So why are people thinking about Putin as much as they do? Because he has become a symbol of national self-determination. Populist conservatives see him the way progressives once saw Fidel Castro, as the one person who says he won’t submit to the world that surrounds him. You didn’t have to be a Communist to appreciate the way Castro, whatever his excesses, was carving out a space of autonomy for his country.Or all the anti-communists from the Cold War, who were anti-Russian only to the extend Russian meant communist. When Russia ceased to be Soviet, the hatred for Russia melted overnight for many on the Right. The Right didn't win an election until 2016 though, and maybe not even, since it looks like we could be headed for 30 years of insane Russia policy. Tom Clancy is missed.
In the same way, Putin’s conduct is bound to win sympathy even from some of Russia’s enemies, the ones who feel the international system is not delivering for them. Generally, if you like that system, you will consider Vladimir Putin a menace. If you don’t like it, you will have some sympathy for him. Putin has become a symbol of national sovereignty in its battle with globalism. That turns out to be the big battle of our times. As our last election shows, that’s true even here.
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