After two decades in the economic basket, Russia is decisively back as an ideological force in the world — this time as a champion of conservative values. In his annual state of the nation speech to Russia’s parliament in December, Vladimir Putin assured conservatives around the world that Russia was ready and willing to stand up for ‘family values’ against a tide of liberal, western, pro-gay propaganda ‘that asks us to accept without question the equality of good and evil’. Russia, he promised, will ‘defend traditional values that have made up the spiritual and moral foundation of civilisation in every nation for thousands of years’.
Crucially, Putin made it clear that his message was directed not only at Russians — who have already been protected from ‘promotion of non-traditional relationships’ by recent legislation — but for ‘more and more people across the world who support our position’.
He’s on to something. Ukraine’s near-revolutionary turmoil this week pits East versus West — but it’s also a culture war between social conservatives and social liberals. The forces against the government in Kiev tend to be aligned with the EU and modern ‘democratic values’, including gay rights; whereas government supporters tend to be more Russophile and their banners include ones that say ‘EURO = HOMO’. These are precisely the battle lines on which Putin has raised his conservative ideological standard.
This is an extract from Owen Matthews’ cover piece on Vladimir Putin’s global ambitions in this week’s Spectator. Click here to read the full article.