Lauren Witzke, the Republican Party’s nominee for U.S. Senate from Delaware in 2020, gushed with praise for Vladimir Putin this week after the Russian dictator unleashed a military invasion against Ukraine. While somewhat shocking given the timing, Witzke’s admiration of Putin’s “Christian nationalism” has a long precedent among U.S. Christian right leaders, who embraced Putin as a “savior of Christian civilization” during the Obama administration.
Shortly after Donald Trump became president, far-right activist Pat Buchanan praised Putin as “a God-and-country Russian patriot” and champion of Christianity “against the Western progressive vision of what mankind’s future ought to be.”
In 2018, prominent Trump-aligned dominionist Lance Wallnau brushed aside Putin’s tendency to kill journalists and run the country “like a mafia state,” and praised Putin’s anti-LGBTQ policies as having been “shaped by Christians,” adding, “I fear more liberals in America than I fear Putin in Russia.”
At an infamous 2018 press conference with Putin and Trump, the U.S. president said he was more inclined to believe Putin than U.S. intelligence agencies that had concluded the Russian government had interfered with the 2016 election. Far-right figures like conspiracy theorist Alex Jones were thrilled when Putin mentioned philanthropist George Soros, who many on the far-right portray as the embodiment of sinister globalism. InfoWars’ Jerome Corsi declared Trump and Putin were working together in a “fight to death with the deep state.”
Christian nationalists in the U.S. cry “religious persecution” over business owners being required to abide by anti-discrimination laws, but they don’t spend much time decrying Putin’s actual assaults on the religious freedom of non-Russian Orthodox Christians and other religious minorities in Russia—and in Russian-occupied Eastern Ukraine.
Putin’s government has been a key ally of American Christian right groups who happily partner with the world’s most repressive regimes in order to promote “traditional” views of family, sexuality, and gender, as well as to try to prevent and reverse international recognition of reproductive rights or the equality of LGBTQ people.
The alliance between U.S. and Russian promoters of “traditional values” goes back further than the Trump administration to the creation of the World Congress of Families. When the WCF’s parent organization was rebranded as the International Organization for Families with anti-marriage-equality crusader Brian Brown at the helm, he made a trip to Russia to seek funding from oligarchs and political operatives aligned with Putin. Indeed, Brown spends enough time in Russia to have a favorite restaurant at Moscow’s airport. In 2013, Brown joined far-right European activists on a trip to Russia where he praised pending legislation to ban adoption by same-sex couples. In 2014, when the WCF announced plans for a Moscow summit, WCF leaders defended Putin from Western critics.
A major funder of the World Congress of Families is Putin-aligned billionaire Konstantin Malofeev, known as “God’s Oligarch” for his close ties to the Russian Orthodox Church. Malofeev wants to bring back the Russian monarchy, with Putin himself as a possible tsar. At WCF’s global summit in 2013, Malofeev reportedly told the “traditional values” activists that “Christian Russia can help liberate the West from the new liberal anti-Christian totalitarianism of political correctness, gender ideology, mass-media censorship and neo-Marxist dogma.”
Right Wing Watch reported on the adoration showered on Putin by the U.S. Christian right in 2015:
Evangelist Franklin Graham hailed Putin as a hero for taking “a stand to protect his nation’s children from the damaging effects of any gay and lesbian agenda” even as “America’s own morality has fallen so far on this issue”; Bryan Fischer called Putin a “lion of Christianity” and called upon U.S. lawmakers to adopt similar speech prohibitions; Matt Barber marveled that Putin was able to “out-Christian our once-Christian nation”; Sam Rohrer called Putin “the moral leader of the world”; Scott Lively lavished praise on Putin for “championing traditional marriage and Christian values”; and Rush Limbaugh applauded Putin for stopping “a full-frontal assault on what has always been considered normalcy.”
That same year, radical conspiracy theorist Alex Jones praised Putin for promoting “masculine men” and homeschooling.