The Roots of Russia’s Political Appeal in Europe and the United States

putin-wavingBy Ronald Brownstein

The Atlantic

Donald Trump is practically alone in mainstream American politics in his consistent praise of Vladimir Putin and insistence that the United States would benefit from warmer relations with Russia. But that inclination to view Putin more as ally than adversary places Trump squarely in line with the racially infused, conservative-populist movements gaining ground in both America and Europe.

And that means the intra-GOP friction over Russia between Trump and more traditional foreign-policy thinkers like Senators John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina points toward a much larger debate over the priorities that should drive American foreign policy.

Across the political spectrum, mainstream foreign-policy thinkers in both the United States and Europe view Putin as a threat largely because he is pushing to expand Russian influence across eastern Europe and the Middle East in ways that could destabilize the U.S.-led system of alliances and global rules that has defined the international order since World War II. That concern has spiked amid a succession of provocative actions from Putin, ranging from his 2014 incursion into Ukraine and brutal military campaign against anti-government rebels in Syria, to the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia hacked Democratic Party email accounts to influence the 2016 American presidential election. (Trump has steadfastly resisted and belittled that conclusion.)But the conservative-populist nationalists in both the United States and Europe view Putin as a potential ally because they are focused on a sharply contrasting set of international priorities: resisting Islamic radicalization, unwinding global economic integration, and fighting the secularization of Western societies. Top Trump advisers like incoming White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon and National Security Adviser Michael Flynn have expressed strikingly similar views.

In that way, the clashing perspectives on Putin reflect not only differences on how to relate specifically to Russia, but on what goals should guide American foreign policy in the 21st century, and what allies are necessary to advance those aims. On both sides of the Atlantic, the push to reset with Putin reflects a desire to elevate a different set of foreign-policy concerns while downplaying, or even abandoning, the alliances that have bound European nations more tightly to each other, and to the United States, for decades.Continue to full article . . .

Picture: [CC BY 4.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

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