In a February speech, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov rhapsodized about the positive potential for a stronger partnership between Russia and the European Union. On one point, however, he was negative. It concerned morality, not questions of democracy or economic policy. “I cannot disagree that common values should be used as cement when constructing a common European home,” he affirmed. “However we need to agree what they are like and who determines them.” On this issue the West cannot be trusted, because we now promote “moral relativism, propagation of all-permissiveness and hedonism, reinforcement of volitions of militant atheism, refusal of traditional values.” Moreover, “such ideas are promoted with the insistence of a messiah both inside countries and in relations with neighbors.” For those of us who would like to see liberal democratic culture take root in Russia and elsewhere, it’s frustrating that we’ve given him such a strong argument against us.
Lavrov’s exasperatingly good argument is one reason Ephraim Radner’s essay on the agony of Anglicanism is so important. He explains the way in which globalized culture wars have tempted conservative Anglicans in the West to make ill-considered, uncritical alliances. We should learn from those mistakes. When it comes to Putin and what he represents, it’s a false inference to conclude that if your enemy is my enemy, then you’re my friend.