TBILISI, Georgia—Halfway through an otherwise coherent conversation with a Georgian lawyer last week—the topics included judges, the court system, the police—I was startled by a comment he made about his country’s former government, led by ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili. “They were LGBT,” he said, conspiratorially.
What did that mean, I asked, surprised. Were they in favor of rights for sexual minorities? For gay marriage? Were they actually gay? He couldn’t really define it, though the conversation meandered in that direction for a few more minutes, also touching on the subject of the former president’s alleged marital infidelity, his promotion of female politicians, his lack of respect for the church.
Afterward, I worked it out. The lawyer meant to say that Saakashvili—who drove his country hard in the direction of Europe, who pulled Georgia as close to NATO as possible, who used rough tactics to fight the post-Soviet mafia that dominated his country
Who also started ... a ... tank ... war ... with ... Russia, but who can remember that?
—was “too Western.” Not conservative enough. Not traditional enough. Too much of a modernizer, a reformer, a European. In the past, such a critic might have called Saakashvili a “rootless cosmopolitan.” But nowadays the insulting code word for that sort of person in the former Soviet space—regardless of what he or she actually thinks about gay people—is “LGBT.”
It was an eye-opening moment. Like Ukraine, Georgia is a post-Soviet republic that has tried to pull itself out of the sphere of Russian influence. Unlike Ukraine, Georgia does not have a sizable Russian-speaking population, and Georgians even have cause to fear Russia. Since their 2008 invasion, Russian troops have occupied the Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, about one-fifth of the country. Russian tanks are parked a few hours drive from Georgia’s capital.
Yet despite the absence of Russian speakers, a form of Russia’s anti-Western ideology can be felt in Georgia, too. It’s a minority view that drifts in through religious leaders—part of the Georgian Orthodox Church retains old ties to Moscow—through some pro-Kremlin political parties and Russian-backed media. But it finds indigenous support, taking the form of xenophobic, anti-European—and nowadays—anti-gay rhetoric.
I quote this because it's the perfect set-up for my new column in Taki's Magazine.
Keep in mind that I admire Anne Applebaum. She's always impressed me as a good person. Her faults -- she's a little earnest and lacking in self-awareness -- are the faults of good people. She's an above-average quality representative of the American media's center-right, so her cluelessness about who has had the whip hand in World War G is illuminating about the self-interested obliviousness that has been driving this dangerous confrontation.