Trump did not defend Western democracies: In fact, he did not once mention democracy in his speech. As for values, he mentions them seven times: First, in the negative -- immigrants who are against them -- and second, in the context of traditionalism.

Trump's challenge to Russia came with an olive branch, offering it a place in a "community of responsible nations in our fight against common enemies and in defense of civilization itself." This signal to Putin that there is a common "civilization" to which the U.S., European nations and Russia all belong -- absent the usual rhetoric of democracy or shared Western values -- is a critical gesture. Previous U.S. presidents have said that Russia has a place in the community of democracies if it chooses to, but Trump's approach was more in line with Putin's own thinking, steeped in traditionalism and history and a narrative of a clash of civilizations.

We have mixed feelings about this. It is clear that the U.S. and its allies went too far in extending NATO to Russia's borders, and have been too aggressive in supporting "regime change" in those areas and Russia itself (the details are, of course, up for considerable debate). However, pulling back on those fronts does not imply abandoning Democracy or Liberalism for a system of nation, religion and family. It does seem that, rather than toeing some sort of line, Trump is simply going with the reactionary pathway. What's worse is that Trump seems to favor this kind of cynical, authoritarian system at home, as well (i.e. scapegoating "foreigners", failing to work with other branches of government, not even caring to carefully work through problems before implementing something....)

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