By Boyd D. Cathey
January 04, 2015 “ICH” – “Unz Review” – Anyone who has followed the ongoing crisis in Eastern Europe and Ukraine knows the very hostile view that the establishment news media and Washington political class have of President Vladimir Putin of Russia and his policies. In the halls of Congress and in the mainstream press—almost every night on Fox News—serious charges are proffered against Russia’s president and his latest outrages. Sanctions and bellicose measures get enacted by the House and Senate overwhelmingly, with only meagre opposition and almost no serious discussion.
The mainstream American media and American political leaders seem intent to present only a one-sided, very negative picture of the Russian leader.
Various allegations are continually and repeatedly expressed.
How do these charges stand up under serious examination? What is their origin? And, what do they say about the current political and cultural environment in America and the West?
The allegations against Putin can be summarized in five major points:
- Putin is a KGB thug and is surrounded by KGB thugs;
- Under Putin the Russian Orthodox Church continues to be controlled by KGB types;
- Putin wants to reassemble the old Soviet Union, and he believes that the break-up of the USSR was the greatest tragedy of the 20th century;
- Putin is corrupt and has amassed billions of rubles personally skimmed off the top of the weak Russian economy;
- And he is an anti-democratic authoritarian who persecutes homosexuals, in particular.
The charges against Putin go from disingenuous to the dishonest. The “KGB thug” and the “break-up” of the USSR accusations have been addressed in a variety of well-researched books and in-depth articles. The documentation contradicts these allegations, including some charges that have been made by usually conservative voices. It is extremely curious that such ostensibly conservative publications as The New American, for example, find themselves parroting accusations first made by notorious leftwing publicists and, then, by international gay rights supporters.
On the contrary, various historians and researchers, including Professor Allen C. Lynch (in his excellent study, Vladimir Putin and Russian Statecraft, 2011), Professor Michael Stuermer (in his volume, Putin and the Rise of Russia, 2008), M. S. King (in The War Against Putin, 2014), Reagan ambassador to the USSR Jack Matlock, Reagan Assistant Secretary of the Treasury Paul Craig Roberts, former Congressman Ron Paul (his web site, www.ronpaulinstitute.org, contains numerous scholarly articles defending Putin), Reagan budget director David Stockman, and conservative writer William Lind—none of these men on the Left—have pointed out that those allegations have been ripped out of context and are largely untenable. Additionally, numerous conservative religious authors have investigated and defended Putin, including Catholic journalists such as Michael Matt inThe Remnant, Dr. E. Michael Jones in Culture Wars, Dr. Joseph Pearce in The St. Austin Review, and Gary Potter, and writers for conservative Protestant organizations like the Gospel Defense League. Nevertheless, the charges made against Putin are presented as fact by many Neoconservative “talking heads” on Fox (e.g., Charles Krauthammer) and on talk radio (e.g., Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck), as well as by the Leftist establishment media. Disinformation is clearly at work here, even among some of the strongest voices on the American right.
Professor Lynch reveals in his detailed study that the evidence for the “Putin KGB thug” allegation is very thin and lacks substantial basis. First, Putin was never “head of the KGB,” as some writers mistakenly (and, often, maliciously) assert. That is simply a falsehood. Rather, he served as a mid-level intelligence bureaucrat who sat at a desk in Dresden, East Germany, where he was stationed with his family for several years before returning to Leningrad. His job was to analyze data, and he had no involvement in other activities. [Lynch, pp. 19-21] Contemporary American intelligence reports confirm this fact. Indeed, this was one of the reasons that early on, during 1990 and 1991, Putin was considered a hopeful figure among the generation of younger Russians by American intelligence sources.
After the fall of Communism during the administration of Boris Yeltsin, he very briefly served at Yeltsin’s request as head of the FSB intelligence service. But the FSB is not the KGB.
Lynch treats in some detail the question of Putin’s supposed continued subservience to KGB ideology, with particular reference to the events surrounding the abortive Communist coup by the old hands at the KGB in August 1991. Putin, by that time, had resigned his position in the KGB and was serving as deputy mayor to pro-American Leningrad mayor, Anatoly Sobchak, one of the fiercest critics of the KGB and the old Soviet system. It was Putin who organized the local Leningrad militia to oppose the attempted KGB coup and protect Mayor Sobchak and the forces of democratic reform:
Putin played a key role in saving Leningrad for the democrats. The coup, which lasted but three days, was carried out on August 19. That same day Mayor Sobchak arrived on a flight from Moscow. The Leningrad KGB, which supported the coup, planned to arrest Sobchak immediately upon landing. Putin got word of the plan and took decisive and preemptive action: He organized a handful of loyal troops and met Sobchak at the airport, driving the car right up to the plane’s exit ramp. The KGB turned back, not wishing to risk an open confrontation with Sobchak’s armed entourage [led by Putin].” [Lynch, p. 34]
This signal failure in Russia’s second city doomed the attempted KGB coup and assured the final collapse of the Soviet system and eventual transition of Russia away from Communism. It was Vladimir Putin, then, who was largely responsible for defeating and preventing the return of Communism in Russia. It is very hard to see how a secret supporter of the KGB would take such action, if he were actually favoring the return of Communism.
As Professor Lynch recounts:
Putin accepted the irreversibility of the Soviet Union’s collapse and came to terms with the market and private property as the proper foundations of the Russian economy. [Lynch, p.28]
It is true that Putin lamented the break-up of the old Soviet Union, but not because he regretted the disappearance of the Soviets, but, rather, because of the numerous and intimate economic, linguistic, social, and cultural connections that interrelated most of the fifteen constituent republics of the old USSR. His comments on the topic were very clear, but have been selectively taken out of context by the Putin haters. [See the book-length interview with Putin, with comments from other Russian leaders, First Person: An Astonishing Frank Self-Portrait by Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, New York, 2000, pp. 165-190]
Much like the break-up of the Austro-Hungarian empire after World War I, which left significant ethnic minorities cut off from their historic former homelands — for example, millions of Austro-German Sudetens in Czechoslovakia, Hungarian Transylvanians in Romania, etc. — and a number of economically non-viable states in the Balkans, the dissolution of the Soviet Union created the same situation in Eastern Europe. The present intractable crisis in Ukraine is a clear example of what can happen and has happened as a result. It was this situation that Putin rightly lamented; it was this break-up that he foresaw correctly as a tragedy.
The much-criticized—by the American press—secession of Crimea from Ukraine and its subsequent re-union with Russia clearly illustrates this. What too many so-called “experts” in America fail to understand (or, if they do, skillfully omit in their reports) is that Crimea was an integral part of Russia for hundreds of years until Communist Nikita Khrushchev sliced it off from Russia and gave it to Ukraine in 1954, despite the fact that 60% of its population is ethnically Russian and its culture and language completely Russian. [See the Wikipedia article, “Crimea”]
Moreover, the Ukrainian “oblasts,” or provinces, of Lugansk and Donetsk, have a similar history and ethno-cultural make-up. They were arbitrarily added to the Ukrainian socialist republic in the 1920s after the Communist revolution, despite being historically part of Mother Russia for centuries.
Interestingly, at the same time Putin made the “break-up” of the Soviet Russia comment, he visited Poland to denounce and condemn the Communist massacre and crimes in the Katyn Forest at the beginning of World War II, as well as the horrid Soviet gulags. On more than one occasion, especially at the meetings of the international Valdai Discussion Forum in 2013 and 2014, he has harshly condemned in the strongest terms Communism and the atrocious crimes committed by Communists. In so doing, he made extensive reference to Russia’s Christian heritage (also criticizing same sex marriage, abortion, and homosexuality as being “opposed to the most sacred values of our traditions”).
Putin’s remarks at the Valdai Forum in September 2013, in front of representatives from most European countries, deserve extensive quoting. Here is some of what he said:
Another serious challenge to Russia’s identity is linked to events taking place in the world. Here there are both foreign policy and moral aspects. We can see how many of the Euro-Atlantic countries are actually rejecting their historic roots, including the Christian values that constitute the very basis of Western civilisation. They are denying moral principles and all traditional identities: national, cultural, religious and even sexual. They are implementing policies that equate large families with same-sex partnerships, belief in God with the belief in Satan. The excesses of political correctness have reached the point where people are seriously talking about registering political parties whose aim is to promote paedophilia. People in many European countries are embarrassed or afraid to talk about their religious affiliations. Holidays are abolished or even called something different; their essence is hidden away, as is their moral foundation. And people are aggressively trying to export this model all over the world. I am convinced that this opens a direct path to degradation and primitivism, resulting in a profound demographic and moral crisis. What else but the loss of the ability to self-reproduce could act as the greatest testimony of the moral crisis facing a human society? Today almost all developed nations are no longer able to reproduce themselves, even with the help of unlawful migration. Without the values embedded in Christianity, without the standards of morality that have taken shape over millennia, people will inevitably lose their human dignity. We consider it natural and right to defend these values. One must respect every minority’s right to be different, but the rights of the majority must not be put into question.
And Putin gained firm support and endorsement from that inveterate and most intransigent anti-Communist, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Before his death in 2008, Solzhenitsyn praised Putin and stated that he believed Putin’s personal acceptance of Christian faith to be genuine. American ambassador William Burns visited Solzhenitsyn (April 2008) shortly prior to his death and quoted him as stating that under Putin, the nation was rediscovering what it was to be Russian and Christian. [See article atguardian.co.uk, Thursday, December 2, 2010] The great Russian anti-Communist also gave a long 2007 interview with the German magazine, Der Spiegel, saying the same thing. So, then, if the Putin-haters are correct, did Putin fool the great Solzhenitsyn who was by far the greatest and most intransigent anti-Communist of the 20 th century? Not likely.
About the personal corruption charge Lynch offers substantial detail and discusses how it got going, basically spread by Putin’s liberal opponents. To those who suggest that Putin stood to make a fortune off his political choices, Lynch (and others) offers substantial documentation to the contrary:
Putin was not corrupt, at least in the conventional, venal sense. His modest and frankly unfashionable attire bespoke a seeming indifference to personal luxury. While as deputy mayor. He had acquired the use of the summer dacha of the former East German Consulate and even installed a sauna unit there, but when the house burned down in the summer of 1996, his $5,000 life’s savings burned with it. To have accumulated only $5,000 in five years as deputy mayor of Russia’s second-largest city and largest port, when hundreds of less well-placed Russians were enriching themselves on government pickings, implies something other than pecuniary motives behind Putin’s activities (….) In sum, Putin was honest, certainly by Russian standards. He lived simply and worked diligently. Accused by a foe…of having purchased a million dollar villa in France, Putin sued for slander and won his case in court a year later. [Lynch, pp. 33, 35]
Some of the hostility towards Putin emerged when he became interim president of the Russian Federation after Boris Yeltsin stepped down in December, 1999. Putin had established himself as a loyal and forthright political leader since serving as deputy mayor for the pro-democratic Mayor Sobchak. He had also served Yeltsin faithfully.
But Putin was no Yeltsin. While initially following the Yeltsin pro-American and pro-Western lead in foreign policy, Putin was also aware that Russia was undergoing a radical transition from a decrepit and collapsed Communist state to the recovery of some of its older traditions, including a mushrooming, vibrant return to traditional Russian Orthodoxy, a faith which he has publicly and personally embraced. [See various confirming reports, including Charles Glover, “Putin and the Monk,” FINANCIAL TIMES Magazine, January 25, 2013, and video clip. During the days of oppressive Communist rule, the Russian Orthodox Church, at least the official leadership, was subservient to Marxism, with many of its leaders at least mouthing Communist ideas, if not serving as agents. The former Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, Alexei (who died in 2008), had been criticized as a collaborator with the Communist regime. However, the so-called “intelligence proof” that suddenly “appeared” in Estonia stating that he was a secret KGB agent has been placed in very serious doubt (see Wikipedia, “Patriarch Alexei” article). Apparently, the “documents” were most likely fabricated and not genuine. Indeed,as the Encyclopedia Britannica in its biography of him relates, Alexei was “the first patriarch in Soviet history to be chosen without government pressure; candidates were nominated from the floor, and the election was conducted by secret ballot.” Not only that, after the fall of Communism, Alexei publicly denounced Communist crimes and called for the freedom of Christianity in Russia. It became something of a moot point when Alexei died in 2008; his replacement as head of the Russian church was Archbishop Kirill, someone who is known for his staunch opposition to Marxism and his defense of historic Christianity and traditional morality.
As Russian religious scholar Professor John Garrard exhaustively demonstrates in his excellent study,Russian Orthodoxy Resurgent (2008), from 1991 onwards the Russian Orthodox Church began a necessary purification, with older collaborators and Communist agents gradually stepping down or being removed. Today the Russian Orthodox Church is, by far, the most conservative, traditional and anti-Communist religious body in the world. It has gone so far as to canonize dozens of martyrs killed by the Communists and celebrate the Romanov tsar and his family who were brutally murdered by the Reds in 1918. Significantly, since 1991 over 26,000 new Christian churches have opened in Russia, and the fact that Christianity is being reborn in Russia has not gone unnoticed among some Christian writers in the America and Europe, although generally ignored by the secular press. [There are numerous articles and reports chronicling this amazing rebirth, e.g., Russia has experienced a spiritual resurrection, Catholic Herald, October 22, 2014; see also, “Faith Rising in the East, Setting in the West,” January 29, 2014, Break Point Commentaries. Such a phenomena is not some Communist plot, but represents a genuine desire on the part of the Russian people to rediscover their religious roots, ironically just as a majority of American now seem to embrace same sex marriage, abortion, and the worst extremes of immorality and the rejection of traditional Christianity.
In support of his goals Putin has championed Russian laws that: (1) have practically outlawed abortion in Russia (no abortions after the 12 th week, and before that time in limited cases, and also the end of financial support for abortions, reversing a previous Soviet policy); (2) clamp down on homosexuality and homosexual propaganda—absolutely no homosexual propaganda in Russian schools, no public displays of homosexuality, with legal penalties imposed for violating these laws; (3) strongly support traditional marriage, especially religious marriage, with financial aid to married couples having more than two children; (4) have established compulsory religious instruction in all Russian schools (including instruction in different Christian confessions, in different regions of the country); (4) implement a policy instituting chaplaincy in Russian military regiments (and religious institutions now assist in helping military families); (5) have made religious holidays now official Russian state holidays; (6) have instituted a nationwide program of rebuilding churches that were destroyed by the Communists (the most notable being the historic Church of Christ the Saviour in Moscow); and (7) officially support the Russian film industry in producing conservative religious and patriotic movies—interestingly, the most popular film in Russia in 2009 was the movie “Admiral,” a very favorable biopic of the leader of the White Russian counter-revolutionary, Admiral Aleksandr Kolchak, who was executed by the Communists in 1920. The film was supported by the Russian cultural ministry. Can we imagine the American NEH doing anything similar in the current United States? [See reports, OneNewsNow.com, January 23, 2013; LifeSiteNews, October 26, 2011, August 1, 2013; Scott Rose, Bloomberg News, June 30, 2013; see also Garrard on some of these actions]
As American Catholic author, Mark Tooley, has written Understanding a More Religious and Assertive Russia, April 2, 2014:
Putin has formed a close association with Russian Orthodoxy, as Russian rulers typically have across centuries. He is smart to do so, as Russia has experienced somewhat of a spiritual revival…. Orthodoxy is widely and understandably seen as the spiritual remedy to the cavernous spiritual vacuum left by over 70 disastrous, often murderous years of Bolshevism. Resurgent religious traditionalism has fueled Russia’s new law against sexual orientation proselytism to minors and its new anti-abortion law. Both laws also respond to Russia’s demographic struggle with plunging birth rates and monstrously high abortion rates that date to Soviet rule. Some American religious conservatives have looked to Russian religious leaders as allies in international cooperation on pro-family causes.
As the largest nation in the world, with historic connections to the rest of Europe, but also to Asia, Putin understood as well that Russia, despite the Communist interlude, was still a major power to be reckoned with. A reawakened Russian conservative nationalism and a return to the traditional Orthodox Christian faith did not, he initially hoped, predetermine an eventual clash with the European Union nor with the United States.
Indeed, after the 9/11 attack on the “twin towers” in New York, Putin’s Russia was the first nation to offer its full support to and its cooperation with American intelligence agencies to combat terrorism and bring the culprits to justice. Having combated Chechen Islamic terrorism in the Caucasus region, Russia had experience dealing with Islamic extremism. [Lynch, pp. 100-105; Stuermer, pp. 5-6]
Nevertheless, Bush administration Neoconservatives basically kicked Russia in the teeth. With their zealous belief in liberal democracy and global equality, to be imposed on offending nations if need be, as Allan Bloom once boasted, they condescendingly refused Russian collaboration. As leading Neocon publicist and “talking head,” Charles Krauthammer, expressed it, “we now live in a unipolar world in which there is only ONE superpower, and that is the United States.”
The Neoconservative condescension towards Russia, first after 9/11, then with the threatened placement of missiles in Poland, pushing NATO to the very borders of Russia, and finally following the bungled American diplomatic escapade in Georgia in 2008, cemented a conviction among Russians and by Vladimir Putin that the desired partnership with America was unrealizable, at least for the time being. [See Lynch, ch. 6, generally, for a thorough discussion of Russian foreign policy; Stuermer, pp. 196-199]
The desire for Russia to become a “collaborative partner” in any kind of situation resembling international parity was just not acceptable to American Neocons. Whereas Yeltsin had been welcomed in Washington as “America’s poodle,” willing to do America’s bidding, Putin believed that the largest nation in the world, which had thrown off the Communist yoke, merited a larger role. His desire was for a real partnership. But aggressive attempts spearheaded by the United States to incorporate formerly integral parts of Russia—areas that were and continue to be considered within the Russian “sphere of influence,” even if independent—into NATO, largely dashed Russian hopes for partnership with the West. [Stuermer, pp. 191-196] In 1996 the late George Kennan cautioned the American foreign policy establishment that expansion of NATO into those areas “was a strategic blunder of potentially epic proportions.” Kennan warned against a foreign policy that was “utopian in its expectation, legalistic in its concept … moralistic … and self-righteous.” [Robert Sidelsky,Kennan’s Revenge: Remembering the Reasons for the Cold War The Guardian, April 23, 2014, ] Henry Kissinger echoed this warning on November 12, 2014, calling in Der Spiegel the American response to Russia “a fatal mistake.”
Perhaps it is no coincidence that many of the present-day Neocon publicists descend from immigrant Jewish Labour Zionists and inhabitants of the Russian “pale of settlement,” who experienced tsarist pogroms in the late 19 th century and who later formed the vanguard of Marxist efforts to overthrow the tsar and establish a socialist state? Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s mammoth study, Two Hundred Years Together (still untranslated into English, although a French edition exists: Deux Siecles Ensembles, 1795-1995, Fayard, 2002), offers fascinating detail on this process. The Socialist internationalism manifested by those revolutionaries found its incarnation in Leon Trotsky, murdered at Stalin’s orders in Mexico in 1940. Despite the supposed migration of the Neocons towards the political Right in the 1970s and 1980s, the globalist and “democratic” legacy of Trotsky remains a not-so-distant lodestar for many zealous partisans.
At times this paternal reverence continues to break forth, in unlikely sources. On National Review Online, a few years back, Neoconservative writer Stephen Schwartz wrote:
To my last breath, I will defend Trotsky who alone and pursued from country to country and finally laid low in his own blood in a hideously hot house in Mexico City, said no to Soviet coddling to Hitlerism, to the Moscow purges, and to the betrayal of the Spanish Republic, and who had the capacity to admit that he had been wrong about the imposition of a single-party state as well as about the fate of the Jewish people. To my last breath, and without apology. Let the neofascists and Stalinists in their second childhood make of it what they will.” [See Professor Paul Gottfried’s commentary on Takimag.com, April 17, 2007]
For the American Neocons, the emergence of a nationalist, Christian, and undemocratic Russia is perhaps too reminiscent of the “bad old days.” And despite very different circumstances, a non-conforming Russian state demanding any form of parity with the world’s “only remaining superpower” is out of the question.
On the contrary, Boris Yeltsin was a Neocon favorite. Yeltsin’s tenure as president seemed not only to echo a second-rate “America’s poodle” status, his handling of the Russian economy proved disastrous for the average Russian, but lucrative for a handful of Russian oligarchs, who in turn were connected to American business interests. Wikipedia (article on Boris Yeltsin) sums up his actions in this way:
In 1995, as Yeltsin struggled to finance Russia’s growing foreign debt and gain support from the Russian business elite for his bid in the early-1996 presidential elections, the Russian president prepared for a new wave of privatization offering stock shares in some of Russia’s most valuable state enterprises in exchange for bank loans. The program was promoted as a way of simultaneously speeding up privatization and ensuring the government a much-needed infusion of cash for its operating needs.
However, the deals were effectively giveaways of valuable state assets to a small group of tycoons in finance, industry, energy, telecommunications, and the media who came to be known as “oligarchs” in the mid-1990s. This was due to the fact that ordinary people sold their vouchers for cash. The vouchers were bought out by a small group of investors. By mid-1996, substantial ownership shares over major firms were acquired at very low prices by a handful of people. Boris Berezovsky, who controlled major stakes in several banks and the national media, emerged as one of Yeltsin’s most prominent backers. Along with Berezovsky, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Vladimir Potanin, Vladimir Bogdanov, Rem Viakhirev, Vagit Alekperov, Alexander Smolensky, Victor Vekselberg, Mikhail Fridman and a few years later Roman Abramovich, were habitually mentioned in the media as Russia’s oligarchs.
On his assumption of the presidency and his election to a full first term, Putin resolved to end this economic domination by “the oligarchs,” but in so doing, he antagonized their internationalist capitalist partners in the West on Wall Street and in Bruxelles.
During his first term, Putin proved himself to be a clever and resourceful politician. He organized a powerful political base, his United Russia political party, and, like most successful political leaders, was able to parlay his economic successes and a favorable conclusion to the Chechen civil war into a strong base of support across the Russian Federation. Criticized by some domestic opponents for not following punctiliously all the hallmark benchmarks of Western-style “democracy,” Putin insisted that the difficult path to Russian democracy was different than that so often pushed (and imposed) by the United States around the world. Nevertheless, the average Russian citizen experienced more real liberties and more economic freedom than at any time in Russia’s long history, and the credit for that must be Putin’s. [Lynch, pp. 69-74; Stuermer, pp. 199-200]
The continuing charges that Putin is corrupt and has surrounded himself with ex-KGBers have as their origin, not surprisingly, leftist and liberal domestic opponents of the Russian president in Russia, as Lynch, Paul Craig Roberts, M. S. King, and others have shown. In fact, most of Putin’s advisors lack serious earlier Communist/KGB involvement. The charges, nevertheless, have been picked up by the Murdoch media and Neocon press. Just as they had lauded Yeltsin, they quickly turned on the nationalist Putin, who quickly became in the Western press a “KGB thug,” “corrupt,” and desirous of “restoring the old Soviet Union.
One of the major, if indirect, Russian domestic sources for the corruption charges comes via a prolific Russian politician, Boris Nemtsov. Nemtsov, identified as a “new liberal,” is a longtime opponent of Vladimir Putin and a favorite of John McCain and various “mainstream conservatives.” [See,“Russians React Badly to U.S. Criticism on Protests,” The New York Times, January 6, 2011] Over the years he has penned a number of election broadsides and pamphlets, charging Putin with everything from feathering his own “nest” with “billions of rubles,” to election fraud. [See Nemtsov,Putin: What 10 Years of Putin Have Brought, 2010] In each case, his allegations lack the kind of sources to make them creditable. It is as if Al Gore were to have written a pamphlet about George W. Bush in the 2000 election: it and its content would immediately be highly suspect.
That some supposedly conservative American publications and news sources could give these accusations credence just demonstrates the power of the liberal/left media and the international anti-Russian homosexual lobby who have tried desperately to propagate such ideas.
Although the Nemtsov origin for the constant media barrage is important, in recent months the nature of the Western opposition to Putin and Russia has been radically transformed. While Nemtsov’s canards certainly have found their way into the Western press, since Russia’s legal prohibitions (in early 2013) against homosexual propaganda (especially directed towards underage children) and its forthright defense of the Christian institution of marriage, the vigorous opposition to Putin has assumed a “moral” dimension, symbolized best, perhaps, by Obama’s appointment of several over-the-hill, openly homosexual athletes to head the United States delegation to the Sochi Olympics in early 2014.
Such an action demonstrated both the fundamental rejection by the American leadership (and Western European leaders) of Russia’s affirmation of traditional marriage and traditional Christianity, while illustrating the formal apostasy by the West from its own traditional Christian moorings.
Enter Russian-American journalist and author Masha Gessen. Numerous references to Gessen began to appear last year, and soon she was appearing as “the Russian authority” on several of the Sunday morning news programs and as a guest on the Establishment’s special programs dealing with Russia and Ukraine. Repeatedly, she is identified as “the noted expert and author on Russia and Vladimir Putin.” Her 2012 volume, The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin, has been cited on such programs as “Meet the Press” and “Face the Nation” as critical to understanding Russia and its president. She is the most widely-quoted writer on Russia and Putin now in the West.
But just who is Masha Gessen? She is identified by the Wikipedia (not known for its right wing bias) as a Jewish lesbian activist, with dual Russian and American citizenship (how did she manage that?), who is “married” to another lesbian, with a “family,” but who advocates the abolition of the “institution of marriage,” itself.
She has identified herself as a violent opponent of Putin and of traditional Christianity. Yet, her book,The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin, is held up as the best volume on Russia and its president, while even her defenders (writing reviews on Amazon.com, for instance, and elsewhere) admit that her study reads like “one, long, impassioned editorial.”
Let us add that Gessen is an unrelenting champion of the Russian lesbian punk rock band, “Pussy Riot,” who profaned the high altar of one of the most sacred churches in Russia, the Church of Christ the Saviour in Moscow. Her volume, Words Will Break Cement: The Passion of Pussy Riot (2014), is a passionate apologia for that pornographic lesbian band and a vitriolic attack on both Putin and traditional Orthodox Christianity, especially the institution of marriage, which Putin strongly and publicly defends. Her attacks find their way into the whole spectrum of American opinion, including, sadly, into supposedly conservative publications. Indeed, many Neoconservatives are remarkably “soft” on issues surrounding homosexual rights. [See, for example, “Fox News Goes Gay,” Christian Newswire, August 14, 2013; James Kirchick, “Out, Proud, and Loud: A GOP Nominee Breaks Boundaries,” The Daily Beast, February 18, 2014; Andrew Potts, “Fox News commentator Charles Krauthammer calls gay rights struggle ‘heroic’,” Gay Star News, January 1, 2014 ]
Gessen, then, has now become one major source for attacks as well as the “analysis” spewed out by the major networks. As one can see, the real key here increasingly is the issue of homosexuality and the fact that Putin’s Russia defends traditional Christian ethics and has clamped down on gay propaganda. Gessen finds this intolerable….thus, even though her journalistic writing purports to take a researched and scholarly view of Russian affairs, her attacks, the charges of corruption and anti-democratic tendencies, are all subsumed into something much more important to this vocal activist: an all-encompassing passion to advance homosexuality worldwide and an unremitting opposition to traditional Christianity.
But it is not just a prominent and influential publicist like Masha Gessen who identifies the issue of homosexuality as central to the hatred for Putin and contemporary Russia. Gessen’s views are now completely mainstream in the West, illustrated resoundingly by President Obama’s naming of those gay former Olympians to represent the United States at Sochi. The gesture was unmistakable, but its symbolism indicated something more profound in the West’s post-Christian mentality. Indeed, this salient aspect of what euphemistically is now called “defending human rights” underpins EU and American policies towards Russia. Such organizations as the Human Rights League, People for the American Way, and the United Nations have gotten involved on a global level, cementing this template. In the international political sphere, no clearer illustration of this pervasive influence on policy may be found than in the response of close American ally German Chancellor Angela Merkel to President Putin’s criticism of the collapse of traditional Christian morality in America and Europe.As reported by The Times of London, November 30, 2014, Merkel, who had for some time urged a softer approach to Russia and continued negotiations, finally realized:
that there could be no reconciliation with Vladimir Putin when she was treated to his hardline views on gay rights.The German chancellor was deep in one of the 40 conversations she has had with the Russian president over the past year — more than the combined total with David Cameron, François Hollande and Barack Obama — when he began to rail against the “decadence” of the West. Nothing exemplified this “decay of values” more than the West’s promotion of gay rights, Putin told her. The Kremlin and instead should adopt a policy of Cold War-style containment.
And Merkel is not alone. She joins Barack Obama and prime ministers David Cameron, Francois Hollande, and the leaders of the EU in expressing this important underlying rationale for Western policy towards Russia.
It is, then, the formal Western and American embrace of homosexuality, same sex marriage, and other deviations from traditional Christian morality as normative that has opened a steep chasm and motivates zealous proponents, for whom Vladimir Putin and a revived traditional Russia present a distinct challenge to their eventual global success.
It is, then, this rebellion against God-created human nature and against natural law, itself, that is bitterly opposed to Russia’s affirmation of traditional religious belief. It is this divide now that forms the deepest basis of the profound conflict between East and West. Indeed, the world has been turned upside down, with Russia now defending Christianity, while the American and Western political and media elites viciously attack it. As Patrick Buchanan now rightly asks: “On whose side is God NOW on?”
Boyd D. Cathey holds a doctorate in European intellectual history from the Catholic University of Navarra, Pamplona, Spain, where he was a Richard Weaver Fellow, and an MA in American intellectual history from the University of Virginia (as a Jefferson Fellow). He was assistant to conservative author and philosopher the late Russell Kirk. In more recent years he served as Registrar of the North Carolina Division of Archives and History. He has published in French, Spanish, and English on historical subjects as well as classical music and opera. He is active in the Sons of Confederate Veterans and various historical, archival, and genealogical organizations. Small sections of this article were originally published on the Communities Digital News website, April 16, 2014.