Neocons aren't the only Russophobes, of course. During the buildup for this year's Winter Olympics, before the Ukraine crisis broke out, Russophobia was becoming the new hobby of at least a section of America's cultural left. Putin's Russia is seen as a leader in the global axis of homophobia, while Putin biographer Masha Gessen argues that Putin is no mere nationalist but an ideological enemy of the west. Gessen sees Putin as an exponent of a sort of traditionalist cultural nationalism that naturally finds expression in homophobia but is also more expansively opposed to the supreme western ideal of tolerance. Gessen quotes a December speech in which Putin comes across like a strident American right-winger:
Today many nations are revising their moral values and ethical norms, eroding ethnic traditions and differences between peoples and cultures. Society is now required not only to recognize everyone’s right to the freedom of consciousness, political views and privacy, but also to accept without question the equality of good and evil, strange as it seems, concepts that are opposite in meaning....We know that there are more and more people in the world who support our position on defending traditional values. [Russia’s role is to] prevent movement backward and downward, into chaotic darkness and a return to a primitive state.
To some ears that sounds less communist than fascist. Putin seems to subordinate individual liberty not to humanity as a whole or even to a global proletariat but to "ethnic traditions." In an extreme reading Putin exalts the nation rather than the state, though many will see this as a distinction without a difference. You see that Russian chauvinism online sometimes when a Putin supporter claims superiority for the land of Tolstoy, Solzhenitsyn, etc., over 21st century U.S. pop culture, though that's arguably an apples-and-oranges comparison like comparing Hemingway and Faulkner to whatever's on Russian cable TV this week. In any event, Putin's policy sounds like it'd suck for progressive-minded Russians, as Pussy Riot will readily attest, but such a policy is self-consciously defensive. You can't infer from that excerpt any intent to convert outsiders to Russian ethnic traditions; Putin actually affirms cultural difference and claims to defend it against the "chaotic darkness" of western influence. Gessen claims that Putin aspires to lead a global crusade against western decadence, which presumably would make him the enemy of western liberals. That would be so only if Putin sought to suppress liberalism in the United States, though it may seem so as long as American liberals feel themselves entitled to advocate for their kindred spirits all over the world. While neocons claim to champion the small countries who would otherwise be thralls to the local hegemon, liberals champion the sovereign individual whose rights should be the same everywhere on earth, not subject to local cultural traditions. That leaves the world divided between individualists and nationalists, with no one really advocating for humanity as the Communists claimed to. The Obama administration has criticized Russia for "19th century thinking" during the crisis, but the end of the Cold War seems in some ways to have knocked the whole world back in time, to no one's benefit.