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Trump Praises Putin, Leaving Republicans in a Bind

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“We are always rooting for peace,” he insisted.

Andrew S. Weiss, a Russia expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said the Kremlin had sought for a decade to win over allies on the American right, in part by denouncing gay rights, emphasizing Russian support for conservative social norms and inviting visits from prominent evangelical figures like Franklin Graham.

“It’s worked beautifully,” Mr. Weiss said.

Stephen K. Bannon, a former adviser to Mr. Trump who hosts a popular conservative podcast, hinted this week at the success of those efforts. “Putin ain’t woke — he is anti-woke,” Mr. Bannon said approvingly on Wednesday. He was interviewing Erik Prince, the private security contractor and a member of a prominent family of evangelical Christians and Republican donors, who joined Mr. Bannon in commending Russia for its opposition to transgender rights.

On Thursday, Mr. Bannon argued that Congress should impeach Mr. Biden for “instigating this war in Ukraine.”

“There is no appetite in Europe to defend themselves, OK?” Mr. Bannon said. “Now you’ve gone in and stirred up a hornet’s nest.”

Hal Brands, a historian at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies and a resident scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, compared the apparent sympathy for Russia among some on the right to earlier periods when groups on the political fringes embraced foreign rivals as foils for domestic opponents.

During the years before the United States entered World War II, for example, a handful of lawmakers lauded Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini for their strong leadership. During the early years of the Cold War, he noted, some on the far left spoke approvingly of the Soviet Union as an alternative to unfettered capitalism.

“Russia is a stand-in for anti-wokeness,” he said.

But the current “fascination with Putin” among some on the right, he added, “is also wrapped up in the post-Trump sweepstakes.”

“You see a lot of emulation going on among politicians who may or may not be authentically Trumpian but nonetheless want to claim that part of the party’s base for their own political ambitions.”

Nicholas Confessore contributed reporting.

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