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Today's GOP: Fetishizing Fascism

Biden's visit to Kyiv and his bold rallying of NATO and European allies this week was a high point in post-Cold War American foreign policy. He understood the stakes, the risks, the rhetoric, and the optics of the moment.
Credit: Elvert Barnes, Wikimedia Commons
Published:February 24, 2023

By Rick Wilson

Joe Biden leveled up this week on the world stage. It’s hard to rival such singular moments of high international political drama like Ronald Reagan’s ringing call to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to “Tear down this wall” or John F. Kennedy boldly declaring “Ich bin ein Berliner!” in the frigid depths of the Cold War, but there’s something about confronting the Russian nee Soviet threat that brings out the best in Presidents.

President Joe Biden's visit to Kyiv, Ukraine, and his bold rallying of NATO and European allies this week was a high point in post-Cold War American foreign policy. He understood the stakes, the risks, the rhetoric, and the optics of the moment.

For the first time in history, the world saw a bold American president travel into a country under powerful assault where no American forces were there to protect him. They saw a man well into the sunset of his life and career board the train to Kyiv, ride 10 hours and meet with the leader of that embattled country on a sunny day in a war-torn city. He stood there, aviator shades in place, beside President Vladimir Zelenskyy as air raid sirens howled their fateful cry.

Biden wasn’t there to mouth platitudes or speak in the quiet tones of elliptical diplomacy. He was there to deliver the unmistakable message of American and European resolve. Biden put Vladimir Putin and his corrupt and doomed regime on notice that the same values, capabilities, and will that defeated the Soviet Union in the Cold War is now more present than ever. NATO is more unified than at any time since the early 1960s. The American resolve and capacity to unify an organization that Trump attempted to extort and routinely insulted have been made clear.

Biden understood from the beginning that NATO is one of the most valuable adjuncts to American national security. Across generations, our work with this organization prevented any number of catastrophes in the bad old Soviet days. It’s now ensuring that the corrupt Russian State can never expand to its old Soviet-era borders - denying Putin his life’s ambition.

Biden then went from Kyiv to speak to the Baltic nations, firm American allies, high on Putin‘s list of future victims. His resolve there was just as clear. While Trump wanted to make NATO’s Article 5 a cash-and-carry transactional proposition, a real American president this week stated in the firmest possible terms that the unshakable commitment of America to Article 5 ensures the safety and security of the Baltics and Eastern Europe.

From Kyiv, Biden took his message to Poland and delivered a speech reflecting the best traditions of American national security leadership. Not belligerent, not boastful, but determined, firm, and with a resounding commitment to the value and benefit of freedom.

This is, of course, why Republicans are losing their damned minds.

Vladimir Putin knows only one thing can save him in this war. It’s not the Wagner Group’s mercenary thug army. It’s not Iranian drones, North Korean ammo stockpiles, or Chinese backing. It’s not human wave attacks. It’s not dragging World War II-era Soviet armor out of the depots,, hitting it with a coat of Krylon and some WD-40, and sending it to the front.

No, the only thing that will save Vladimir Putin now this his American fifth column. It’s tempting to consider them clownish right-wing trolls, but the hard truth is they’re overtly, proudly, vocally on the side of Russia, Putin, and his war against the Ukranian people.

Tucker Carlson, The Lord Haw Haw of the Ukraine War, is the loudest of pro-Putin voice in conservative media but is hardly alone. In Congress, Putin’s handmaid Marjorie Taylor Greene bleats out that the world is engaged in a “War on Russia” so frequently it’s like she’s angling for an apartment in the Arbat and pension from the FSB.

As for Matt Gaetz, Lauren Boebert, Josh Hawley, Rand Paul, Andy Biggs, Paul Gosar, and the cast of That’s So Vlad! In Congress, their treachery to the ideals of democracy and human freedom is damning.

The list of Putin sympathizers is longer and most certainly growing; by now, they number at least a plurality in the House and a dangerous cohort in the Senate.

Let us be clear on what Putin’s Fifth Column are and what they believe; They’re not worried about federal spending on Ukraine — after all, most of them were here during the Trump era’s financial blow-out and never blinked an eye — but instead have a clear, political objective. They won’t admit it, so we should state it publicly again and again so the American people understand that the pro-Putin Republican faction has clear goals: the defeat of Ukraine, the triumph of Putin, and the destruction of Western democracy.

Anti-Ukraine is pro-Putin, hard stop. There is no middle ground here. There is no compromise. There is no acceptable excuse, reason, or rationale to side with an autocratic dictator who runs a dangerous kleptocracy intent on expansion, repression, and invasion.

The weakness and cowardice of the men and women who now spend their days eagerly cheerleading for Putin’s victory and the slaughter of the Ukrainians aren’t trolling. They’re not just doing it for clickbait. They’re not doing it to get hits on Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson’s pro-Putin propaganda hours.

Tucker Carlson, Steve Bannon, and their ilk aren’t just cheerleading for the Russian slaughter machine every night and every day on their platforms for contrarian fun.

They’re doing it because they’re on the other side. They’re doing it because they don’t believe in the West. They don’t believe in democratic and pluralistic societies. They don’t believe that Putin is evil and Russia’s actions are dangerous. Instead, they run into the arms of the authoritarians. They’re dictator-curious, at best.

Just as Donald Trump’s ugly authoritarianism aroused them during his era and their current infatuation with Florida Ron DeSantis provides the only way to get an erection, apparently, Putin’s appeal also gets them hot. It’s not a very heavy lift to imagine what Tucker Carlson’s radio show on the Fox Radio Network would have sounded like in the late 1930s and early 1940s: “That Mr. Hitler is not such a bad fellow after all. Those Jews could be very dangerous to Western values.”

Think I’m exaggerating? Think again. The Germans loved nothing more than patsies like William “Lord Haw Haw” Joyce. Putin, undoubtedly, feels the same pleasure now that Hitler experienced watching and listening to people like Charles Lindbergh and Father Charles Coughlin make fools of themselves on his behalf as he prepared a war to burn Europe to the ground and launch a genocide of unimaginable ferocity.

Contrast that with the supreme courage the Ukrainian people are showing the world. Under withering assault and brutal bombings, they get up every day and show the best and bravest of humanity. They fight on despite the odds they face, enduring savage attacks on their civilian population, on schools, churches, and hospitals. They face the war crimes committed by Russian soldiers on the orders of Putin and his military in places like Bucha.

Putin’s American allies are for this. This is what they favor. This is what they desire. This is what they crave - violence, chaos, and death all wrought at the hands of the authoritarian figure of Vladimir Putin.

They’ve abandoned the American legacy of a foreign policy where we protect our allies and interests from the authoritarians. Don’t let them tell you it’s about anything else.