Later this week President Obama will meet with a few Russian LGBT organizations to address the Russian government’s anti-gay agenda. But will his visit with activists do anything to impact homophobia in Russia?
A few months ago after Russia decided to grant NSA leaker Edward Snowden amnesty, President Obama cancelled plans for a one-on-one meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin in Moscow, at a gathering for some of the world’s most powerful leaders coined the G20 summit.
Originally, POTUS claimed he took the sit down with Putin off the table because he felt the meeting would be fruitless, and given the longstanding tense relationship between Russia and the US this made sense.
But the president also shared some remarks blaming Russia’s latest anti-gay vendetta as an additional deterrent. Now Obama will join Russian gay activists and a few organizations for a meeting where they will likely discuss the situation in Russia since the government began publicly discriminating against the LGBT community. Normally something like this would mean massive progress in the fight to address and eradicate these human rights abuses in Russia.
However, in light of the possibility of war with Syria, Obama is putting his differences with Putin aside and will have a private chat with him in between meetings. The encounter is sure to be tense as Obama made a bold and unprecedented move by actually declining such an important get together in the first place, on top of the fact that POTUS has undoubtedly shown public support for Russia’s gay community.
Yet realistically, it’s safe to assume the homophobic atrocities that the Russian government are responsible for won’t be mentioned during Obama and Putin’s meeting whatsoever. Instead, the two leaders will hash it out over whether or not it was Bashar al-Assad that used chemical weapons against Syrian innocents.
Plus, Putin told the Associated Press that he doesn’t believe gay people are discriminated against in Russia.
I assure you that I work with these people, I sometimes award them with state prizes or decorations for their achievements in various fields…We have absolutely normal relations, and I don’t see anything out of the ordinary here.
The Russian president went on to say that gay athletes and spectators will not be punished for wearing rainbow flags at the Sochi olympic games.
So it seems cut and dried that Putin is trying to preemptively address the current state of affairs in Russia as it relates to gay rights in order to trivialize the issue but also to put it on the back burner so he and the Russian government can fully focus on the crisis with Syria.
As it stands Russia is a loose ally of Syria and is against the US intervening in the Syrian civil war, unless there is solid proof that Assad committed these acts in which case Russia will back the use of force but only if it’s brought to the UN security council and held to a vote.
That said, the most Obama can offer Russian LGBT activists and organizations is a sympathetic ear and hope. Chances are that at this stage of the dilemma, neither will be enough to impact the down pour of homophobia and anti-gay violence going on, that Putin doesn’t believe is going on.
But when it’s considered illegal to be openly gay, that is by definition discrimination against gay people.