Making another favourite argument against homosexuality, Putin noted with pride that Russia saw more births than deaths last year for the first time in two decades. Population growth is vital for Russia's development and "anything that gets in the way of that we should clean up," he said, using a word usually reserved for military operations.
Clean up. As in, to cleanse. Cleansing society of "nontraditional" people who get in the way of the strength and upwards trajectory of Mother Russia.
This should all sound chillingly familiar. But Putin's not the first Eastern European leader to talk about the need to cleanse his country of the unpure. Greece's Golden Dawn has been making that same argument, showing just how far they're willing to go in furtherance of a "racially pure" Greece. In Hungary, Jobbik is promising to deliver a safe and security society - just not for everyone.
Economic times are lean, politics has gotten dirtier and angry people are looking for scapegoats. We've seen this before, too.
But back to Putin.
Canadians fundamentally don't get Putin, because there is no one with his profile on our political landscape. We look at the likes of a Stephen Harper as the epitome of political ruthlessness and efficiency, pummelling his opponents with attack ads and talking the tough economic talk.
Yet Harper backs away from tough fights and would never allow himself to be photographed topless in fatigue pants, sporting a rifle.
Putin isn't so obsessed with political attack ads and trying to undermine the very existence of political parties he doesn't like. To him, that's amateur-hour. When Putin wants someone gone, they disappear.
Whereas Harper was horrified at the video he saw of Ashley Smith's time in prison, Putin would likely have shaken his head at the inefficient approach of the prison guards. Where Obama hummed and hawed over the risks of collateral damage and brand risk with the assassination of Osama bin Laden, Putin has no such reservations.
Putin is former KGB. He's a bully. He thinks he's smarter than you and knows that he's stronger than you.
He's not pompous and delusional in the manner of a Muammar Gaddafi; he's not a cartoon caricature of the moustache-twitching bad guy. Putin wears suits, takes part in photo ops, does the head-of-state thing. As such it's easier, even more comfortable for us to view him through the political lens with which we're familiar. But make no mistake - when he talks about cleansing and population, he's circling around a final solution.
Putin will not have articulated this sentiment - few ever do - but he likely feels about homosexuality the way he would about a virus like ebola; it's a contagion that threatens the health of his country. There's a set trajectory that gets followed when leaders try to protect majority populations from infections:
- defining at-risk populations
- screening and surveillance
- controlling the infected groups through containment
- removal of the cause of infection, preventing further transmission
- cycle back to A with greater vigour
It's what the Nazi death camps were for. The SS in particular were neat freaks - it's why the analogy between Jews and rabid rats was so psychologically effective. But removing risky populations was what Soviet Gulags were for, too. Of course as goes on, the scope of risky infections starts to spread; minority groups threaten the health of the majority population.
So do new ideas that seek to corrupt traditional culture. To protect against the waves of troubles lapping at the shores of the nation, leaders must consolidate power. It's a vicious cycle.
Of course, homosexuality isn't an infection, no matter how people like Putin feel about it. It's a mix of genetics (sexual inclinations) and culture (definitions of sexuality). Believe it or not, but not everyone breaks down their categories of sexual preference into "straight" or "gay." Some societies have three genders, while in some cultures, individuals are believed to swap genders over the course of their lives.
However you define it, though, homosexuality is natural - not a perversion, nor a corruption, but something that is repeatedly witnessed throughout the animal kingdom. It's just part of the great genetic soup that allows for adaption to changing environments.
So Putin is entering into a battle he cannot hope to win - but because he's so confident in his strength and power, the odds of him recognizing this fact are minimal. So it'll get worse until he's gone, and probably continue to be be had long after.
Here lies a tragic irony. By trying to eliminate undesirable minorities, Putin is doing the same thing as the terrorists who are threatening to muck up his Olympics. Extremist groups, be they Vilyat Dagest or Branch Davidians works the same way, only from the position of a minority. To them, psychologically, the rabid hordes of the inferior majority are like zombies, an infectious threat to be walled off or better yet, eliminated.
The Jewish threat, the Red Scare or the belief that America Stands Alone while Europe is Islamified; broken down, there's no difference between these points of view and the fear of any viral infection.
It should come as no surprise that the tactics used by tyrants and terrorists are the same; the biggest difference is that heads of state have access to more resources.
There are far too many leaders out there today trying to cleanse their countries of undesirables. The longer the rest of us choose to avoid getting dirty, the messier things are going to get.