No one has ever accused President Obama of consistent behaviour, but still.
First he announces that, because of Russia’s beastliness in granting asylum to Edward Snowden, he’s cancelling his Moscow summit with Putin.
Then, in the next breath, he declares that he’ll still attend the G20 meeting in St Petersburg.
I’m confused. Cancelling a meeting with a fellow head of state is tantamount to declaring that Russia is sufficiently hostile to America’s interests to preclude any civilised contact. An enemy, in other words, or at least a potential one.
Yet attending an economic meeting in the same country sends an opposite signal, namely that America’s interests are the same as Russia’s or at least not so divergent as to preclude any civilised contact. Russia is a friend, in other words, or at least an ally.
Hence one may conclude that Obama sees nothing wrong in treating as an economic partner a country that boasts history’s first major criminalised economy. It’s only Russia’s welcome to a minor NSA clerk that upsets him.
However, I know of some Channel Island financial firms that refuse to accept Russian funds. And some Manhattan condominiums refuse to sell units to Russians whose source of finance is suspect, which is to say most Russians who can afford Manhattan condominiums.
Can such outfits apply stricter moral standards than a US president? One gets the impression that, as his administration’s finances get tighter, Obama’s moral standards become looser.
The president made his confused feelings known on an appropriate platform: a comedy chat show hosted by Jay Leno. The Russians, said Obama, really get him going: “There have been times where they slip back into Cold War thinking and a Cold War mentality.”
If by Cold War mentality he means opposing the West all over the globe, then the Russians don’t just do that “at times”. To make sure the fish had bitten, they led the West on for a couple of years after 1991, when, according to our neocon friends, history had ended and democracy had triumphed all over the world.
Since then it has been business as usual. In fact, the much cherished ‘collapse of communism’ was nothing but a transfer of power from the calcified Party to the more flexible KGB. Hence the subsequent change of language, and hence also the continuation of the same policy by different means.
But forget the Cold War. What really makes Russia wicked in Obama’s eyes is its ban on the propaganda of homosexuality to children.
“I have no patience for countries that try to treat gays or lesbians or transgender persons in ways that intimidate them or are harmful to them,” he said. He then implicitly accepted the parallel Leno drew between this legislation and the Nazi Holocaust.
This foul parallel is offensive, stupid and factually ignorant. The Nazis didn’t ban Jews from teaching Judaism in schools. They murdered six million of them. Equating the two events, in however remote a fashion, betokens an atrophied moral sense and never developed mental faculties.
The Russians had their own Holocaust, outscoring the Nazi version several times over. During the 40 years from 1917 Putins’s first employer, of whom he’s still self-admittedly proud, massacred 60 million Soviet citizens, and quite a few others.
It would have been appropriate to mention this in the context, but Obama’s moral indignation doesn’t go that far. He did however hint at the possibility of boycotting the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Again, he took exception to Putin’s promise that the law against homosexual propaganda will be enforced during the Games. This got the bandwagon rolling, and many others, including our own Stephen Fry, have jumped on.
“We wouldn’t tolerate gays and lesbians being treated differently,” said the president. “They’re athletes, they’re there to compete.”
True. But Mr Obama ought to have asked his advisors what events they’ll be there to compete in. That way he would have avoided the embarrassing remarks that came next:
“And if Russia wants to uphold the Olympic spirit, then every judgment should be made on the track, or in the swimming pool, or on the balance beam, and people’s sexual orientation shouldn’t have anything to do with it.”
Any judgment made “on the track, or in the swimming pool, or on the balance beam” would be irrelevant to the Winter Olympics, for none of those is featured there. It’s more like ski slopes and skating rinks, Mr President.
But never mind the details; it’s the thought that counts. Messrs Obama and Fry may not like the idea of protecting children against homosexual propaganda, and they’re all in favour of eliminating the word ‘perversion’ from our dictionaries. Fair enough.
But Putin never said that homosexual athletes would be banned. All he said was that he’d want them to restrict their urge to convert tots to the delight of homosexuality. Surely it’s no hardship to refrain from doing so for a fortnight? “They’re there to compete,” after all.
I’m in favour of boycotting the Sochi Olympics too – but not for such spurious reasons.
Taking part in the event would be tantamount to endorsing an evil regime that tortures, murders or imprisons dissidents and journalists, runs a Mafia economy, supresses civilised liberties and conducts an assassination programme all over the world. Decent people, or countries, would besmirch themselves by having anything to do with such a regime.
But one of Russia’s few just laws shouldn’t be used as the reason for shunning her any more than, say, Saudi Arabia’s much harsher anti-homosexual laws should be held as the grounds for banning her oil imports.
Moreover it’s at best hypocritical and at worst immoral to boycott the Sochi Olympics while attending the Petersburg G20. But then it’s not democracy that governs the West these days. It’s moral relativism, abetted by PC totalitarianism.