To understand the cultural cold war, you must understand Putin’s motives. The ‘containment doctrine’ was the West`s policy countering an aggressively increasing Soviet sphere. A major feature of this tactic was the broadening of NATO, which paradoxically worsened the paranoid expansionist tendencies of Russia.
Putin envisions a new era of Russian dominance. Annexing Crimea killed several birds with one stone. It further destabilised a weak EU, satisfying defeated Russian national psyches, whilst boosting Putin’s personality cult. Cyberspace is another frontline in the cold war, and Russia’s sophisticated propaganda techniques are turning Soviet-era agitprop into 21st century social media.
Putin’s ‘Active Measures’ campaign targets both foreign and domestic hearts and minds by exploiting weaknesses in western nations, such as race relations in the US and the refugee crisis in EU. It also creates domestic enemies out of LGBTs and ethnic minorities, and all with the intention of dividing and conquering on an inexpensive international scale, without a shot being fired.
The Kremlin has systematically dismantled independent media in Russia, intimidating editors and staff to step in line or step down. Newly controlled outlets obediently produce news following the Kremlin’s fairy-tale narrative: Gays and western governments are the monsters to Putin’s Duma knights in shining armour.
The modern media landscape provides a medium for propaganda which Stalin wouldn’t even have dreamt of. Public fears about NATO and Islamic fundamentalism are stoked alongside the scapegoating of homosexuals and opposition politicians, and it’s all given spiritual credibility by the Russian Orthodox Church, which saw a massive upsurge in power since its support of Putin. Both the papers and the pulpit serve the proletariats a potent disinformation cocktail in which patriotism and homophobia are inextricably mixed.
Western outcry against the Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov’s gay concentration camps only reinforces distrust of ‘meddling Europe’. Evidence in a new report by Human Rights Watch (HRW), entitled They Have Long Arms and They Can Find Me, shows that speaker of the Chechen parliament Magomed Daudov personally oversaw the torture of gays. Russia looks the other way because Kadyrov’s brutality serves Putin. Chechnya is Muslim-majority republic, however, Kadyrov’s iron fist provides security and a pro-Russian buffer zone against Islam. In exchange, Kadyrov receives an estimated one billion dollars annually from the Kremlin, to fund his personal feudal fiefdom.