Former President Donald Trump's chief strategist Steve Bannon offered praise for Russian President Vladimir Putin, suggesting that the United States should support Putin even as he proceeds with a violent invasion of Ukraine because he is "anti-woke" and has criticized his country's LGBTQ+ community for openly flying Pride flags.
Bannon made the remarks on his War Room podcast during an interview with Erik Prince, the CEO of the private military contractor Blackwater, who agreed with Bannon's suggestion that Putin's action in Ukraine is understandable because of the country's desire to strengthen ties with the West.
You can hear their conversation in the video below.
In the weeks before the invasion, Russia had issued several security demands the United States and its allies rejected.
Putin aims to curtail the enlargement of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), seeking to bar Ukraine from joining the alliance in a bid to assert Russia’s influence over its neighbors, aspirations that gained further prominence after Putin seized the Crimean Penninsula.
Although Ukraine is not yet a member of NATO, it is partnered with the military alliance. This development angered Putin, who views Ukraine not as an independent nation but as land lost as a result of the end of the Cold War, which resulted in the Soviet Union's collapse and diminished Russia's superpower status.
Putin had left world leaders guessing as to whether or not he actually wanted to proceed with an invasion though he clearly wants NATO to curb military exercises in Ukraine and in other former Soviet satellite states, demands that resulted in a diplomatic stalemate.
Bannon began by referring to NATO is an organization of "deadbeats," behavior that he claims justifies attempts to limit its expansion:
“NATO expansion, as bad as that is, it’s the EU later, trying to force into the Ukraine… that would be the equivalent … of China coming here and signing a defense pact with Mexico … right on our border and up against our grille."
He then suggested that the United States should consider forming an alliance with Russia over China but made the erroneous claim that such a notion runs counter to views of a "woke America."
Bannon and Prince proceeded to mock the LGBTQ+ community, saying that Putin is "anti-woke" and that the Russians "still know which bathroom to use" because they've accepted that there are merely "two" genders.
“They don’t have the flags, they don’t have the Pride flags outside of their–" Bannon said, though he didn't finish his sentence before Prince proceeded to mock transgender athletes by stating that the Russians "don’t have boys swimming in girls’ college swim meets."
While Putin has not explicitly banned Pride flag displays in his country, his administration's federal law "for the Purpose of Protecting Children from Information Advocating for a Denial of Traditional Family Values," also referred to in English-language media as the gay propaganda law, has sought to restrict content and behavior that would present homosexuality as a societal norm.
Both Bannon and Prince have been widely criticized since the interview went live and they've faced accusations of openly backing fascistic behavior and harboring anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment
Bannon has used his program over the last few weeks to actively criticize President Joe Biden's administration while allowing his guests to openly praise Putin and spread misinformation about the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.
Last month, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Georgia Republican, used her time on the program to further elevate discredited conspiracy theories about Hunter Biden's business dealings, suggesting President Biden is willing to wage war with a major nuclear power to protect his son from blowback.
Former President Trump has also been criticized for praising Putin's action, referring to him as a “genius” for moving troops to Ukraine’s eastern border.
Trump said that Putin is “very savvy” and made a “genius” move when he signed a decree recognizing Luhansk and Donetsk, parts of Eastern Ukraine, as independent entities and claimed that he was moving troops to regions held by Russian separatists in a bid to ensure “peace.”