Trump, Putin, Carlson and the Shifting Sands of Today’s American Politics

The idea was to isolate him, to make him a pariah, to put him in a box as punishment for brazen violations of international law. They kicked him out of their world leaders’ clubhouse, cut off his country’s economy, even issued an arrest warrant against him for war crimes.

But Vladimir V. Putin does not look all that isolated these days. Mr. Putin, the Russian president with czar envy who invaded neighboring Ukraine without provocation, killing or injuring hundreds of thousands, is having something of a moment in the United States.

With the help of a populist former Fox News star and America’s richest man, Mr. Putin has gained a platform to justify his actions even as Russian and American journalists languish in his prisons. His favored candidate is poised to win the Republican presidential nomination while Congress weighs abandoning Ukraine to the tender mercies of Russian invaders.

Mr. Putin’s filibuster-style appearance with Tucker Carlson on Elon Musk’s social media platform amid the security aid debate on Capitol Hill driven by Donald J. Trump offers a moment to reflect on the head-spinning transformation of American politics in recent years. A Republican Party that once defined itself through muscular resistance to Russia has turned increasingly toward a form of neo-isolationism with, in some quarters, strains of sympathy for Moscow.

Instead of a ruthless autocrat seeking to conquer territory through the most violent war in Europe since the Nazis fell, Mr. Putin has made himself into something of a like-minded ally of certain right-wing forces in the United States, not least of all Mr. Trump, who praised his aggression as “genius” just before Russian forces stormed across the border into Ukraine in 2022. And Mr. Putin seems to be prevailing in the American capital in a way that would have once been unthinkable, with the help of a party that still pays homage to Ronald Reagan.

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