Vladimir Putin has a bug up his . . . . Let me rephrase that. Vladimir Putin appears to be obsessed with homosexuality, and particularly European attitudes towards it. This is bad enough on its own terms, but is even worse when one recognizes that eagerness to expound his views on such a subject is symptomatic of a deeper disturbance.
At yesterday’s Valdai audience, he hypothesized that his Bunga Bunga Buddy Silvio Berlusconi’s legal and political problems arising from his, um, relationship with an underage girl were gender-driven. According to Vova, Italians would have been totally cool with it if Silvio had bedded a boy instead of a girl.
That’s one theory.
Now maybe Italians are different than Lousianians, but Putin’s hypothesis about Berlusconi is the exact opposite of that of another corrupt, roguish politician with a horn dog rep, former Louisiana governor Edwin Edwards. Edwards famously opined “the only way I can lose this election is if I’m caught in bed with either a dead girl or a live boy.” Edwards’s political longevity and success in the face of numerous scandals parallels that of Berlusconi, suggesting that Italians and Louisianians aren’t that different after all. I would suggest that there are a lot of similarities between Louisiana politics and Italian. Meaning that I would tend to believe Edwards in these matters, over Putin.
After being condemned internationally for promoting legislation that was aimed he said at protecting minors from homosexual propaganda, he suggested same-sex marriages were contributing to Europe’s low birth rate. “Europeans are dying out,” he said. “Same-sex marriages can’t produce children.”
For one thing, Europe’s demographic decline began long before anyone seriously considered same-sex marriage. So as an empirical matter, this theory makes absolute zero sense.
For another thing: is he freaking kidding us? If gay marriage is why Europe has a low birth rate, what’s Russia’s excuse? Who’s dying out faster? Europe or Russia? What explains homophobic Russia’s “dying out”?
This is mind boggling, really. Russia has had existential demographic problems for more than 20 years. Putin recognizes these problems, and has pushed various initiatives to raise birth rates, with very limited success.
Talk about seeing the speck in Europe’s eye and ignoring the plank in Russia’s.
Reading the coverage of Valdai, the NYT oped, and other recent Putin utterances suggests he is becoming increasingly unhinged. More specifically, he is succumbing to a common malady of autocrats: surrounded by lackeys who constantly affirm his genius, and with no one willing to challenge him, he thinks himself infallible and that any thought that crosses his mind is an amazing insight that must be shared with the world. He feels himself omni-competent, able to expound on any subject. He’s not quite in Kim Jung Il or Kim Jung Un territory yet, but he’s on his way.
And he hinted at Valdai that he will run for president in 2018. (As if this is a shock. Look. Someone in his position cannot play Cincinnatus. George Washington he ain’t-and the Russian Federation isn’t Federalist America.) Meaning that Russia will be ruled by an increasingly detached and delusional ruler until he assumes room temperature.
Great Britain-and the world-survived the madness of King George. But Britain had strong institutions, and as a parliamentary democracy with a constitutionally limited monarch, it could survive the periodic insanity of the head of state. Russia has weak institutions and is a Potemkin democracy rather than a true parliamentary one. Russian government is highly personalized, and highly dependent on the personality of the ruler. As a result, it is much less likely to be immune to the flights of fantasy and whims of that ruler.
What’s more, given that that ruler has pretensions to playing a leading role in international affairs, his delusions will be afflicted on the rest of the world. Obama’s capitulation to him on Syria and Snowden will only feed these pretensions, and Putin’s belief in his genius and omnipotence. So you can chuckle at Putin’s bizarre utterances, but realize that they are symptomatic of a deeper disturbance that will only grow worse with time, with malign consequences not only for Russia but the rest of the world.