Russian President Vladimir Putin sought to cast the United States and the West in general as a threat to Russian culture and values amid near-universal condemnation of Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
Speaking in Moscow last Friday Putin criticized the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization for opposing Russia’s military expansion. Specifically, he claimed that the West was pushing ideas and concepts that social conservatives — not to mention the influential Russian Orthodox Church — oppose.
“[Western countries] spit on the natural right of billions of people, most of humanity, to freedom and justice, to determine their own future on their own. Now they have completely moved to a radical denial of moral norms, religion, and family,” Putin claimed, utilizing well-worn homophobic and transphobic tropes that compare same-sex marriage to polygamy and attack the very concept of gender identity, reports LGBTQ Nation.
Addressing “all the citizens of Russia,” he said, “Do we want to have, here, in our country, in Russia, parent number one, number two, number three instead of mom and dad? Have they gone mad out there? Do we really want perversions that lead to degradation and extinction to be imposed on children in our schools from the primary grades? To be drummed into them that there are various supposed genders besides women and men, and to be offered a sex change operation? Do we want all this for our country and our children?”
Putin’s remarks were a well-timed attempt to blunt criticism from the West of elections, held in Russian-sympathetic territories in eastern Ukraine, in which voters allegedly chose to secede from Ukraine and join Russia. The United States has since called the elections a “sham” meant to justify Russia’s seizure of Ukrainian land.
Putin, a fierce opponent of LGBTQ rights, has in recent years sought to cast anti-LGBTQ views and positions as a distinctive and inherent part of Russian culture, pushing policies like expanding enforcement of the country’s 2013 anti-“propaganda” law — which prohibits the dissemination of information concerning homosexuality and gender-nonconformity to children — to apply to all media, even when content is specifically geared toward or restricted to adults.
The law, even in its original form, has been used to crack down on free expression and silence LGBTQ activists, censor positive or neutral media depictions of LGBTQ individuals, to break up families headed by same-sex couples, and harass Russian citizens.
Putin — and the Russian government — have also looked the other way while Chechnya, an autonomous Russian republic with a majority-Muslim population, carries out an ongoing “purge” of LGBTQ citizens. Since December 2016, police and military officials have arrested individuals suspected of being queer, detained them, tortured them, and placed them under surveillance, often claiming that those detained have engaged in illicit activities such as drug dealings or “terrorism.”
Critics of the Russian government estimate that a few dozen people have been killed as part of the ongoing campaign, in which detainees are tortured and abused until they name other suspected “homosexuals.”
As The Washington Post noted in its coverage of Putin’s speech, the Russian president has asserted that the country will never give up on its attempt to annex Ukraine, and that the West, especially the United States, poses a greater threat to the world than Russia’s authoritarian government — not only culturally, but militarily.
Putin sought to exploit the West’s historic treatment of Asian, African, and Native American populations and its seizure of natural or economic resources during colonialism to claim Russia is defending itself against a greater menace, and invoked the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as “creat[ing] precedent” for the large-scale use of nuclear weapons by countries who possess them.
“Let me also remind you that the United States, together with the British, turned Dresden, Hamburg, Cologne and many other German cities into ruins without any military necessity during World War II. And this was done defiantly, without any, I repeat, military necessity,” he said. “There was only one goal, just as in the case of the nuclear bombings in Japan: to intimidate both our country and the whole world.”
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