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CNS' Russia-Friendly Columnists

When columnists weren't defending Russia's invasion of Ukraine, they were bashing NATO and criticizing the U.S. for bothering to defend Ukraine.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 6/15/2022

Pat Buchanan just loves it when Vladimir Putin lashes out at the U.S. and President Biden. So it's no surprise that CNS' opinion columnists followed the "news" side in siding with the Russian leader and against Biden. Before the invasion, they demanded that Putin be appeased; afterward, they went isolationist and lashed out at NATO for purportedly provoking Putin by talking of admitting Ukraine into the defense organization. Few of those takes have aged well in the face of Russia's brutality, Ukrainian resistance and Biden holding the line on not directly involving U.S. troops in the conflict.

Let's examine how CNS columnists have served up dubious analysis before and immediately after the invasion.

Pat Buchanan

Chief among these columnists, of course, is Pat Buchanan, whose 1990s presidential campaigns CNS editor Terry Jeffrey helped run. Buchanan has been on this for a while now: In his Dec. 14 column he declared, "Most autocrats are nationalists, not transnational crusaders. It is not Putin who is dividing the world based on ideology," going on to complain that Biden "sees the world as divided between saints and sinners, democrats and autocrats and, by coercion and conversion, seeks to grow the camp of the saints."

In his Dec. 21 column, Buchanan demanded that the U.S. give in to Putin's demand that Ukraine never be allowed into NATO (never mind that it has not been invited to join), declaring that "the chickens of NATO expansion are coming home to roost." He came to Putin's defense again in his Jan. 4 column, asserting that "The heart of Greater Russia as one ethnic, cultural and historic nation consists not only of Russia but also of Belarus and Ukraine" and that "What the U.S. should do in this Ukrainian crisis is to avoid a war with Russia, avoid an escalation, and leave our adversary with an honorable avenue of retreat."

Buchanan ranted against further NATO expansion in his Jan. 11 column in order to placate Russia: "With NATO's continuous post-Cold War expansion into Central and Eastern Europe, America has to ask: If the risk of war with Russia grows with each new member on its borders admitted to NATO, why are we doing this? Is there no red line of Putin's Russia we will not cross?" He used his Jan. 18 column to again demand that Biden capitulate to Putin and not let Ukraine or any other former Soviet countries into NATO: "Indeed, if the purpose of NATO is the defense of Europe from a revanchist Russia, why would we extend NATO so far to the east that it provokes Russia into attacking its neighbors in Europe?" Buchanan repeated that capitulation message on Feb. 1: "What the U.S. needs to do is to say with clarity that while Ukraine is free to apply to NATO, NATO is free to veto that application, and the enlargement of NATO beyond its present eastern frontiers is over, done."

In his Feb. 8 column, Buchanan portrayed Putin as an American-style president who's just seeking his own Monroe Doctrine:

Whether Russian President Vladimir Putin intends to send his 100,000 troops now on the Crimean, Donbass and Belarusian borders of Ukraine into the country to occupy more territory we do not know.

But the message being sent by the Russian army is clear: Putin wants his own Monroe Doctrine. Putin wants Ukraine outside of NATO, and permanently.


Again, Putin's demands that ex-Warsaw Pact countries and Soviet republics be kept free of NATO installations, and that the enlargement of NATO end, if agreed to, would leave Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova and Belarus permanently outside.

But if Moscow is going to push to remove NATO forces from its borderlands, this means an endless series of diplomatic-military clashes or a U.S. recognition of a Russian sphere of influence where NATO does not go.

In short, a Putin Monroe Doctrine.

Buchanan used his Feb. 18 column to cheer that Putin had effectively won -- and Biden had lost -- the first round of the Ukraine crisis:

Again, if Putin has been given private assurances that Ukraine will never be a member of NATO, he would appear to have gotten his nonnegotiable demand, as long as he does not crow about his victory.

And if Ukraine is not going to be a member of NATO, Georgia, a far smaller and far less populous nation, even farther east than Ukraine, is not going to become a NATO member either.

Who in the West, outside of Kyiv, is now demanding it?


Putin does not threaten any vital interest of the United States and does not want war with the United States. But, as a great power, Russia claims a right to secure, peaceful and friendly borders, free of military alliances designed to circumscribe, contain and control it.

And the protests Moscow is making are not without validity?

Now that the Soviet Empire is dead, the Soviet Union is dead. Communism is dormant, and the USSR has devolved into 15 nations; why did we move our Cold War alliance onto Moscow's front porch?

Would we tolerate this?


Can we not understand the rising rage in Moscow as we convert all its former Warsaw Pact allies and ex-republics of the USSR into member states of a military alliance established to contain and control Russia?

Meanwhile, Buchanan served up more praise for Putin and NATO-bashing in his Feb. 25 column:

Putin did exactly what he had warned us he would do.

Whatever the character of the Russian president, now being hotly debated here in the USA, he has established his credibility.

When Putin warns that he will do something, he does it.


Whatever we may think of Putin, he is no Stalin. He has not murdered millions or created a gulag archipelago.

Nor is he "irrational," as some pundits rail. He does not want a war with us, which would be worse than ruinous to us both.

Putin is a Russian nationalist, patriot, traditionalist and a cold and ruthless realist looking out to preserve Russia as the great and respected power it once was and he believes it can be again.

But it cannot be that if NATO expansion does not stop or if its sister state of Ukraine becomes part of a military alliance whose proudest boast is that it won the Cold War against the nation Putin has served all his life.

President Joe Biden almost hourly promises, "We are not going to war in Ukraine." Why would he then not readily rule out NATO membership for Ukraine, which would require us to do something Biden himself says we Americans, for our own survival, should never do: go to war with Russia?

Buchanan's column did not age well at all. Yet he has kept up that pro-Russia, anti-NATO narrative up during the war:

  • In a March 4 column, Buchanan complained that the U.S. would be obligated to defend Estonia if Russia invades it because it's a NATO member, further whining that "Whether we go to war for a nation that was formerly part of the Soviet bloc should be a matter for decision by the Americans of that day and time — not mandated, not dictated by our signature on a 73-year-old treaty, devised for another era and another world."
  • Buchanan raged against NATO again on March 8, pondering, "Did Ukraine's trolling for membership in NATO trigger Putin's war?"
  • Buchanan was upset in his March 11 column about the prospect of Sweden and Finland joining NATO: "But Finland is the size of Germany and has an 833-mile border with Russia, which would be NATO's largest. Is it really credible that the U.S. would declare war or go to war with Russia to secure Finland's border?"
  • He argued for isolationism in his March 18 column: "America's desire today may be to inflict a defeat on Putin's Russia. U.S. vital national interests, however, dictate a negotiated peace."
  • In his March 22 column, Buchanan demanded "a formal declaration by Kyiv that it will never join a NATO alliance created to contain Russia and, if necessary, defeat Russia in a war" as a condition to end the fighting.
  • Buchanan used his March 25 column to blame Ukraine for fighting back and making Russia think about using nuclear weapons against it: "When did the relationship between Russia and Ukraine become a matter of such vital interest to the U.S. that we would risk war, possible nuclear war, with Russia over it?"
  • Buchanan was calling for capitulation again in his April 8 column, after noting that "Ukraine and Russia have suffered greatly" from the war: "Thus, the sooner this war ends, the better for us and our friends — even if it means having to talk to the man Biden cannot stop calling a war criminal and clamoring for his prosecution."
  • He freaked out again about Sweden and Finland joining NATO in his April 15 column: "Why is it wise for us to formally agree, in perpetuity, as NATO is a permanent alliance, to go to war with Russia, for Finland? ... Russia's invasion of Ukraine today is partly due to the U.S. and Ukraine's refusal to rule out NATO membership for Kyiv."

CNS sure seems to like columnists who will blame anyone but Russia for invading Ukraine. Because Jeffrey is such a close buddy of Buchanan, he can't see how bad it makes CNS look to have such a pro-Putin, anti-American columnist.

Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow, of the libertarian Cato Institute, was in the appeasement and isolationist camp in his Jan. 27 column, which began by whining, "What is it about Republican legislators that makes them so fond of wreaking death and destruction upon others?" He then went on to write that "Nothing suggests that Putin wants what can never be given."

Bandow went full isolationist in a Feb. 28 column, writing of Ukraine: "Stuck in a bad neighborhood, it faces a limited invasion by Russia. Such a conflict, though horrific, would have little direct impact on America." He then seemed to justify the invasion: "No doubt Kyiv is stuck in a bad neighborhood and Moscow is acting badly. However, throughout most of America’s history Ukraine was part of the Russian Empire and then the Soviet Union."

Bandow continued his isolationism in his March 2 column, while finally admitting the war is not justified:

Russia has done a great wrong against Ukraine and the Ukrainian people. And the American people personally need not remain "impartial in thought as well as in action," as President Woodrow Wilson once demanded. Even now many are organizing to aid Kyiv’s cause.

However, Washington must stay out of the conflict. As painful as it might be to some, America’s role really is to look "on from a distance." In that way it best serves those to whom it is responsible, the American people.

In his March 7 column, Bandow's isolationism continued:

Vladimir Putin’s government bears responsibility for the terrible crime of invading Ukraine. However, American arrogance, ignorance, and recklessness contributed to today’s crisis. As Washington responds to Russian aggression it also should learn from its past mistakes. Otherwise, history seems bound to repeat itself with deadly consequences.

That link goes to a column he wrote last year complaining that talk of admitting Ukraine into NATO was not "reassuring for Moscow" and that it "turned the Putin government hostile."

In his April 4 column, Bandow was still trying to find a way to blame to U.S. for Russia's invasion by talk of NATO:

Vladimir Putin and his ruling coterie are responsible for the unjustified and illegal invasion of Ukraine. Western policy toward Moscow since the Soviet collapse was foolish, even reckless, but that in no way justified the Russian attack. The Putin regime is responsible, and its crime will prove disastrous for the Russian as well as Ukrainian people.

Yet blame for the tragedy now befalling Ukraine – thousands of dead, millions of refugees, major cities bombarded, economy disrupted, society ravaged – is shared by the U.S. Washington again has demonstrated that its policies matter to the world. Usually in a horrifically negative way.

As has been oft detailed in recent days, the U.S. and European states blithely ignored multiple assurances made to both the Soviet Union and Russia that NATO would not be expanded up to their borders. The allies also demonstrated their willingness to ignore Moscow’s expressed security interests with the coercive dismemberment of Serbia, "color revolutions" in Tbilisi and Kyiv, and especially support for the 2014 street putsch against Ukraine’s elected, Russo-friendly president.

Whether such actions should have bothered Moscow isn’t important. They did, and perceptions are what matter. In this case, perception was reality. Indeed, Washington would never have accepted equivalent behavior by Russia in the Western hemisphere – marching the Warsaw Pact or Collective Security Treaty Organization up to America’s borders, backing a coup in Mexico City or Ontario, and inviting the new government to join the military alliance. The response in Washington would have been explosive hysteria followed by a tsunami of demands and threats. There would have been no sweet talk about the right of other nations to decide their own destinies.

Again, not aging well.

Ted Galen Carpenter

A Feb. 8 column by Ted Galen Carpenter lamented that "U.S. assistance to anti-Russian guerrillas would further poison bilateral relations" and that "actively assisting Ukrainian resistance forces could prove embarrassing and discrediting for professed U.S. commitments to liberty and democracy." Carpenter went on to blame the U.S. for the situation: "If Washington had not foolishly pushed the expansion of NATO to Russia’s borders and interfered in Ukraine’s internal affairs, turning the nation into a Western political and military client, Moscow would have few reasons to make trouble for the United States."

Carpenter returned for a Feb. 22 column whining that "Foreign policy hawks in the United States habitually equate a noncommunist Russia with the totalitarian Soviet Union, insisting that today's Russia is not the USSR and softpedaling Putin by comparison: "Politically, Putin’s rule embodies a conservative authoritarianism, not the outsized, revolutionary ambitions of the USSR’s communist rulers."

Carpenter served up another NATO-blaming column on Feb. 25: "Vladimir Putin bears primary responsibility for this latest development, but NATO’s arrogant, tone-deaf policy toward Russia over the past quarter-century deserves a large share as well." He also insisted that "It was entirely predictable that NATO expansion would ultimately lead to a tragic, perhaps violent, breach of relations with Moscow."

In a March 22 column, Carpenter complained that "The dominant media narrative is that the U.S. government (and all Americans) must "stand with Ukraine" in the latter’s resistance to Russian aggression," adding that "the purpose of the current propaganda offensive is to generate public support in the United States for Washington’s military intervention on Ukraine’s behalf. This time, the American people need to recognize pro-war propaganda in the news media for what it is, and not take the bait."

Laurence Vance

Laurence Vance, a writer for a libertarian think tank, devoted a Feb. 16 column to parroting non-intervention talking points from uber-libertarian Ron Paul to argue against interfering in Ukraine: "Non-interventionism is practical, sane, moral, just, and right. It is the foreign policy of the Founding Fathers — and Ron Paul."

In an April 4 column, Vance huffed that "Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, some conservative hawks — like those connected with the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) — have been squawking about the need for the United States to not only pay close attention to Chinese leader Xi Jinping, lest China attack and conquer Taiwan, but also to increase aid to Taiwan." He also touted how "Russia’s issue with Ukraine has been admirably explained by David Stockman"; in one column, Stockman called Ukraine a "rump state" run by "anti-Russian fascists and oligarchs" and that the "obvious solution" to the war is for Ukrainian leader Volodomyr Zelensky to resign, give Russia the Crimea and the Donbas region and amending Ukraine's constitution "to prohibit its joining NATO or any similar western alliance, while reducing its military to a domestic law enforcement agency."

Jose Nino

Jose Nino argued for dissolving NATO in a Feb. 21 column because it "has done scant little to uphold middle American interests" and "would incentivize countries to pursue more independent foreign policies and start taking defense matters into their own hands, like any self-respecting nation that believes in sovereignty should." He also touted "populist presidential candidates like Eric Zemmour" in France, who "have explicitly called for a rapprochement between Russia and France."In fact, Zemmour is a far-right politician, an anti-immigration Islamophobe who has been fined for peddling hate speech.

Nino returned for a Feb. 25 column once again blaming NATO for Russia's invasion:

With Russia launching a military invasion of Ukraine on Thursday, the corporate press has grown shrill in its calls for punishing Russia with draconian sanctions, supplying Ukraine with increased military aid, and diplomatically isolating the Eurasian power as much as possible. The two-minutes hate against Russia has been cranked up to 11, thereby making any nuanced analysis of why the conflict between Russia and Ukraine has reached such a point almost impossible.

The failure of policy wonks to understand why Russia took decisive action against Ukraine is emblematic of a flawed grand strategy that has dominated D.C. foreign policy circles since the end of the Cold War. Once the dust settled from the Soviet Union’s collapse, international relations specialists were convinced that the U.S. had entered an “end of history” moment where liberal democracy would become the governing standard worldwide. Former Soviet Union (FSU) states would be the preliminary trial ground for this new liberal democratic project.

Michael Letts used his Feb. 14 column (also published at WorldNetDaily) to accuse Biden of wagging the dog over Ukraine:

My question is: Why do anything? The U.S. has no vital interests there. Ukraine is not a member of NATO. So there is only one possible compelling reason Joe Biden has to pull the Russian Bear’s tail, putting the U.S. at risk of receiving anything as fundamental as cyber attacks to full-scale thermonuclear World War III.

The reason is ratings.

Historically, being a wartime president is synonymous with high public approval ratings.

George W. Bush was not doing that well until 9/11, when he shot up to a 90 percent approval rating.

But are high poll numbers worth the risk? No.

Are high poll numbers even guaranteed to raise Biden’s chances in a future election? No.

In a Feb. 24 column published several hours before Russia invaded Ukraine, R. Emmett Tyrrell suggested that Putin might be hesitating on an invasion, making sure to take a shot at Biden: "A couple of weeks ago, I saw something in Putin's eyes that I had not seen before. He seemed to lapse into hesitancy. For the first time ever, he seemed a bit flabby. Is he keeping with his martial arts regimen? Frankly, he looked stunned and put me in mind of our almost 80-year-old president, President Joe Biden. Could Putin be giving his grand design a second thought?"

The same day, Ryan McMaken complained that "countless media stories" were trying to link Russia with China, insisting that "Russia is not the geopolitically secure juggernaut many Russophobes apparently believe it to be." He used a March 8 column to complain that the U.S. won't recognize Russia's claimed spheres of influence while pushing its own.

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