As many on the American right defend Vladimir Putin’s actions in Ukraine or seek to blame his invasion on Joe Biden, two figures in the right-wing firmament have celebrated Mr Putin’s government for its homophobia and transphobia.
On his War Room podcast, former Trump aide Steve Bannon hosted private security maven Erik Prince, the Blackwater founder who has previously been accused of dubious contacts with Russian entities including private mercenary firms. The two of them were discussing the Russian government’s behaviour when their conversation strayed into the subject of “wokeness”.
“Putin ain’t woke,” Mr Bannon declared. “He’s anti-woke.”
“The Russian people still know which bathroom to use,” Mr Prince said.
Mr Bannon riffed on the theme: “How many genders are there in Russia?”
“Two,” Prince replied.
“All of a sudden, that’s not… They don’t have the flags, they don’t have the Pride flags outside of their…” said the host.
“They don’t have boys swimming in girls’ college swim meets,” mused Mr Prince.
“How backward,” replied Mr Bannon. “How savage. How mediaeval.”
The two men’s conversation aired just before Russia began what has become a full-blown assault on Ukraine involving sea, land and air forces.
Kremlin-sanctioned propaganda against the Ukrainian government and the West has invoked the acceptance of homosexuality and trans identities as a signifier of the decadence that Russia is positioned to defend against.
The US’s representative to the UN in Geneva, meanwhile, has warned that Russia is thought to be drawing up lists of Ukrainians to round up and imprison or even kill, saying that it will “likely target those who oppose Russian actions, including Russian and Belarusian dissidents in exile in Ukraine, journalists and anti-corruption activists, and vulnerable populations such as religious and ethnic minorities and LGBTQI+ persons”.
Steve Bannon and Erik Prince say we should be supporting Russia because Putin is anti-woke and has no tolerance for LGBTQ. pic.twitter.com/qzHl2TkwxJ
— Ron Filipkowski (@RonFilipkowski) February 24, 2022
Issues of trans rights and identities have been seized on by right-wing Republicans in recent years, and their prevailing views on the subject are hardening rapidly.
Texas’s Governor Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton this week announced a new crackdown on access to “gender affirming” treatment for trans children, with Mr Abbott calling for parents who seek it out to be reported for child abuse.