In February, the Kremlin announced that Russia is tightening its ban on same-sex couples adopting Russian children. A new law prohibits single people in countries that allow same-sex marriage from adopting children from Russia, one of the world’s largest sources of children for adoption. (Adoptions by Americans were banned early in 2013 for different reasons.) This follows a pattern. Last year, Putin signed a law prohibiting “propaganda promoting non-traditional sexual relations” that can be seen by minors. Just before the Winter Olympics in Sochi, he allowed that gays and lesbians could attend but urged them to “leave the children in peace.” At present, a bill is before the Russian parliament that would ban people in “non-traditional” relationships from contracting with surrogate mothers.

Commentators ascribe this moralism to domestic Russian politics, arguing that Putin is shoring up his conservative base of support. No doubt that’s true, but that’s not the whole story. Putin is thinking internationally as well, positioning Russia to lead an anti-Western coalition along moral as well as geopolitical lines. In a speech last December, he pledged to defend “family values” and reject moral relativism, pointedly observing that this message appeals to “more and more people across the world who support our position.”

The message resonates. When it comes to culture, America and Western NGOs are global aggressors. For a long time, we’ve been promoting contraception and abortion throughout the world. More recently, we’ve promoted gay rights as well. The U.S. Department of State’s Global Equality Fund, dedicated to advancing LGBT rights, is one among many initiatives, some government sponsored, others carried forward by international organizations. In these and in other ways, progressives in the West are carrying the war on traditional culture to the rest of the world. Reproductive rights, gay rights—they’re the new White Man’s Burden.

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