Dan Hannan writes for the Washington Examiner about the politicians and pundits outside Russia who help make strongman Vladimir Putin’s life easier.

As far as we know, Vladimir Lenin never used the phrase “useful idiots.” But he certainly recognized the concept. Throughout the Soviet Union’s baleful seven-decade existence, there were plenty of Western leftists prepared to give it the benefit of the doubt. …

… Useful idiots were not, as a rule, corrupt. They didn’t need to be paid to take the Kremlin’s line. Rather, they were motivated by a peculiar blend of idealism, coldness, and vanity. They believed that the end justified the means, that any progress made by The People was bound to cause individual suffering, and that they — unlike most Westerners — were smart enough to put that suffering in context. Being human, once they had picked their side, they genuinely struggled to see it in a bad light, unconsciously screening out facts that might challenge their belief system.

Who are the Kremlin’s useful idiots today? We can spot them easily enough. They are the people telling us that the E.U. caused the war in Ukraine; that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s militiamen had nothing to do with shooting down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17; that Russian interference in the U.S. election is a CIA fabrication; that the attempted murder of the Skripals in England was the work of British spies. Above all, they are shrill defenders of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime, arguing that the evidence of his atrocities is likewise some sort of MI6 plot.