The recent developments in Ukraine, particularly the prevailing suspicion that Vladimir Putin is orchestrating the pro-Russian grip on the peninsula, has highlighted a recent comment made by former US presidential adviser, Pat Buchanan concerning the similarities between the Russian leadership and right-wing conservatives in the US.
Whether or not you agree with same-sex marriage, abortion, or any other development that tears up the old world order, unless you look at them through a religious prism it is inescapable to conclude that the equality of individual rights – dare I say it human rights – should be unequivocally and universally respected. However, late last year, Buchanan, a Republican political commentator, wrote in his blog “Is Vladimir Putin a paleoconservative? In the culture war for mankind’s future, is he one of us?” The very idea that one of America’s foremost, right-wing thinkers should put into words the idea that Putin shares enough common values with US-style conservatism to make them ‘on the same side’ is frightening enough, but the infusion of this belief in a fundamentally religious teacup is alarming and deeply concerning.
Setting out his stall alongside the Russian president, Buchanan observed that “privacy and freedom of thought, religion and speech are cherished rights [but] to equate traditional marriage and same-sex marriage is to equate good with evil”, and concluded that Putin is not wrong in saying that he can speak for much of mankind because he has said that “destruction of traditional values” in these countries comes “from the top” and is “inherently undemocratic because it is based on abstract ideas and runs counter to the will of the majority of people”, though neither Putin nor Buchanan offer any evidence to support their mutual assertion that such values lack the support of the host population.
Consider, if you will, that the USSR was dissolved specifically because it was predicated on a lack of individual freedoms and that since that dissolution the oligarchs have plundered the former state assets and industries to enrich themselves almost beyond measure, having brought about the election of a president who has never worked for anyone but the government and who declared earnings of 5.7 million roubles (£119,000) last year but owns about 4.5% stake in Gazprom worth £8 billion , 37% in Surgutneftegaz valued at approximately £12 billion and 50% in the oil-trading company Gunvor, worth £5bn. By a very conservative estimate it all adds up to more than £25 billion in total net worth, which easily makes him the richest man in Russia, whilst never having had a declared income by which he could have acquired such wealth. Despite that fact, Putin somehow finds it reasonable to take the moral high ground. Camels and needles are obviously set aside, let alone how he found the wealth to fill the camel’s saddlebags.
Russia is seemingly leading the world’s anti-abortion, anti-gay movement and the use of religious belief to support their prejudice is alluring to men like Buchanan, who are short on egalitarianism but big on religion and wealth. Gays in Russia are routinely menaced and beaten by white Russian’s citing ‘Russian values’. Newspapers and media outlets are shut down and journalists are murdered. Russia’s continual intimidation and harassment of gay people, feminists, political activists, dissenters, journalists and those trying to resist its ethnonationalist aspirations ought to be causing grave concern to a democratic politician of any hue, including the nauseating Mr. Buchanan. If we do not heed the warnings, the new world order will be predicated on an avalanche of intolerance, violence, thuggery and deceit.