Conservatives are currently under attack on two contradictory grounds: 1) they are pro-Vladimir Putin, and 2) they are warmongers trying to embroil the U.S. in a war against Putin. Of course, it is possible that there are some conservatives in each of these alleged camps. Still, it is odd to be attacked from two utterly antithetical directions at once.
I know hundreds of conservatives, and not one of them, to the best of my knowledge, thinks highly of Vladimir Putin. Likewise, not a single conservative has expressed the view to me that we should send U.S. troops to Ukraine to fight against Russia. Indeed, one striking aspect of the current crisis is how united Americans are in their views of it. Pretty much everyone is pro-Ukraine, but very few want to send American troops to fight for Ukraine. (But hold that last thought.)
Those who accuse conservatives of being pro-Putin mostly refer to statements by fringe characters or hot takes on Twitter. Has any elected Republican official expressed support for Putin and his regime? Not that I know of. The closest any significant mainstream conservative has come to expressing a pro-Putin or pro-Russia view is Tucker Carlson, who questioned why Americans should presumptively be on Ukraine’s side in a conflict in which we have no interest, and at one point said he was “rooting for Russia,” a view he recanted after the Russian invasion.
As for alleged conservative warmongering, John Nolte, generally a sensible guy, writes:
I’m convinced the unholy alliance between Neocons, the corporate media, and the Democrat party is the Seventh Seal.
Gas prices, inflation, Biden’s oatmeal brain, Critical Race Theory, teaching gay porn in schools, the invasion over our southern border, and all the rest are vitally important, but not as important as staying out of another stupid goddamned war we cannot win.
Who are the Neocons? Like everyone else, Nolte cites Congressman Adam Kinzinger, who advocated granting the Ukraine government’s request to establish a no-fly zone over the country, lest “we…have to intervene in a bigger way.” A handful of others have said we should consider establishing a no-fly zone, although I don’t know of anyone who has seriously recommended that course after reflecting that it would involve shooting down Russian aircraft. Kinzinger, in any event, is a marginal figure: a never-Trump backbencher who is not running for re-election.
Nolte also cites Lindsey Graham’s suggestion that some patriotic Russian ought to assassinate Putin. Just about everyone has piled on Graham for that rather impolitic remark, although 1) it has nothing to do with sending American troops to Ukraine, and 2) many, including me, hope that the economic damage being wreaked on Russia will lead its oligarchs and others to dispose of Putin–not, presumably, by exiling him to Elba.
So the attacks on conservatives from both directions seem to me to be twin teapot tempests.
That said, Byron York notes that there is a surprising (to me) degree of support in the general public for going to Ukraine’s aid militarily:
A recent Economist/YouGov poll asked whether it would be a good idea or a bad idea to send American soldiers to Ukraine to fight Russian soldiers. Just 19% of those surveyed thought it was a good idea. Fifty-four percent thought it was a bad idea, and 28% of them were not sure.
A recent Reuters/Ipsos poll found a large majority, 71%, supported the U.S. sending weapons to Ukraine. But when asked whether “the United States should send troops to Ukraine to help defend Ukraine from a Russian invasion,” another majority, 63%, opposed the idea, versus 37% who supported it.
Politico says that “[t]he pressure on Biden to intervene is increasing,” but I think there is no chance that Biden, or any Democratic administration, would send troops to war against Russia absent a direct attack by that country on us, or, at a bare minimum, on a NATO ally. If that happens, the day could come when there is a serious split among conservatives about how we should respond. But so far, claims that substantial numbers of conservatives are pro-Putin on the one hand, or are itching to go to war against him on the other, are wrong.