I hadn’t gotten to read, until this morning, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s little op ed he penned for the NYT about Syria’s chemical weapons.
Syria has long been a Russian pet, and Putin’s op ed is intended to put pressure on the Obama administration not to attack Syria.
Having finally looked at the Putin propaganda piece, I was struck by two parts. First, Putin’s invocation of international law and order. It’s not entirely clear when Putin has ever cared about the law. Order, absolutely. Law, not so much.
But there’s another problem for Putin. His comments about Syria directly contradict Russia’s comments, and actions, about their years-long draconian crackdown on gay and trans Russians.
First, Putin’s bizarre and sudden love of international law, from the NYT piece:
From the outset, Russia has advocated peaceful dialogue enabling Syrians to develop a compromise plan for their own future. We are not protecting the Syrian government, but international law. We need to use the United Nations Security Council and believe that preserving law and order in today’s complex and turbulent world is one of the few ways to keep international relations from sliding into chaos. The law is still the law, and we must follow it whether we like it or not….
Yeah, here’s the problem for Putin. Russia’s new anti-gay “propaganda” law violates international law. But Putin is fine with violating international law when it comes to bashing gays. Putin only has a problem with disobeying international law when someone wants to bash mass-murdering genocidal maniacs, then suddenly he’s a fan of the law.
You can take the man out of the KGB, but…
Here’s some background from Wikipedia on the international legal situation concerning Russia’s anti-gay “propaganda” law:
Russia has recently received criticism from around the world and across the international community for enacting a law that bans the distribution of “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” to minors. Under the Russian statute, it is a criminal act to hold any sort of public demonstration in favour of gay rights, speak in defense of gay rights or distribute material related to gay rights, or to state that gay relationships are equal to heterosexual relationships. International human rights organisations and the governments of developed democracies have condemned the Russian law. The United Nations and European regional institutions have called for it to be repealed, making clear that the Russian law in question as well as other infringements of LGBT rights in the country are a direct violation of international human rights law, including the right of children to receive proper information, and of Russia’s international obligations. The Council of Europe has called on Russia to protect LGBT rights fully, the European Court of Human Rights has fined Russia for infringements of LGBT rights, and the UN Human Rights Committee has ruled that the Russian gay “propaganda ban” in question is inadmissible under international law.
Oops. So, Vladimir Putin doesn’t really care at all about international law, unless he sees it serving his own personal dictator-loving self-interest.
But there’s more from the Putin op ed:
It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.
“Extremely dangerous” to see yourself as exception. Really?
Funny, but that’s exactly what Russia is claiming with regards to its anti-gay crackdown, that Russia is unique, and much better than godless Europe, which Russian legislators refer to as “Sodom and Gomorrah.” Thus, they argue, Russia has no obligation to obey European, or international, law when it comes to the human rights of LGBT people.
Let’s hear a bit from Russian lawmaker Alexei Zhuravlyov, who just proposed legislation to take kids away from gay parents:
Asked whether Russia should contemplate leaving the EU as more anti-LGBT laws are introduced — in opposition to the strong human rights focus of the EU — he compared Europe to the biblical cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. “We view Europe as Sodom and Gomorrah. Europe must not tell us how to live. The Europeans can live any way they like, but they mustn’t tell us what to do. If negotiations about a visa-free space mean that our streets should have gay parades marching around, I am categorically against international relations of that kind and shall speak out against them.”
So, in fact, Russia has no interest in international law, unless its to protect Putin’s favorite mass-murdering dictator.
One final point. Did you catch Putin’s last line from op ed, the one where he invokes God?
We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.
We are all different but we must not forget that god created us equal? Vladimir Putin thinks we’re all equal under God, and that we must respect our differences? Really?
Well, only if you’re a Syrian dictator who gasses your own people. If you’re a gay Russian, not so much.
UPDATE: Okay, so it’s not just me. Human Rights Watch also had some issues with Putin’s declared new love of democracy and the rule of law:
Finally, the sincerity of Putin’s talk about democratic values and international law is hard to take seriously when back home his own government continues to throw activists in jail, threatens to close NGOs, and rubber-stamps draconian and discriminatory laws.
President Putin should give more credit to his audience: Russia will be judged by its actions, both on the international arena and domestically. So far, Russia has been a key obstacle to ending the suffering in Syria. A change towards a more constructive role would be welcome. But a compilation of half-truths and accusations is not the right way to signal such a change.
CNN’s host just weighed in as well:
“I just want to hone in on the hypocrisy, I would just have two words for Vladimir Putin: Gay rights.”
AND ANOTHER UPDATE: The Russian government has just invoked the anti-gay “propaganda” law in order to threaten a popular TV station that showed an award-winning film, “Les Chansons d’Amour,” which included some same-sex love scenes. Can’t you just smell the respect for international law?