On February 21, 2023, Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered his annual State of the nation address to members of both houses of parliament, military commanders, and soldiers at the Gostiny Dvor conference center in central Moscow. The speech came amid a tense standoff with NATO over Ukraine, where Russia has mounted a large-scale invasion since February 24, 2022.
Putin used his speech to accuse the West of stoking a global war to destroy Russia and its values. He said Russia was defending its sovereignty and security against Western aggression and interference. He also praised the efforts and sacrifices of his troops in Ukraine, calling them “heroes” who were fighting for “the truth.”
One of the most controversial statements that Putin made during his address was his criticism of Western culture and morality. He said that the West was promoting the “destruction of families,” “perversion,” and “abuse of children” as normal. He specifically mentioned pedophilia as an example of how Western society had degenerated.
“Look at what they do to their own people: The destruction of families, cultural and national identities, and perversion that is child abuse all the way up to pedophilia are advertised as normality,” he said.
He also claimed that Western countries were forcing priests to bless same-sex marriages and imposing their views on gender identity on other nations. He contrasted this with Russia’s traditional values and respect for family, religion, and nation.
Putin’s remarks sparked outrage among human rights activists, LGBT groups, and Western leaders. They denounced his speech as homophobic, xenophobic, and inflammatory. They also accused him of using propaganda to divert attention from his own violations of international law and human rights in Ukraine.
However, some analysts suggested that Putin’s rhetoric was aimed at rallying his domestic support base ahead of parliamentary elections later this year. They argued that Putin was trying to portray himself as a defender of Russian identity and interests against an external enemy. They also noted that Putin’s speech reflected his longstanding distrust and resentment towards the West.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has long been known for his desire to become the ideological center of a Global National Conservative (GNCA) alliance described in a GIOR report as follows:
Russian President Putin has expressed an interest in Russia becoming the ideological center of a new global conservative alliance, and European far-right leaders have taken pro-Russian positions based on a similar ideology. Hungary is at the center of a developing alliance between European far-right nationalists and American conservatives that Russia could potentially exploit for use in information warfare. This alliance operates under the rubric of “National Conservatism,” centered on national sovereignty, cultural identity, and opposition to global institutions and representing a potentially radical change for the US conservative movement away from long-held Reagan-era philosophies.
Read the full report here.
Opposition to “gender ideology” is a central issue for the GNCA, and the Global Influence Operations Report (GIOR) reported in October 2022 that Putin had once again delivered a speech in which he extensively referenced so-called “culture war” themes commonly espoused by rightwing/conservative Western elements. In his remarks, Putin referred to “strange, in my opinion, newfangled trends like dozens of genders and gay pride parades.” In December 2022, we reported that Putin had signed into law the bill expanding a ban on so-called LGBTQ “propaganda” in Russia. GIOR first reported on the new legislation in early November 2022 when Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeyev told a Duma hearing that passing the law would be part of Russia’s war effort in Ukraine.
We also reported just yesterday that in his own recent State of the Nation address, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban defended his country’s controversial child protection law, which bans LGBTQ content from schools and media aimed at minors. Orbán justified the law by saying that there is no excuse for pedophilia, that children are sacred and inviolable, and that it is the job of adults to protect children at all costs. GIOR reported in October 2022 on the role played by the Mathias Corvinus Collegium (MCC), a Hungarian education facility supported by the Orban government, in disseminating Russian-style anti-LGBTQ propaganda.