Betting on Russian Nihilism: The Illiberal Forces in the US and Europe that Threaten Ukraine
Matt Bernardini looks at how - from Tucker Carlson to Viktor Orbán - authoritarians in the West are using the war to further their own anti-democratic agendas
When Russia invaded Ukraine one year ago, I argued that the fighting on the battlefield represented a broader struggle for democracy, as Vladimir Putin sought to ensure that Ukraine did not leave his sphere of influence.
As the war has unfolded, a clearer picture of this struggle has emerged with authoritarian forces in the United States and Europe using the war to advance their own anti-democratic agenda.
In the US, the same people that sought to overthrow the government after the 2020 election have repeatedly called for less aid to Ukraine or none at all. The Fox News host Tucker Carlson seamlessly blends anti-democratic rhetoric and support for Russia on a weekly basis. Carlson has repeatedly spread lies about the 2020 election on the air. He makes bashing immigrants a hallmark of his programming and consistently creates a false dichotomy that aid to Ukraine means less support for Americans.
Carlson’s propaganda has been so effective that the Kremlin has urged its state-run media outlets to promote his broadcasts.
“It is essential to use as much as possible fragments of broadcasts of the popular Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who sharply criticizes the actions of the United States [and] NATO, their negative role in unleashing the conflict in Ukraine, [and] the defiantly provocative behaviour from the leadership of the Western countries and NATO towards the Russian Federation and towards President Putin, personally,” Russia’s Department of Information and Telecommunications Support said in a memo.
While Carlson has no legislative power, his sentiments have spread into the halls of Congress. Newly-elected Ohio Republican Senator J.D. Vance campaigned on ending aid to Ukraine and while in office has called for a full accounting of all U.S. support to Ukraine.
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