Russian president Vladimir Putin said liberalism has “outlived its purpose” and praised the rise of right-wing populism in Europe in an interview with the Financial Times the day before he and other world leaders will gather in Osaka, Japan for the annual G20 summit.
Putin told the Times that liberal leaders “cannot simply dictate anything to anyone just like they have been attempting to do over the recent decades,” further calling liberalism “obsolete.”
He specifically singled out German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s policy of allowing large numbers of refugees into Germany during the Syrian refugee crisis of 2015 and 2016 as “a mistake” and praising US President Donald Trump‘s efforts to limit the flow of immigrants and asylum seekers crossing the US’ Southern border.
“This liberal idea presupposes that nothing needs to be done. That migrants can kill, plunder and rape with impunity because their rights as migrants have to be protected,” Putin said to the Times, adding that “every crime must have its punishment.”
Putin’s comments on immigrants and migration aligned with the views of many of the far-right populists who have risen to power in European countries including Italy, Poland, and Germany. They link migration to increased crime rates and say immigrants undermine their countries’ cultures and national identity.
In the interview, Putin criticized both multiculturalism and the LGBTQ community, saying, “we have no problem with LGBT persons. God forbid, let them live as they wish…but some things do appear excessive to us. They claim now that children can play five or six gender roles,” adding “this must not be allowed to overshadow the culture, traditions and traditional family values of millions of people making up the core population.”
Russia law prohibits the promotion of LGBTQ rights in the presence of minors, a law that critics say has become a de facto ban on gay pride events and activism.
Under Putin, who has served as Russia’s president since 2012 and previously served as its prime minister since 2000, Russia has eschewed classical liberalism and engaging with multilateral institutions in favor restrictive domestic policies that limit freedom of speech, civil rights, and freedom of the press.
On the foreign policy front, Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula in 2014 — which most countries recognize as part of Ukraine – and sided with dictator Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian civil war.
Putin said, however, that he was potentially looking forward to smoothing over relations with the UK and outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May at the G20 summit.
Russia and the UK experienced a diplomatic falling-out last year when they accused Russia of conducting a chemical attack using a nerve agent against former double-agent spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, England, leading May to condemn Russia and expel dozens of Russian diplomats.
While Putin continues to deny any involvement in the attack, he told the Financial Times: “Treason is the gravest crime possible and traitors must be punished. I am not saying that the Salisbury incident is the way to do it . . . but traitors must be punished.”