Putin’s Groupies Walk Back Their Praise—His Populist Supporters Are Running For the Hills

From a Wall Street Journal opinion column by William A. Galston headlined “Putin’s Groupies Walk Back Their Praise”:

Vladimir Putin’s populist supporters throughout the West are running for the hills.

Italian right-wing politician Matteo Salvini, an unabashed Putin fan, has condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine but cannot bring himself to criticize his hero by name. Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who palled around with Mr. Putin in Russia, professes not to see today’s Putin as the man he had previously known. France’s far-right presidential candidate Eric Zemmour admired Mr. Putin’s effort to restore “an empire in decline”—until his effort to rebuild that empire went too far. Another French far-right presidential candidate, Marine Le Pen, whose party received a large loan from a Russian bank, was forced to withdraw more than a million campaign leaflets that showed her shaking Mr. Putin’s hand. The Russian invasion has rendered Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban mute, a rare occurrence, and forced him to accept European Union sanctions against Russia.