Washington Gay Policy Push Counterproductive in Russia

by | Aug 13, 2013

Americans upset over a new Russian law banning “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations around minors” should think twice before calling on the United States government to help their cause. That is the message of Stephen F. Cohen, a professor emeritus of Russian studies at New York University and Princeton University who expresses sympathy with gay rights movements but skepticism of US government action to advance such movements in Russia. As a guest on National Public Radio’s Diane Rehm Show on Monday, Cohen made astute comments regarding the situation. Here is my transcription of Cohen’s comments, which you can hear him present in the discussion that starts at 33:40 in the show:

It’s an odious law. But, first, gay folks in Russia will have to achieve full rights on their own. No outside country or power can do this for them. In fact, Western intervention on this will make the problem for gays in Russia worse because it will fuse it with nationalism, which is already the main rising force in Russia.

Cohen then proceeded to make additional insightful observations concerning the matter. Throughout the show, Cohen shares other interesting comments regarding several US-Russia relations matters, including Edward Snowden.

With US-Russia relations straining, Cohen’s thoughts on the relationship between the former cold war adversaries seem quite pertinent. Cohen, in fact warned in a Washington Post editorial from February that the US government risks starting a new cold war with Russia:

Why is another Cold War possible two decades after the Soviet Union ended? The U.S. policy establishment dates the causes to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s consolidation of power 10 years ago, blaming his policies. A more historical analysis, however, would date the primary factors from the 1990s and locate them in Washington.

Moscow has bitterly resented four components of U.S. policy since they were initiated by the Clinton administration: NATO’s expansion (now including European missile-defense installations) to Russia’s borders; “selective cooperation,” which has meant obtaining concessions from the Kremlin without meaningful White House reciprocity; “democracy promotion” in Russia’s domestic politics, which is viewed by Russian leaders as interference; and the general sense, repeatedly voiced in high-level Moscow circles, that “the Americans do not care about our national security.”

Well-informed observers can reasonably disagree about Putin’s leadership at home and abroad, but fair-minded students of U.S.-Russian relations cannot lightly dismiss Moscow’s four abiding grievances. Unless these components of U.S. policy change — they were not revised even during Obama’s “reset” of relations — another Cold War is exceedingly likely.

Read the entire article, including Cohen’s policy recommendations, here.


  • Adam Dick

    Adam worked from 2003 through 2013 as a legislative aide for Rep. Ron Paul. Previously, he was a member of the Wisconsin State Board of Elections, a co-manager of Ed Thompson's 2002 Wisconsin governor campaign, and a lawyer in New York and Connecticut.

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