Resolute Square

How Vladimir Putin Took Over The GOP

Rick Wilson writes: "The architects of the coming Russian victory in Europe and the enablers of the new axis of autocracy between Russia, China, and Iran aren’t in Moscow, Tehran, or Beijing. They’re in Washington, D.C., and every last one of them is a Republican."
Published:February 8, 2024

By Rick Wilson

The end of the Soviet Union should have been a global milestone of the expansion of liberty and freedom. I was privileged to be part of the last generation of young Cold Warriors to witness its ignominious death as the Wall fell and a liberated Eastern Europe emerged from the dead grip of communism.

Like Chernobyl, one of the catalyzing events in its collapse, the Soviet model should have been sealed in a tomb, locked away, and surrounded by fences for eternity. Soviet communism was never about the communism part; it was about the exercise of power by an elite kleptocracy. 

All the window dressing in the world couldn’t disguise the ugly autocracy and the oppressive mechanisms of its manifold evils. Its complete failure as an economic and social system was even more evident after the collapse. 

But the Soviet-era belief in using raw power, embodied by Vladimir Putin, survived. Today, he is in the process of winning a sweeping, historic victory against the Main Enemy without rolling tanks through the Fulda Gap, indeed without firing a shot at a single American or NATO soldier.

Old boss, new boss.

For all that, Putin didn’t create this victory; he was well on the way to a crushing defeat in his illegal invasion of Ukraine until he was saved by men with ambition and drive.

No, the architects of this victory aren’t in Moscow. They’re not the products of the General Staff Academy, the Russian intelligence services, or the elite of Moscow University. 

The architects of the coming Russian victory in Europe and the enablers of the new axis of autocracy between Russia, China, and Iran aren’t in Moscow, Tehran, or Beijing. 

They’re in Washington, D.C., and every last one of them is a Republican.

In the ongoing decline and fall of the Republican party, we’ve reached a signature moment. MAGA’s embrace of autocratic and authoritarian leaders and movements, its utter abandonment of America’s role in the world, and its betrayal of the alliances and principles that defined the post-war global order is shocking, but the trend lines now point to a full alliance with the darkest forces on the world stage by the Trump GOP.

I know it’s easy to blame Donald Trump, Comrade Carlson, and the Bannon tendency, and I most certainly do give Trump and his scruffy allies the goat’s share of blame for this, but the deeper rot in the GOP’s hatred of our allies and embrace of our enemies also involves many people who Know Better, at least on paper. 

They’ve picked a side, and it’s Putin.

The Smart Guys from the Meritocracy -- J.D. Vance, Josh Hawley, Tucker Carlson, et al. -- have all leaped into the arms of a Russian autocrat hell-bent on realigning the entirety of Europe in his image. They engage in endless moral panics over immigrants, Muslims, “duh Chinese Communist Party” -- and laugh off Putin’s unjustified, illegal, and brutal campaign of war crimes and the deliberate targeting of civilians.

Very few things cause more obvious distress among Republican elected officials than to ask them a simple question: who would you like to see as the victor in Ukraine? At least until recently, one could expect at least some kind of mealy, weaselspeak. 

In their moral and intellectual decline, where they cannot force themselves to say, they would prefer to see the Ukrainian people triumph over Vladimir Putin’s illegal invasion. 

These are not serious people. 

They are not moral people. They are the Guilty Men of our era, more morally culpable than Chamberlain, Halifax, and the rest of pacifist magical thinkers in the days before World War II.

The entire charade of elaborate maneuvers in Washington in the last few weeks over the border issue has resolved down to a single cause: the desire by a meaningful and growing fraction of the Republican party to ensure Vladimir Putin’s victory in Ukraine. 

Today, the majority of the Senate and all of the House Republicans are eagerly paving the road for Russian tanks to enter Kiev, slaughter the Ukrainians at scale, and watch gleefully as Putin reassembles the lost prize of the old Soviet empire. At the rate things are going, don’t be shocked if MAGAs from the House GOP start proposing military aid to Russia.

Trump is primarily to blame for this as part of his generally corrosive effect on a party once centered on national security. Still, more and more Republican elected officials are making it quite evident that they’re not on the side of NATO or any kind of American interests. 

I was baffled by it for a while, wondering if the fever would break, but these days, if you place your bets on the fever never breaking and Republicans doing the worst possible thing for America and the world, you’re always much better off. 
Republicans in Washington have embraced Trumpism, Putinism, and the rest of the slurry of autocratic tendencies across the globe, from Orban to MBS.

Putin cannot believe his good fortune; he desperately wants Trump back if office, but in the meantime, owning the Republican party is getting him more leverage than he ever imagined.  
America, Ukraine, Europe, and the world are about to pay a terrible price. 


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