Conveniently, Putin didn’t mention what critics describe as the growing level of homophobia and xenophobia in his nation.
As Andrew Rosenthal, The Times’ editorial page editor, later explained, rare it is for his newspaper to carry op-eds from foreign heads of state. They already own powerful pulpits to transmit their messages, he said.
Yet, The Times decided to publish Putin’s piece because of its newsworthiness, a strong point. The Russian president’s final sentences are worth repeating here.
“It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation,” Putin wrote in response to Americans’ belief in their own exceptionalism. “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.”
Putin is correct. God did create all men as equals.
That passage would be spectacular if it had been written by a humanitarian, not a dictatorial former KGB agent.
Putin’s thoughts on Russia’s gay and lesbian communities are well known. Behind his leadership, Russia has instituted a new law that criminalizes public support for gays and lesbians — in essence, the law codifies the discrimination already documented throughout that nation. That law, along with Putin’s views, has rightly worried the International Olympic Committee about the 2014 games in the Russian Black Sea city of Sochi.
In response, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California took to Twitter Thursday morning. “Hopefully, when Pres. Putin says ‘we must not forget that God created us equal,’ he includes gays and lesbians in Russia.”
Human Rights activist Svetlana Gannushkina, told the Los Angeles Times that “homophobia is being sown and nursed in the country on a large scale, officially approved from the very top and backed by restrictive and anti-democratic legislation produced by parliament. The Kremlin is getting more and more xenophobic, trying to direct the growing general discontent in the country towards some vulnerable groups, like gays for instance, who cannot even defend themselves publicly because any mention of their homosexuality can now be regarded as gay propaganda, punishable by law.”
Putin’s trustworthiness in the West is shaky at best. That he would present himself in The Times as a protector of equality and freedom is an insult to people worldwide.