Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has become the leader of the free world, holding out against the might of the Russian military and defying the will of a tyrant whom the leaders of the world’s democracies are afraid to confront directly.

At the same time, his military, which the West is arming as fast as possible, includes a small group of extremists and neo-Nazis, including some linked to the 2017 riot in Charlottesville, Virginia, which inspired President Joe Biden’s candidacy.


Earlier this month, a Jewish news website explained what it called Ukraine’s “Nazi problem”: the Azov Movement. It said:

The most known neo-Nazi group on Ukraine’s far right is the Azov Movement. The White Nationalist movement grew out of the Azov Regiment (originally a Battalion), formed in the chaos of war in early 2014 as an anti-Russia militia. … In 2014, the Azov Regiment, which today functions as an armed wing of the broader Azov Movement, became an official unit of Ukraine’s National Guard. … Among those who have trained with Azov are several of the men responsible for fomenting violence at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, according to a joint opinion piece in the New York Times by former Democratic congressman Max Rose and former FBI agent Ali Soufan.

Rose and Soufan, citing the FBI, called Azov “a paramilitary unit” notorious for its “association with neo-Nazi ideology,” and linked it to domestic U.S. terror threats.

The Azov Movement remains on the fringe of Ukrainian politics, and the regiment is only one small part of the Ukrainian military, whose ranks are now swelled by ordinary people rushing to the defense of their country against invading forces.

It would be wrong, as Russian President Vladimir Putin has done, to conflate this marginal group of extremists with the overall Ukrainian cause. Indeed, that Zelensky is Jewish, the idea that he is controlled by neo-Nazis — who hate him — is simply absurd.

And yet according to the logic of Biden and the Democratic Party, the distant link between Zelensky and the neo-Nazi Azov movement should be enough to invalidate the Ukrainian cause.

That is certainly how Democrats and the media treated President Donald Trump, who had nothing do to with the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, when he was falsely accused of not having denounced them. Moreover, Trump supporters who did not denounce them were lumped together with the extremists.

Biden even repeated the “fine people hoax” at the NATO summit on Ukraine in Brussels, Belgium, on Thursday, falsely accusing Trump of links to fringe neo-Nazis, even as Putin falsely accuses Zelensky of being controlled by them.

Democrats, who eagerly applauded Zelensky’s speech in Congress last week with cries of “Slava Ukraine!”, waste no energy denouncing the Azov Movement — nor should anyone reasonably be expected to do so.

But when conservatives or Trump supporters use the equivalent, “America First!”, they are denounced as isolationists at best, extremists at worst.

Somehow nationalism is only tolerated when supporting distant causes, whose moral purity is granted the benefit of the doubt.

Zelensky is accepting help from the Azov Movement for the same reason that Trump was, at times, reluctant to respond to demands that he denounce the “alt-right” movement: he wants to win, and as the underdog, he does not have the luxury of picking and choosing which supporters are good enough to accept into the fold.

Given his dubious, though earnest, effort to link Putin to the Holocaust, one can safely assume that Zelensky does not share the ideology motivating some of his fighters.

The point is not to relieve leaders of the moral burden of dissociating themselves from unsavory participants in their efforts. The point is that there has to be a common standard.

Biden would not denounce the extremists of Black Lives Matter during the riots of 2020; instead, he parroted their false propaganda about law enforcement attacking “peaceful protesters.”

The idea that only American conservatives are judged by a fringe they overwhelmingly reject is both unfair and toxic to democracy.

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