Ed West Ed West

Vladimir Putin is a reactionary autocrat, not a conservative

Apparently the new Muppets film features Russians as the baddies, a sign of the times as we increasingly draw into a new ideological cold war with the old enemy.

Or perhaps a hot, ethnic war, if events in Crimea get any worse, events which raise questions about western foreign policy. Why are we getting involved in this country ‘steeped in blood and carpeted with unquiet graves’, as Peter Hitchens calls it? Another paleocon type, the Telegraph’s semi-deprogrammed former leftist Tim Stanley, says that by provoking Russia into a direct confrontation we look foolish and weak.

The ideological cold war was the subject of last week’s cover story, in which Owen Matthews argued that, as in tsarist days, Russia is setting itself up as the leader of reaction. But it is also the case that the liberal-Left in the West is using Russian conservatism as the enemy by which it defines itself.

And I wonder what the replacement of Islam with Russian reaction as the antithesis of western values will do for western conservatives, and whether it will give the liberal-Left a chance to present them as the enemies of ‘our way of life’, as defined by the liberal-Left. This Daily Beast piece gives some idea of the shape of things to come.

English and American conservatism are very different to Russia’s variety, which is historically authoritarian and statist. Burkean conservatism is based on limited power, the little platoons and the maintenance of social and moral capital, as well as civic virtue. What would Edmund Burke do? He wouldn’t have approved of Cossacks whipping women, I’m sure.

Without civic and moral virtue countries remain weak and corrupt, and whoever gets in power tends to rob everyone else.

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