ROME – For years, a global choir of right-wing politicians has sung the praises of Vladimir V. Putin. They value the Russian hero as a defender of closed borders, Christian conservatism, and topless cyborgs in an age of liberal identity politics and Western globalization. Pampering him is a core part of the populist play.
But Mr. Putin’s devastation of Ukraine, which many of his right-wing supporters have said he would never do, has more clearly presented the Russian president as a global threat and a blasphemer. with imperial ambitions that threaten nuclear war and destabilize Europe.
For many of his longtime fans – from France to Germany and the United States to Brazil – it was something of a dilemma. The stain on Mr. Putin’s new reputation also threatens to contaminate his companions.
“It will be a decisive blow to them,” said Lucio Caracciolo, editor of the Italian geopolitical magazine Limes, who sees Putin’s invasion as preposterous and likely a spontaneous move. politically close. He said that members of the international far-right, who enjoy special ties and financial support from Mr. Putin, are “in serious trouble.” “They put all their eggs in one basket,” Mr. Caracciolo said. “And the basket is collapsing.”
Perhaps no one has proved tougher than Matteo Salvini, Italy’s leading right-wing politician who was once a merciless Putin fanboy.
He wears shirts with Mr. Putin’s face on them in Red Square in Moscow and in European Parliament. He said that he prefers the President of Russia to the President of Italy. He repeatedly repeated Mr. Putin’s call for an end to sanctions against Russia over its annexation of Crimea. He mocked those who thought he had picked Putin’s pocket by saying: “I appreciate him for his free will, not for the money.”
Like a number of other right-wing leaders, he is now narrowly seeking to thread the needle by condemning violence, or even Russia, but not by name, or by condemning violence but by condemning it. justify it with anti-NATO arguments.
While some in his team admit that they may have misjudged Mr. Putin, Mr. Salvini is not yet ready to make such concessions.
On Thursday, he wrote on Twitter that he firmly condemns “any act of military aggression, ”And then dropped flowers at the Ukrainian Embassy. In the end, he acknowledged that Russia was a military aggressor but still seemed to have trouble drawing on his criticisms and mentioning Mr. Putin’s name in the same sentence.
“I am frustrated with people who, in 2022, try to solve economic and political problems with war,” Salvini said in a radio interview. (Salvini’s spokesman, Matteo Pandini, stressed that he had also said “Putin started a war and so Putin was wrong,” but could not indicate where he had said it.)
The Italians find themselves a familiar company when it comes to European leaders, who are currently struggling to maintain their past support for Mr. their continent. The cast of Putin’s former apologists are grappling with apologies like Who’s Among the Populists of 2018.
In France, Mr. Putin’s war has sparked a politically painful, and possibly costly, war that is looming ahead of the presidential election in April. Far-right candidates who have spent years praising the Russian leader and for weeks downplaying the risk of an invasion have reassessed Mr. Putin and the electoral interests that lie in his corner.
Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National party – which received a loan from a Russian bank – declared Russia’s annexation of Crimea illegal and visited Mr. Putin in Moscow before the presidential election. 2017. While she protested. NATO, Le Pen denounces Putin’s military aggression on Friday, speech, “I think what he did is completely to blame. It changed part of my opinion of him. ”
Her far-right opponent in the presidential campaign, Éric Zemmour, previously called the prospect of a French equivalent of Mr. Putin a “dream” and admired the Russians’ efforts to restore “an empire in decline”. Like many other Putin enthusiasts, he suspects an invasion is in the cards and blames the United States for spreading what he calls “propaganda.”
But on Thursday, so did he, denounce the invasionsaid that “Russia is neither attacked by Ukraine nor directly threatened” in a podium speech which, to make things clearer, displayed a sign saying, “I completely condemn the act Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine.”
In Britain, Nigel Farage, a major proponent of Brexit, did not believe in invading Ukraine. “Well, I was wrong“, he wrote on Twitter on Thursday, although he still insisted that the European Union and NATO had unnecessarily provoked Russia to expand. “Putin has gone much further than I thought.”
Understanding Russia’s Attack on Ukraine
What is the root cause of this invasion? Russia considers Ukraine to be within its natural sphere of influence, and it is extremely worried about Ukraine’s proximity to the West and the prospect of it joining NATO or the European Union. Although Ukraine is also not included in this category, it receives financial and military aid from the United States and Europe.
Other right-wing forces across Europe have sought to stabilize the circle by condemning the violence, but shifting responsibility to Mr. Putin.
Alexander Gauland, a key figure in the far-right Alternative for Germany party, known by his German initials AfD, told the daily Neuer Osnabrücker Zeitung on Thursday that the invasion was a “result of past failures” and blamed NATO’s eastward expansion after the Cold War for violating Russia’s “legitimate security interests”. Mr. Putin has become more popular in the formerly communist-ruled eastern part of Germany, where the AfD has a political base.
Petr Bystron, the party’s foreign affairs spokesman, visited Moscow with a delegation of the country’s lawmakers last year. He released a statement in which he “regrets” the current developments but added, “We must now not make the mistake of assigning sole responsibility for this development to Russia.”
“It’s a sign of their close ideologies to Putin’s belligerent nationalism,” said Hajo Funke, a prominent German scholar on the country’s right wing.
Putin’s supporters are by no means limited to Europe.
In the United States, former President Donald J. Trump, whose tenure in office was marked as solicitous toward the Russian leader that confounded his Western allies, said on Wednesday that he Putin was “very knowledgeable” and made a “genius” move. declared regions of Ukraine as independent states as a condition of moving in the Russian army.
Those remarks made Mr. Trump strange in the Republican Party of which he is the de facto leader. But he is not completely isolated.
Mr. Trump’s media cheerleader, Fox News host Tucker Carlson, urged Americans to ask themselves what they have against Mr Putin and echoed the Kremlin when he vilified Ukraine as not one democracy but a puppet of the West and the United States “basically administered by the State Department”. After the invasion, he was too moderate, warning of “a world war” and saying “Vladimir Putin started this war, so regardless of the context of the decision he made, he did that.”
The last major leader to visit Putin before the war, President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil, who was once said by Putin that he displayed “the best masculine qualities”, decided to keep his tongue instead. But perhaps he reached out when he rebuked the vice president for saying that Brazil opposes Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
But perhaps Putin’s old friends were the ones who seemed most stunned by the attack.
Silvio Berlusconi, the former Italian prime minister who wore a fur hat with the Russians in his chalet in Sochi and received a “big bed” from Mr Putin as a gift, condemned the violence but did not say anything publicly about his old friend. . It is not clear if he is connected to Mr. Putin, but he apparently told members of his party in a phone call that he places his international ties for peace and the defense of Europe. Europe.
“I spoke with Berlusconi last night – he was very worried and almost terrified of what was happening,” Giorgio Mulè, a defense minister under Mr. Berlusconi’s party, said on radio. Italy on Friday. He added, “He didn’t see in Vladimir Putin who he used to know.”
Méheut remains unchanged contribution reports from Paris, Christopher F. Schuetze from Berlin and Gaia Pianigiani from Siena, Italy.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/26/world/europe/russia-putin-matteo-salvini-marine-le-pen.html Putin’s aggression makes his right-wing Fan Club hunt