Postliberal Lessons from the Putin Interview
The main takeaway from Putin’s performance is that Americans need to start studying history the right way.
Last night, Tucker Carlson released a two hour interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin. In line with our last “Postliberal Lessons” installment, there are some important takeaways from the interview.
Out of the interview’s 127 minute runtime, the first 30 minutes seem to have made the biggest splash. After being asked why he decided to go to war against Ukraine in February 2022, Putin launched into a college-level history lecture starting all the way back in the 9th century. The lesson spanned the Rurik Dynasty and the Kievan Rus, the 13th century post-Mongol unification of Russian lands, the partitioning of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and eventually the role of Ukrainian nationalism in the Second World War. This monologue was given with the intention to prove that Russia has historic claims to Ukraine; that, as Putin put it, the current Russo-Ukrainian war is best thought of as a “civil war.”
This long response came as a surprise, hence its instant meme-status. Tucker himself said that he was looking for a more short-term justification of the type that Putin himself gave on the eve of the war (about an American and NATO strike out of the blue). The way that Putin prefaced his long-term answer in the face of this expectation was very telling. Putin asked “Are we having a talk show, or a serious conversation?”
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Putin’s distinction between “talk show” and “serious conversation” points to a deeper contrast, that is, between “the American way of viewing politics and history” and “the Russian way of viewing politics and history.” Talk shows are a uniquely American medium. The existence of this distinction is in itself proven by the reactions to Putin’s answer. It is certainly not how an American politician would answer such a question.
This should not, as many conservatives do, be taken as a simple indictment of the American left, or even of the evident bipartisan stupidity among the political class, all of whom are obviously criminally illiterate. Putin’s history lecture is an indictment of even the most sophisticated elements of the American right. Even American conservatives lack firm historical roots.
The proof that even the best and brightest American conservatives are deracinated compared to Putin is clear. Whereas Putin can justify his nation referencing the stories of Russia, American conservatives cannot help but point to the glories of Christian Europe to make their case. Whereas Putin feels comfortable basing himself in the particularities of his nation, American conservatives feel the need to jump to Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, and C.S. Lewis.
“Americanness” does not seem to be as firm a rock as “Russianness” is, as the former feels a desperate need to justify itself with the tales of far-away Christendom. This deracination, in part, explains why American conservatives tend to be more reactionary: Putin has a rich historical narrative of his own to lean on. This gives his vision actual substance and a real vision, something that a Dylan Mulvaney bashing routine could never accomplish.
As for the reasons for this difference between “Americanness” and “Russianness”, they are multifold. However, frankly, without a shared religious identity, “Americanness” will remain a house built on the sand. The Founding, Manifest Destiny, the Civil War, and even “patriotism” itself, explicitly disconnected from a shared faith through which to view history, do not seem to be doing America any good at the moment.
Thankfully for America, Putin does not seem to have caught onto this yet. He speaks of American statesmen, who he accuses of isolating and persistently betraying Russia in spite of a post-Soviet eye towards peace, as being motivated by an unknowable, yet calculated bid for maintained hegemony. However, what Putin does not realize is that American statesmen are not informed by a millennium of baptized national history.
This is not even referring to the Christendom-reliant conservatives just spoken about; they do not work for the State Department by-in-large. In spite of this conservative flaw, the average three-letter-bureaucrat is a liberal, and therefore ten million times worse. Even the “sophisticated statesmen,” like Pete Buttigieg and Barack Obama, are total philistines. They do not know anything about any civilization, let alone America or Russia.
It is up to postliberals — the future leaders of this country — to hit the books hard. “Americanness” as a concept needs to be strengthened and turned into a story through which America can refer to and even justify itself. This can only be done through an informed telling of our nation’s history and a consistent Christian historical understanding.
This does not mean that Americans should “soy-face” at Russia, however. American problems require American solutions. America needs to start studying its own history the right way. Once conservatives manage to correct themselves, they need to boot all the historically and politically inept liberals from the positions of domestic and international power.
The AdamoZone is a column by Luca Adamo, Vice President of Marketing and columnist at The American Postliberal. Published every Friday at 5:00pm EST.
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