Since Russia attacked Ukraine, unprovoked, on Feb. 24, the discourse surrounding the war that has emerged in the United States has created strange bedfellows. Although the majority of the American public, led by U.S. President Joe Biden, have thrown their support behind Ukraine, many on the left and right alike have rushed to defend Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime or, at the very least, have urged the United States not to intervene in Ukraine’s defense.
Tucker Carlson, the face of Fox News and host of the most popular show on cable news in the United States, has been spouting pro-Kremlin talking points for months (and is frequently rebroadcasted on Russian state television). Other right-wing figures regularly spew out anti-Ukrainian disinformation and rail against sending heavy weapons to the country.
Meanwhile, the luminary of the American intellectual left, Noam Chomsky, has invoked former U.S. President Donald Trump as a model of level-headed geopolitical statesmanship for his opposition to arming Ukraine. Left-wing sources—such as Jacobin, New Left Review, and Democracy Now!—have hewed to a party line that blames NATO expansion for Russia’s invasion and opposes military aid to Ukraine.
Online, armies of left- and right-wing accounts find fault with Ukraine’s politics, policies, and president. In Congress, seven of the most fervent conservative Trump supporters voted alongside progressive champions Reps. Ilhan Omar and Cori Bush against banning Russian fossil fuels; even more surprisingly, Omar and Bush are joined by so-called squad members Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib as well as the far-right fringe of the Republican Party in opposing the U.S. government seizing Russian oligarchs’ assets.
All of these developments highlight a bizarre alliance between the two ends of the political spectrum. The question is: Why?
What we seem to be seeing is a modern-day version of the horseshoe theory of politics, where the far left and far right find themselves in uncanny alignment. Although historically maligned, the theory seems to hold remarkably well when it comes to U.S. opinion on the Russia-Ukraine war. This doesn’t have much to do with ideological symmetry, however, or even Russia or Ukraine, for that matter. Rather, it has everything to do with the fraught state of U.S. politics, where relying on simple notions of “left” and “right” or “conservative” and “progressive” no longer serves a useful heuristic for understanding political developments.
Credit: Foreign Policy