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The US Right-Wing Media Embrace Russia’s Far-Right Ideologue

Alexander Dugin at the 2018 New Horizons Conference
Alexander Dugin at the 6th International Conference of the New Horizons in Iran in May 2018.

The sit-down meeting of Tucker Carlson and Russian ideologue and nationalist Alexander Dugin was not coincidental. One of the United States’ most prominent right-wing media figures and Russia’s far-right thinker with alleged ties to the Kremlin were bound to find an echo chamber in each other, a fact not overlooked by the Kremlin.

The interview was published by the Tucker Carlson Network on April 29, but exactly when it took place is unknown. The two men may have run into each other in one of the Russian administration’s waiting rooms during Carlson’s visit to Moscow in early February to interview Putin, then cameras fortuitously appeared.

More likely is that Carlson, invited to Moscow by the media arm of the presidential administration, was introduced to some pro-Kremlin speakers of choice. The Kremlin has been promoting Dugin for a long time, but especially after Russia launched its full-scale war against Ukraine. 

Whatever the logistics of the engagement may turn out to be, the rhetoric if not the substance of the chat fuels right-wing grievances in the United States and unfortunately is amplified by political pundits.

Carlson explains that he could not help but record the thoughts of the Russian philosopher, which, he said, struck him deeply. He posted the interview to YouTube, where he has two million followers.

Why Dugin?

Dugin is important to the Kremlin because he is a radical pro-war agitator. In May 2014, after Russia’s annexation of Crimea, Dugin gave an interview to a Donetsk-based media outlet in which he exclaimed: “Kill, kill, kill those who allow atrocities in Ukraine!” That happened after forty-two anti-Maidan and pro-Russia activists died in a building fire in the Ukrainian city of Odesa during pro-Russia protests that turned deadly. 

Dugin’s position on Russia’s occupation of Ukraine’s territories is, in his own words, “opposition to the junta and Ukrainian Nazism that exterminates civilians.” He is also an ardent supporter of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s steps “in his confrontation with Kyiv and Washington.”

In August 2022, Dugin’s daughter, Daria, was killed in a car bomb attack that, according to U.S. intelligence agencies, was organized by “parts of the Ukrainian government.” Thus Alexander Dugin turns out not only to be a producer of ideas pleasing to Putin but also to have lost a family member to the cause. 

“In his interview, Dugin chose a safe strategy that gives Carlson’s audiences a bearded Russian intellectual critiquing some Western doctrines,” says Alexander Morozov, a fellow at Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic. “This image would ring the bell for some of the Western publics. Dugin’s work is diverse, it has many branches, some of which would scare the uninitiated. He has dealt with apocalypse, millenarianism, occultism, and the problematics of conservative revolution. But in this interview, he is entirely focused on critiquing liberalism, on stating that liberalism is in crisis.”

Dugin’s Positions

Dugin in this interview is playing to the curiosity of Western listeners, on the one hand, and the interests of the Kremlin authorities on the other. Essentially, his position is that liberalism’s universalist (“globalist,” to use Dugin’s term) agenda takes its unwitting followers away from the collective identities of old—the empire, the nation, the family, and a clearly defined gender. Through artificial intelligence, Dugin says, liberalism is threatening to break the last collective identity standing, human personhood itself. 

In this discussion, even the use of the term “liberalism” is questionable. Perhaps sensing this, Dugin calls his target “the new liberalism.” “Basically, he is providing some ground for Putin’s frustration with gender-neutral bathrooms,” Morozov says, referring to the fact that Russian officials distill their understanding of the “decadent West” to the existence of all-gender bathrooms. “He is helping the Kremlin authorities buttress their case for the unprovoked attack on Ukraine and the West.”

What Dugin left out of the Carlson interview is his conspiracy mongering, conspiratorial antisemitism in particular. After a terrorist attack at Crocus City Hall, a music venue near Moscow last March, Dugin implied that the Mossad might be involved. “We shouldn’t rule out any possibilities beforehand,” he wrote. “For example, this could be the Zionists’ retaliation for Russia’s stance on Gaza.”

Misdirects by Carlson

Carlson introduces his interlocutor as a thinker whose books cannot be bought on Amazon, a thinker who is effectively banned in the United States. “He is a writer who writes about big ideas,” Carlson says. These “big ideas” are too “dangerous” for the Biden administration, which is why, according to Carlson, it is prohibiting them. 

The facts say otherwise. At least four of Dugin’s books are currently available on the Amazon website, albeit in Russian, a Daily Beast reporter noted. One of his books is available in English for Kindle. 

As in his interview with Putin, Carlson does not ask Dugin about repression in Russia, about political prisoners or journalists jailed for long sentences for “incorrect” descriptions of the war in Ukraine, or about the hundreds of thousands of political emigrants who have fled their country under threat of criminal prosecution. Dugin was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department for helping recruit people to fight on behalf of Russian forces in eastern Ukraine. Carlson mentions none of this.

But he agrees with Dugin when the latter talks in all seriousness about the threat of a robot uprising and the need to return to traditional values and collectivism.

“We have no other option. Either Matrix, or Artificial Intelligence, or something or Terminator,” Dugin says. But it turns out there is still another option—Vladimir Putin. “Putin is a traditional leader, … someone with a nuclear weapon [who] stands strong defending traditional values.”

During the twenty minutes of the interview, Tucker nods along with Dugin’s speechifying, and at various point agrees: “What you’re describing is clearly happening and it’s horrifying!” He asks a question about “the phenomenon” of “hatred” directed toward Russia by the West—as if the reason for that were not Russia’s attacks on neighboring states, its destruction of entire cities, leading to countless deaths, and the killing of Putin’s political opponents. No, the reason is that Putin defends family values. 

In this way Carlson pushes the Kremlin’s line, and in way that resonates with the hard-right factions in America. This should worry all Americans as the presidential election draws near.

The opinions expressed in this article are those solely of the author and do not reflect the views of the Kennan Institute.

Kennan Institute

The Kennan Institute is the premier US center for advanced research on Eurasia and the oldest and largest regional program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The Kennan Institute is committed to improving American understanding of Russia, Ukraine, Central Asia, the South Caucasus, and the surrounding region though research and exchange.  Read more