Pat Buchanan has been defending Putin for years as a successful culture warrior defending civilized values against the growing power of liberal nancies. Social conservatives admired his courage in standing up for besieged heterosexuals.
Isaac Chotiner has a piece about conservatives and Putin in the New Republic:
During the nearly 50 year Cold War, Americans were informed time and again by rightwingers that the Soviet Union did not allow dissent, and could therefore pursue its desired policies without protest. While the Soviets were single-minded, we were, yes, decadent. Soviet leaders could fight wars as they pleased, but freedom-loving presidents like Ronald Reagan had to put up with what Charles Krauthammer laughably called an “imperial Congress.” (Some of the same type of commentary shows up about today’s China: look how quickly the Chinese can build bridges! And, as Thomas Friedman proves, it isn’t coming solely from the right.) But more unique among conservatives is the desire for a tough leader who will dispense with niceties and embrace power.
It will be interesting to see how the recent far-right love affair with the Russian autocrat plays out as he becomes a more aggressive enemy of the West.