Putin’s aggression left his right-wing fan club

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Putin’s aggression left his right-wing fan club

Rome – For years, a global group of right-wing politicians has praised Vladimir V. Putin. They saw the Russian strongman as a defender of closed borders, Christian conservatism and bare-chested masochism in an era of liberal identity politics and Western globalization. Bullying on him was a core part of the populist playbook.

But Mr. Putin’s brutality on Ukraine, which many of his right-wing supporters said he would never do, has turned the Russian president into a more blatantly blatant boogeyman with ambitions of a global threat and empire that would be nuclear. War and European instability is threatening.

For many of his longtime fans – from France to Germany and the United States to Brazil – it’s a strange place. Mr Putin’s new reputation is at risk of tarnishing his fellow travelers as well.

“It would be a decisive blow to him,” said Lucio Caracciolo, editor of the Italian geopolitical magazine Limes, who saw Mr Putin’s attack as an irrational, and potentially, a politically suicidal move. He said members of the international ultraright, who enjoy a special relationship and financial support from Mr Putin, were “in serious trouble”. “They put all their eggs in one basket,” said Mr. Caracciolo. “And the basket is falling.”

Perhaps none shows more than Italy’s leading right-wing politician, Matteo Salvini, who has been a staunch admirer of Putin.

He wore shirts with Mr Putin’s face in Moscow’s Red Square and the European Parliament. He said that he prefers the Russian President to the Italian President. He relentlessly echoed Mr Putin’s call for an end to sanctions already on Russia for annexing Crimea. He mocked those who alleged he was in Mr Putin’s pocket, “I honor him for free, not for money.”

Like some other right-wing leaders, he now tries to thread the smallest needles by condemning violence, or even Russia, but in the name of Mr. Putin, or denouncing violence but making excuses for it with anti-NATO talk Has been doing. ,

While some of his colleagues have admitted that they may have miscalculated Mr. Putin, Mr. Salvini is unwilling to make such a concession.

On Thursday, he wrote on Twitter that he strongly condemns it.any military attack”, and then dropped flowers at the Ukrainian embassy. He eventually came to accept that Russia was the military aggressor but still finds himself having trouble getting the criticism and Mr. Putin’s name into the same sentence.

“I am disappointed in the man who tries to solve economic and political problems with war in 2022,” Mr Salvini said in a radio interview. (Mr. Salvini’s spokesman, Matteo Pandini, insisted that he also said that “Putin started the war and therefore Putin is wrong,” but could not explain where he said it.)

The Italian finds himself in familiar company when it comes to European leaders who are now struggling to confront his past support for Mr Putin, with the war of choice he is running on his continent. The cast of former Putin apologists wrestling with apologies is like the Who’s Who of 2018’s populist dominance.

In France, Mr Putin’s war has made a politically painful, and possibly costly, almost face-off ahead of the presidential election in April. The far-right candidate who spent years praising the Russian leader and downplaying the risk of aggression has spent weeks re-evaluating Mr. Putin and the electoral benefits of being in his corner.

Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Rally Party – which had received a loan from a Russian bank – declared that Russia’s annexation of Crimea was not illegal and visited Mr Putin in Moscow ahead of the last presidential election in 2017. while she resists. NATO, Ms. Le Pen on Friday condemned Mr. Putin’s military aggression, saying“I think what he has done is completely reprehensible. It somewhat changes my opinion.”

His far-right rival in the presidential campaign, Eric Zemour, has in the past called the prospect of Mr Putin’s French counterpart a “dream” and praised Russian efforts to restore a “falling empire”. Like many other Putin enthusiasts he suspected an invasion was in the cards and blamed the United States for spreading “propaganda”.

But on Thursday also condemned the attackTo make things more clear, a speech given at a lecture “Russia was neither attacked nor directly threatened”, displayed a sign reading, “I am fully aware of Russian military intervention in Ukraine.” I condemn.”

In Britain, Nigel Farage, a leading Brexit proponent, did not believe Mr Putin would invade Ukraine. ,well i was wrongHe wrote on Twitter on Thursday, though he said the EU and NATO had provoked Russia with unnecessary expansion. “Putin has gone further than I imagined.”

Other right-wing forces around Europe have tried to square the circle by condemning the violence, but have shifted the blame to Mr.

Alexander Gouland, a key figure in Germany’s far-right Alternative for Germany party, known by its German initials AfD, told the daily Neuer Osnabrücker Zeitung on Thursday that the invasion was a “result of past failures” and NATO’s former puts the blame on the extension towards. For violating “Russia’s legitimate security interests” after the Cold War. Mr. Putin has been more popular in the former communist-ruled eastern part of Germany, where the AfD has its own political base.

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The party’s foreign affairs spokesman Petr Bystron visited Moscow last year with a delegation of its lawmakers. He issued a statement in which he “regrets” the current developments but said “we must no longer make the mistake of assigning sole responsibility for this development to Russia.”

“It is a sign of his ideological closeness to Putin’s aggressive nationalism,” said Haj Funke, a leading German scholar in the country’s far right.

Mr Putin’s supporters are by no means limited to Europe.

In the United States, former President Donald J. Trump, whose term was marked with urges for the Russian leader who confused his Western allies, said on Wednesday that Mr Putin was “very knowledgeable” and made a “genius” move. Declaring the territories of Ukraine as independent states as a predicament for the transfer to the Russian army.

Those comments left Mr Trump an outlier in the Republican Party, of which he is the de facto leader. But he was not completely isolated.

Fox News host Tucker Carlson, Mr Trump’s media cheerleader, urged Americans to ask themselves what they have against Mr Putin and echoed the Kremlin as he called Ukraine not a democracy but a puppet of the West and the United States. discredited as Essentially managed by the State Department.” After the invasion, he also moderated, warning of “a world war” and saying “Vladimir Putin started this war, so he did whatever he decided to.”

The last major leader to visit Putin before the war, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, whom Mr Putin once said expressed “best masculine qualities”, has decided instead to hold his tongue. But he probably showed his hand when he rebuked his vice president for saying that Brazil opposed the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

But perhaps it was Mr Putin’s old friend who was most shocked by the attack.

Italy’s former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, who at his dacha in Sochi with the Russians wearing furry hats and received a “big bed” as a gift from Mr Putin, condemned the violence, but spoke publicly about his old friend. Didn’t say anything. , It is unclear whether he had contacted Mr Putin, but he apparently told members of his party in a phone call that he was putting his international relations in the service of peace and the defense of Europe.

“I spoke to Berlusconi last night – he is very worried and almost scared of what is happening,” Giorgio Mule, an under-secretary for defense in Mr Berlusconi’s party, said on Italian radio on Friday. “He doesn’t see in Vladimir Putin the person he knew,” he said.

for the constant Contributed reporting from Paris, Christopher F. schuetz Berlin and . From Gaia Pianigiani From Siena, Italy.

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