Some on the far-right in the US oppose Ukraine, why? - analysis

One of the reasons for skepticism on the far-right in the US has to do with a knee-jerk suspicion of legacy media and “elites.”

 President Donald Trump meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland, July 16, 2018.  (photo credit: KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS)
President Donald Trump meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland, July 16, 2018.
(photo credit: KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS)

Nationalists fighting for their independence. A mostly Christian country defending its homeland. A country with a free-market economy that wants to be part of the West fighting against a traditional western adversary.

You’d think Ukraine has all the elements of a fight that would appeal to people on the Right in the US and the West.However, for some, the battle in Ukraine is an unimportant conflict thousands of miles away, where US interests are not at stake, and where Russia may be the real victim of “NATO” threats. For these critics, the invasion of Ukraine is a myth and it’s part of a conspiracy, like corona lockdowns, where elite “blue check” social media commentators falsely sell Ukraine as a heroic country.

The Right is not a monolith. Only some voices oppose the mainstream media narrative on Ukraine, and only a tiny number openly support Putin’s war. For others, there is skepticism and a variety of historical reasons for not caring about the Ukraine war. A survey of various reasons for this appears below.

How did this happen? How did some on the far-right find themselves cheering for Putin? They will often say they don’t cheer for Putin and claim “of course everyone opposes the war, but,” while they cast doubt on Ukrainian heroism and assert that we are being misled about the war.

The origins of skepticism over the conflict in Ukraine likely go back many years. One of the reasons for skepticism on the far-right in the US has to do with a knee-jerk suspicion of legacy media and “elites.”

 Participants attend the Equality March, organized by the LGBT+ community in Kyiv, Ukraine September 19, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/VALENTYN OGIRENKO) Participants attend the Equality March, organized by the LGBT+ community in Kyiv, Ukraine September 19, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/VALENTYN OGIRENKO)

This argument says that if most of the “elites” or CNN coverage is saying one thing, then it must be wrong. That means that if most major Western media is sympathetic to Ukraine, then the contrarian thing to do is to try to understand Russia’s motives.

Second, there is some kind of bizarre connection between the far right in the West and Russia, especially Russian leader Vladimir Putin. From this perspective, Russia is a champion of the far right because it is portrayed as a white nationalist regime that heralds a strong church-state bond and traditional “manly” values.

For those that like this narrative, Russia opposes immigration and gay rights and “woke” values. Thus Russia is somehow the ideal that Western nations can look to for answers as to how to return to their roots.

But if Russia is portrayed as somehow positive because it is nationalist and cares for traditional values, why is Ukraine portrayed as bad? Ukraine is also nationalist and ostensibly also cares for traditional values.

The problem is that in the West people must choose sides, so Ukraine is bad because it is backed by the “Left” in the West and thus the far right must dislike it.

An added aspect in US domestic politics is the sense that former US president Donald Trump was impeached for his involvement in Ukraine, and was also accused of being pro-Putin.

Therefore the far right that is sympathetic to Trump tends to like Putin, and also think Ukraine is some kind of center of corruption, used by “globalists” like George Soros to push some kind of “European” agenda.

In this narrative, Ukraine is not really a cause for freedom fighters because it isn’t really a good democracy – it is “flawed” and has “oligarchs.” What about Russia’s oligarchs and lack of democracy? That doesn’t matter in this telling, because the assertion is that defending Ukraine “isn’t in our interests,” and we are being lied to about it being a democracy.

In this narrative also there is some memory that the cause of Ukraine was embraced by the Obama administration, and that the pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych was overthrown by an Obama-backed Euromaidan protest.

Since some on the Right despise Obama, Ukraine’s current government must be bad. Since Trump was maligned for being linked to Russia, and since Ukraine is a “Biden/Obama project,” Ukraine is bad and Russia is right to invade.

This interweaving of US domestic politics therefore is not really about Ukraine, it is about getting back at domestic rivals. If the US center-left likes Ukraine, then the far right must support Russia in this domestic international foreign affairs proxy war.

When we dig deeper into the bizarre logic behind it, we find voices at the recent conservative CPAC convention that the US has no reason to care for Ukraine, thousands of miles away.

Some right-wing commentators have created this kind of straw man argument, positing that: “We are told to hate Putin, but why should I hate Putin? He didn’t cause the opioid crisis in America.”

This false dichotomy says that Putin isn’t really an enemy of the US, so just let him be in eastern Europe and that’s fine. This isolationist agenda generally sees Ukraine as simply “not our problem,” and is in line with 200 years of American isolationism that sees European wars as Europe’s problem.

These are some of the threads that run through right-wing skepticism toward the conflict in Ukraine.

Another argument that can be seen on social media is the assumption that the current media frenzy over Ukraine is part of the same self-righteous moralizing and big media narrative that underpinned responses to corona and Black Lives Matter.

The argument that mainstream media is selling the Ukraine conflict the way it pushed for mask mandates during corona is one of the issues that leads to skepticism among those who dislike the mainstream media. Of course, it could be that just because the “elites” support Ukraine’s resistance doesn’t necessarily make that resistance suspicious.

One last narrative is that the war in Ukraine could drag the US into a new war with Russia. This mirrors claims on the far left that tend to see the US supporting “fascists” in Ukraine and US “imperialism” or “CIA stooges.”

The narrative asserts that if the US enforces a no-fly zone or supports Ukraine joining NATO, then this provokes Russia and therefore Russia has legitimate concerns. Some raise the claim: “What if Russia were to want to ally with Mexico?” This concept asserts that Russia was somehow provoked and this excuses its war on Ukraine.

The end result is a toxic mix of reasons that some on the far right put forward for not backing Ukraine. They see this as another “collusion hoax” like the one designed to undermine Trump.

It is part of some kind of mainstream media “blue check” conspiracy that backs Ukraine and doesn’t understand Russia’s concerns, and could drag the US into war with Russia when the real war that needs to be fought is a domestic political struggle for the lives of average Americans.

Some of these voices perhaps forget that there are plenty of Ukrainians and others who fled Soviet crimes in the last century, and that Ukraine rightly wants to be free from Russia’s attacks.