Putin as conservative?

The word “conservative” means different things in the United States and Europe.  American conservatives tend to value personal liberty, free market economics, and small government.  Europeans call that being “liberal.”  European conservatives tend to hearken back to the good old days of the monarchies, being suspicious of democracy and civil liberties.  Both the European left and the European right favor big government.

Today the European right, which is reportedly poised for big electoral victories, is openly supporting Russia’s Vladimir Putin.  See why after the jump.

From Griff Witte, Putin could be a winner in European parliamentary vote if far right gains ground – The Washington Post.

When voters across Europe go to the polls this week to elect a new Parliament, far-right parties are expected to be among the winners. But one of the election’s biggest beneficiaries could be a man whose name isn’t on the ballot: Vladimir Putin.

Even as mainstream European leaders sputter their condemnation of Russian aggression, voters appear poised to reward parties that make no secret of their fawning admiration for the way the Russian leader has defied the West and dismembered Ukraine.

It said the decision was aimed at keeping the country stable after six months of sometimes violent political unrest. It denied a coup d’etat was underway.

The result could deliver a fresh blow to a foundering European effort to take a tough and united line against Russia. For months, European leaders have dithered over how and when to escalate sanctions against Moscow. Some of the continent’s heaviest hitters have argued for restraint as the best way to influence Russian behavior and as offering the best chance to preserve the extensive economic ties between Russia and Europe.

But many of the far-right parties — as well as a smaller number on the far left — have openly cheered Russia’s moves in Ukraine, accusing the European Union and the United States of provoking a crisis on a continent long accustomed to peace.

“The far right and the far left like the fact that Putin is angering the European mainstream,” said Simon Hix, an expert on European politics at the London School of Economics and Political Science. “And they like the fact that this whole situation illustrates the hypocrisy of the established elite, which had been sucking up to Putin, then said they were going to get tough on him, but they’re not.” . . .

While Europe’s far-right parties differ in many respects, they share a desire to weaken the influence of the Brussels-based E.U. and “to pursue a similarly nationalist and authoritarian line” to that embraced by Putin, said Hajo Funke, a German political analyst and expert on right-wing extremism.

Indeed, in many respects, Putin is an ideological soul mate. He rails against Western decadence and liberalism and speaks in favor of an orthodox and conservative nationalism that rejects gay rights and commands adherence to traditional values.

“The far-right parties see Europe as being in decline because of cosmopolitanism and pro-Americanism,” said Peter Kreko, director of the Hungary-based research and consulting firm Political Capital. “Putin offers an alternative model — a leader who openly says he supports Christian views, who doesn’t think human rights are so important and who believes in a strong hand.”

Could you see any factions of American conservatives jumping on the Putin bandwagon?

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