Trump and some of his advisors (most notably Stephen Bannon) may be operating from a broad, Huntingtonian “clash of civilizations” framework that informs both their aversion to multiculturalism at home and their identification of friends and foes abroad. In this essentially cultural, borderline racialist worldview, the (mostly white) Judeo-Christian world is under siege from various “other” forces, especially Muslims. From this perspective, the ideal allies are not liberals who prize tolerance, diversity, and an open society, but rather hard-core blood-and-soil nationalists who like walls, borders, strong leaders, the suppression or marginalization of anyone who’s different (including atheists and gay people, of course) and the promotion of a narrow and fairly traditional set of cultural values.
For people who see the world this way, Putin is a natural ally. He declares Mother Russia to be the main defender of Christianity and he likes to stress the dangers from Islam. European leaders like Marine Le Pen of France, Nigel Farage of Great Britain, and Geert Wilders of the Netherlands are Trump’s kind of people, too, and on this dimension so are the right-wingers in the Israeli government. And if Islam is the real source of danger, and we are in the middle of a decades-long clash of civilizations, who cares about the balance of power in Asia? [link]