Why Ukraine’s victories are a humiliation for 'MAGA tough guys': Paul Krugman

Why Ukraine’s victories are a humiliation for 'MAGA tough guys': Paul Krugman
Image via Creative Commons.

The invasion of Ukraine has not gone as planned for the Russian government. When Russian forces invaded Ukraine on February 24, President Vladimir Putin and his Kremlin allies were obviously hoping to take over the country in a hurry; instead, the Ukrainian military have fought back much more aggressively than Putin anticipated — and done so with the support of the Biden Administration and the United States’ European allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). September has found Russian forces suffering some major humiliations at the hands of the Ukrainian military.

Liberal economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman examines the state of the conflict in a September 12 column, drawing a parallel between Putin and his allies in Russia and MAGA Republicans in the United States. Both of them, Krugman argues, underscore the fact that “tough-guy swagger” doesn’t automatically translate to military victories.

Krugman opens his column by noting that on August 29, Fox News’ Tucker Carlson — who Krugman slams as a “Putin cheerleader” — happily told viewers that Putin was “winning the war in Ukraine.”

READ MORE: Russia pursues North Korean arms deal as fighting around Ukrainian nuclear power plant risks disaster

“Carlson’s timing was impeccable,” Krugman writes. “Just a few days later, a large section of the Russian front near Kharkiv was overrun by a Ukrainian attack. It’s important to note that Putin’s forces weren’t just pushed back; they appear to have been routed. As the independent Institute for the Study of War reported, the Russians were driven into a ‘panicked and disorderly retreat,’ leaving behind ‘large amounts of equipment and supplies that Ukrainian forces can use’…. The Russian collapse seemed to validate analyses by defense experts who have been saying for months that western weapons have been shifting the military balance in Ukraine’s favor, that Putin’s army is desperately short on quality manpower and that it has been degraded by attrition and missile attacks on its rear areas.”

Krugman goes on to explain why “Putin cheerleaders” like Carlson are so flawed in their thinking.

“There’s something special about the MAGA embrace of the mystique of Russian might: a worldview that equates tough-guy swagger with effectiveness,” Krugman writes. “This worldview has warped the right’s perception not just of the Russian Army, but also, of how to deal with many other issues. And it’s worth asking where it comes from. Many Republicans have admired Putin for a long time — even before Donald Trump took over the GOP. Back in 2014, for example, Rudy Giuliani said of Putin, ‘That’s what you call a leader.’ And Trump continued to praise Putin even after he invaded Ukraine.”

Krugman continues, “So, it’s not hard to see where the MAGA right’s admiration for Putinism comes from. After all, Putin’s Russia is autocratic, brutal and homophobic, with a personality cult built around its ruler. What’s not to like?.... On the right…. approval of authoritarian regimes is all bound up with assertions about their military prowess…. The MAGA ethos is all bound up with exaltation of tough talk and denigration of expertise.”

READ MORE: How Vladimir Putin's spies in Ukraine blew it for him in Ukraine: report

MAGA Republicans, according to Krugman, “needed to see Putin as a leader made powerful by his rejection of liberal values.”

“There’s growing speculation about what will happen inside Russia if the invasion of Ukraine ends in outright defeat,” Krugman observes. “But you also have to wonder how the U.S. right will handle the revelation that sometimes, tough guys finish last.”

READ MORE: 'Cancelling' Russia: Robert Reich explains why Putin, Trump and Tucker Carlson parrot the same 'culture war' rhetoric

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