August 31, 2023 | Townhall

Russia Is Not the Champion of Christian and Traditional Values

August 31, 2023 | Townhall

Russia Is Not the Champion of Christian and Traditional Values

For years, Vladimir Putin has sought to present Russia as the champion of Christian and traditional values. He portrays the West as a dystopia of decadence, where elites push “strange and trendy ideas like dozens of genders or gay pride parades.” In his speech announcing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year, Putin accused the West of seeking “to destroy our traditional values and force on us their false values that would erode us, our people from within.”  

Tucker Carlson just gave his speech in Hungary where he warned that Washington hates Russia because it’s a Christian country. In July, during the Family Leadership conference in Iowa, Tucker Carlson also clashed with former Vice President Mike Pence over the issue of U.S. aid for Ukraine. While Pence and many other Republican presidential hopefuls support a tough stance toward Moscow, some American conservatives sympathize with Vladimir Putin because he purports to defend “traditional, moral and spiritual values.”

But American conservatives should take a deeper look at the leaders who are espousing these values. As a proud conservative raised in the Orthodox Christian faith, I know what they’ll find: blatant hypocrisy and an insidious threat to U.S. interests.  

The Kremlin’s goals are twofold. First, it seeks to consolidate Russian society and legitimize the regime. At the same time, Moscow aims to appeal to sympathetic audiences abroad, including in the West. For example, at recent meetings of Russia’s Valdai International Discussion Club, Putin offered lengthy critiques of Western “cancel culture,” which he likens alleged discrimination that Russia faces from the United States and Europe.

Moscow’s efforts have yielded results. In February, for example, former National Security Advisor Lieutenant General (Ret.) Michael Flynn publicly praised Putin’s defense of “the family and God,” which Flynn called “strong values the West is destroying.”  

Yet for all that Putin touts Russia as a model of traditional values, it’s anything but. As of 2020, Russia had one of the highest abortion rates globally (31.6%), far surpassing the European Union (11.4%) and United States (9%). Meanwhile, Moscow denies its citizens their God-given rights to freedom of speech and the press. That’s hardly something that should resonate with American conservatives.

Russia’s leaders epitomize hypocrisy. On July 19, Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, urged the clergy to abandon “flashy and provocative luxury,” as a cleric’s lifestyle should not “demonstratively contrast with the way of life of the flock.” Yet this admonition apparently doesn’t apply to Kirill himself. He’s been seen sporting a $30,000 Breguet watch and luxuriating on a $4 million yacht and a $43 million Gulfstream G450 jet. A 2020 investigation linked him to multiple million-dollar properties.  

Putin is perhaps the biggest hypocrite of all. He publicly advocates for preserving the nuclear family — yet while he was married to his first wife, he reportedly had an affair with Svetlana Krivonogikh, which is rumored to have resulted in the birth of a child. Later, he divorced his first wife for the Olympic gymnast Alina Kabaeva, whom he has not married and with whom he’s reportedly fathered multiple children— a fact he has sought to keep under wraps.

Some fellow conservatives probably ask themselves how Putin, with his communist upbringing steeped in Marxist ideology that teaches that “religion is the opium of the masses,” would support the Church. For Putin, the Church is merely a mechanism for domestic and international manipulation. This has been a long tactic by Russia’s intelligence. In 2016, Putin signed “laws against sharing faith in homes, online, or anywhere but recognized church buildings.”

Russia’s Patriarch Kirill, who was spying for the KGB in Switzerland not only supported Putin’s aggression in Ukraine but also blessed nuclear weapons. Even his predecessor, Patriarch Alexy II (the KGB code name ‘Drozdov’ (Thrush))was a KGB agent. In 2002, at the opening of a departmental church of the FSB, Patriarch Alexy II blessed the church’s opening. 

These facts reveal Putin’s claims to defend traditional values for the hollow propaganda that they are. The sooner American conservatives realize that they are being taken to a ride, the better.

Ivana Stradner is a Research Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow her on Twitter @ivanastradner. FDD is a Washington, DC-based, nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.


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