TRUMP, RUSSIA, EVANGELICAL FASCISTS = IMPEACHMENT: Putin is Jesus to the international religious right and white American evangelicals are fast becoming America-hating complicit traitors to democracy
In early April 2014, as the post-Cold War order roiled in the aftermath of Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula—the first forced annexation in Europe since the Second World War—Pat Buchanan asked a question. Taking to the column-inches at Townhall, Buchanan wondered aloud: “Whose side is God on now?”
As Moscow swamped Ukraine’s peninsula, holding a ballot-by-bayonet referendum while local Crimean Tatars began disappearing, Buchanan clarified his query. The former speechwriter for Richard Nixon and intellectual flag-bearer of paleoconservatism—that authoritarian strain of thought linking both white nationalists and US President Donald Trump—wrote that Russian President Vladimir Putin was “entering a claim that Moscow is the Godly City of today[.]” Despite Putin’s rank kleptocracy, and the threat Moscow suddenly posed to stability throughout Europe, Buchanan blushed with praise for Putin’s policies, writing, “In the culture war for the future of mankind, Putin is planting Russia’s flag firmly on the side of traditional Christianity.”
Three years on, it’s easy to skip past Buchanan’s piece in discussing Russian-American relations, drenched as they are in mutual sanctions and the reality that Moscow attempted to tip the scales in Trump’s favor during the election. But Buchanan’s article crystallized a paradigm shift in religious relations between Moscow and Washington, and in Moscow’s role within the global Christian right. Before 2014 Russia was largely seen as an importer for Christian fundamentalists, most especially from the U.S. But as the Kremlin dissolved diplomatic norms in 2014, Moscow began forging a new role for itself at the helm of the global Christian right.
And Moscow’s grip at the tiller of a globally resurgent right has only tightened since. Not only have Russian banks funded groups like France’s National Front, but Moscow has hosted international conferences on everything from neo-Nazi networking to domestic secessionists attempting to rupture the U.S. Meanwhile, American fundamentalists bent on unwinding minority protections in the U.S. have increasingly leaned on Russia for support—and for a model they’d bring to bear back home, from targeting LGBT communities to undoing abortion rights throughout the country.
“In the same sense that Russia’s [anti-LGBT] laws came about in 2013, we’ve seen similar sorts of laws proposed in Tennessee, for example,” Cole Parke, an LGBT researcher with Political Research Associates, told me. “It’s difficult to say in a chicken-and-egg sort of way who’s inspiring whom, but there’s definitely a correlation between the two movements.”
It’s no coincidence that Buchanan’s column, which outlined the players within the “cultural, social, moral war” between Russia and the “hedonistic” West, mentioned a semi-obscure group called the World Congress of Families. As Buchanan wrote, the WCF listed Russia’s emergence as a “Pro-Family Leader” as one of the “10 best trends” of 2013. Indeed, in order to outline how Russia challenged—and supplanted—the U.S. role as a clarion for Christian fundamentalists, you have to parse the WCF’s role, and the group’s attendant impact on Russian policy over the past few years.
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