destroy Germany as an economic competitor.

  15. fnn says:

    Mark Hackard with the pro-Russia position:

    Behind every effective revolutionary stands the financier who created him. Equality to the slaves, an equality of the graveyard, and to the moneyed elite – godlike power over the Cosmos. In exchange for ever more “inherent rights” and meaningless depraved spectacle, socially-engineered mass man forfeits his freedom and his soul. With the West conquered, now all of humanity is set for standardization through postmodern colonialism, covert-action NGOs, carrier battle groups, and killer drones. Any sovereign state resisting the march of progress must be destroyed.

    At the Cold War’s end, a defunct Soviet Union was supposed to fold into the world controllers’ planned capitalist-communist synthesis, and minor “rogues” like Yugoslavia, Iraq, and Libya could be dismembered with impunity in the meantime. From the chaos, destitution, and demoralization of the post-collapse period, however, another Russia has slowly re-emerged, its people broadly nationalist and increasingly unashamed of their thousand-year ancestral faith, Orthodox Christianity (see footnote). Nothing could be more intolerable to the robber-baron superclass, who have already for the past century waged ruthless war against religion and organic cultural identity in the United States, Europe, and elsewhere to impose their desolating vision upon mankind.

  16. “If America is a better country today than she has ever been, why are so many, East and West, recoiling from what we offer now?”

    You’ve got to be joking, right Pat? Or try looking at it from this angle:

    “In any democracy, ethics, self restraint, tolerance and honesty will always take a second seat to narcissism, avarice, bigotry & persecution, if only because people who play by the rules in any democracy are at a disadvantage to those who easily subvert the rules to their own advantage” (Ronald’s Maxim)

    So much for the advances of a ‘Moral America’ where a majority of conservative ‘believers’ in Congress are as corrupt as any liberal ooze when it comes to handing our nation over to a ‘libertarian’ military-industrial corporate profit line that feeds on conflict around the world. ‘Democracy’ is a failed experiment because it is based in a principle dependent on trust. And you cannot trust the congress because it attracts rank opportunists from left and right, sensible geopolitics and domestic policies alike be damned:

    “Patriotism, religion and social conservatism guide the lives of a majority of Americans today”

    Is a delusion when it comes to the people they elect, more like Nazis than anything else-


  17. Corvinus says:

    “If affirmative action, “fair housing,” gay marriage, and open borders were put up to a national referendum, everybody knows that would be the end of those programs, among many others.”

    Who is this “everybody” that you speak of? And, there has been a national referendum on those matters. It’s called voting for a member of the House, or Senate, or presidency.

    • Replies: @HEL
  18. HEL says:

    Wow, so Corvinus thinks that the actions taken by politicians perfectly reflect the preferences of the public.

    This is quite a . . . novel perspective.

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