Guns and religion: how American conservatives are closer to Putin’s Russia

In the 1980’s, Brian brown (Brian Brown) were told that the Communist Soviet Union is bleak and scary place.

But brown, who is a staunch opponent of same-sex marriage, admits that in the last few years he increasingly began to meet the Russians at the conference on the family, and that he was able to find among them many adherents.

Over the past four years, brown, who heads the National organization in defense of marriage (National Organization for Marriage), visited Moscow four times, including a trip in 2013, during which he spoke in the State Duma at the time when Russia adopted a series of laws against gays.

“I realized that in the former Soviet Union has undergone tremendous change, he said. — The society now felt the urge to return to Christian values”.

In the last few years significant changes are taking place among the right-wing Republicans.

In such matters as the right to bear arms, terrorism and gay marriage, many influential conservative leaders, frustrated left-leaning policies of President Barack Obama, has established ties with influential Russians and began to see the authoritarian Russian leader Vladimir Putin a potential ally.

Such changes in attitudes and views among the conservatives help to explain one of the most curious aspects of the presidential campaign of 2016, in particular a softening of traditionally hard-line positions of many conservatives towards Russia. To the great concern of some members of the establishment Republican party support of a candidate Donald trump on the part of the party’s base has not diminished even after he rejected the hawkish tone of the candidate in the 2012 election MITT Romney (Mitt Romney), who called Russia an enemy of America number one, and several times spoke positively about Putin.

The nascent Alliance between the Russians and American conservatives clearly manifested itself during several actions in late 2015, when the inside of the Republican party, intensified the struggle for the right to participate in presidential elections.

Senior officials of the National rifle Association on Friday, April 28, at its annual Congress trump, this is the third time in the last three years — went to Moscow to visit the plant for the production of weapons and to meet with members of the Russian government.

Around the same time, in December 2015, the Evangelist Franklin Graham (Franklin Graham) held with Putin for a private interview lasting 45 minutes, during which the Russian President invited him to the conference dedicated to the issue of persecution of Christians. Graham was very impressed, and after that meeting he said in an interview with the Washington Post that Putin “is answering the questions very straightforward and does not shy away from answers, as do many of our politicians”.

The dialogue between the Russians and American conservatives, according to experts, occurred just at the time when Russia began actively to help and influence the far-right group in Europe that was unprecedented on the eve of Russia’s intervention in the American presidential campaign, which, according to U.S. spy agencies, was intended to help Trump win.

The Russians and Americans who are engaged in the development of new relationships, argue that are not part of campaign by the Kremlin to strengthen the influence on policy of the United States. “We know nothing about it,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. According to brown, the activists of the two countries just “unite under the auspices of shared values.”

While it remains unclear what impact these closer ties will have on relations between the US and Russia, which have deteriorated since the beginning of the investigation of the alleged Russian interference in the elections of 2016 and the growing tensions around the civil war in Syria.

However, the apparent increase in the number of contacts in the last few years, as well as the participation of Russian government officials and influential representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church has led some analysts to the conclusion that this strengthening of relations is the government of Russia, which seeks to expand influence Putin.

“Is it possible that in this case we are talking about well-intentioned people who establish relations with the Americans who have some common interests? It is possible, said Steven Holl (Steven L. Hall), who worked for 30 years in the CIA before in 2015 to resign. What are the odds of that? I don’t think such a possibility is all there… From my point of view, it is undoubtedly a part of something larger”.

Interaction between Russians and American conservatives have become more frequent, when Obama prepared for his re-election for a second term.

At that time, many representatives of the Republican party said that Obama failed to cope with the threat to national security, which represented the aggression of Putin.

However, within the party base has already begun the change.

At least one relationship arose due to conservative lawyer from Nashville by the name of Kline Preston IV (G. Kline Preston IV), who for many years was engaged in business in Russia.

According to Preston, in 2011, he presented the then President of the NRA David Keene (David Keene) Russian Senator Alexander Torshin, a member of Putin’s party, later took the post of Deputy head of the Central Bank of Russia. Kin was a strong supporter of right-wing views, former Chairman of the American conservative Union (American Conservative Union) and from 2011 to 2013, he served as President of the National rifle Association.

Neither kin nor Torshin did not respond to requests for an interview. The Association also refused to answer questions.

Being a friend of Mikhail Kalashnikov, of which Russia is respected by everyone because he created the famous AK-47, in 2010 Torshin wrote a pamphlet in defence of the right to possess firearms, in which the illustrations depicted people, the guide arms to robbers in masks. The brochure provided statistics for the United States to justify the lifting of the ban on weapons. In addition, there have been given Russian version of the slogan of the American rifle Association: “Guns don’t shoot — shoot people.”

Torshin also was the leader of the Russian movement, who advocated a rapprochement between the government and the Orthodox Church.

“The value system of the southern Christians and the system of values of Russian are very similar,’ said Preston. The so — called conflict between our two countries is a tragedy, because we are very similar in our values, our interests, and in many other ways”.

According to Preston, an expert on Russian law, in the office, which is a white porcelain bust of Putin for many years he tried to convince his friends from tn not to believe the TV reports that the Russian leader’s killing of journalists and dissidents.

Preston was an observer at the Russian parliamentary elections of 2011, which began in Moscow mass protests. However, according to Preston, the elections were free and fair.

Meanwhile, Preston said that he and Torshin noticed violations of American laws — posters in support of Obama was placed too close to the polling stations — when Torshin came to Nashville as an observer in the presidential elections of 2012.

In Russia, Torshin and one of his assistants, photogenic activist from Siberia named Maria Butina, engaged in the creation of movement in support of the right to arms.

Butina started the band “gun rights”, and in 2013 she, along with Torshin invited kin and other supporters of the idea of gun ownership of America’s annual meeting in Moscow.

In an event which gathered around 200 people and held in a Moscow meeting rooms, there was a fashion show where models showed clothing with hidden pockets for weapons.

One of the Americans who took part in the event, Alan Gottlieb (Alan Gottlieb), founder of the Second Amendment Foundation — said that Torshin and Butina invited him and his wife at a dinner where they presented gifts to the guests, which demonstrated that the Russians found out in advance the preferences and interests of its guests: the wife of Gottlieb, who loves lace, have got refined exotic fabric and the Gottlieb presented commemorative stamps.

“They wanted to maintain a relationship and establish a friendship,” said Gottlieb.

Butina who is now studying in master degree at American University in Washington, told the newspaper Washington Post in an email that the aspirations not find a wide response among Russian officials and that the group never received funding from the government or from the National rifle Association. She stressed that never worked for the government, adding that with those American activists with which she managed to become friends, they share the idea of the right to arms.

“No government official EVER asked me to do “strengthen ties” with the Americans,” she wrote.

Former CIA officer Hall noted that he is not ready to believe these assertions. According to him, he did not believe that Putin will be a legitimate campaign to support the rights of citizens to arms and that, most likely, this move “control of security” to curry favor with American conservatives.

When Torshin and Butina came at the annual Convention of the National rifle Association in 2014, behind them even more entrenched status of Russians-supporters of the right to bear arms. Butina was invited to the women’s Association lunch as the guest of one of the former presidents of this organization.

In an interview with the conservative publication Townhall Butina called the National rifle Association “one of the most famous and most influential organizations in the world” and added that “we would like to make friends with her.”

Although the Russians have the right to own firearms, according to Butini, her group hopes to overturn a ban on the carrying of weapons.

The events of that tumultuous year, when Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has forced the Obama administration to impose strict sanctions against Moscow became an illustration of the Alliance of the Russians with the supporters of the right to arms in the United States.

In one of his interview to the Russian edition Butina said that sellers of firearms in Russia, including the popular Kalashnikov assault rifles, greatly suffered as a result of the imposition of sanctions.

In Washington, the lobbyists of the National rifle Association has criticized this decision, saying that such restrictions “have long been used Executive power to implement gun control unilaterally”.

Relations between Russians and American conservatives have reached a high point in 2015, when the election race started to gain momentum.

Butina published in social networks pictures showing how they Torshin met with representatives of the National rifle Association and American politicians at various events. In April 2015 Butina went to the office of the Association in Virginia. Besides, along with Torshin, she met with Governor of Wisconsin Scott Walker (Scott Walker) at the annual Convention of the Association. Last year Torshin has declared in an interview with Bloomberg that he had had a friendly conversation with trump at the Convention in 2015, and in 2016, at a dinner organized by the National rifle Association, he sat next to Donald, Jr.

Representative Walker announced that the meeting was short. According to one high-ranking official of the White house, trump may have talked to Torshin at the Convention in 2015, but he doesn’t remember it. At the event next year, as reported by the official Torshin briefly greeted Donald Jr. in the restaurant.

In June 2015, when trump declared its readiness to participate in the elections, Butina wrote an article for the conservative American magazine National Interest, which suggested that a Republican in the White house may be able to improve relations between the US and Russia.

She wrote that the Republicans and Russians share common views on oil production and that the conservatives have a lot in common with the representatives of Putin’s party, with its aggressive stance against Islamist terrorism.

In the summer of that year Butina plunged into American politics. In July he arrived in Las Vegas for FreedomFest — a meeting of libertarians, which was made by trump and Senator Marco Rubio (Marco Rubio), also fought for the right to participate in presidential elections.

Butina got to the microphone during his speech, trump and asked with a noticeable accent: “What will your foreign policy, especially in relation to my country?”

This was the first question about Russia, set Trump as a presidential candidate.

“I know Putin and I can tell you that we will get along just fine with Putin,” he said.

Later trump several times spoke positively about the Russian President, calling him “a strong leader”.

But trump, who at the time was not regarded as a serious contender for the nomination from the Republican party, just announced mood, gradually spreading among conservatives, the idea that Putin could be a potential friend.

It was the conclusion of Evangelist Graham after his visit to the Kremlin in November 2015, where he met with Putin.

When Graham went to Moscow with his father Billy Graham (Billy Graham) in 1980-ies, to practice religion in the USSR was prohibited. During this trip he noted that the conditions for Christians in Russia are still quite complex. But he also added that Putin listened attentively to his story about the evangelists and the challenges Christians face around the world. Putin explained that his mother managed to smuggle their Christian faith even through the darkest period of atheist Communist rule.

“He understood me,” said Graham about the Russian President.

Putin has invited Graham assistance in organizing an international conference devoted to the issues of persecution of Christians. According to Graham, in return, the U.S. side should invite a delegation from Russia for a conference to be held in may in Washington.

At the end of 2015 Butina met in Moscow delegation, which included Keane, who was then a Board member of the national rifle Association, and sponsors of the Association. Also the group included the Sheriff of Milwaukee County David Clarke (David Clarke), a rising star in the Republican party who was a confidant of trump and, according to some rumors, was to occupy a high position in the Ministry of internal security. Clark did not respond for a request for interview.

The delegation visited the Russian enterprise producing weapons, and met with Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, against whom the US imposed sanctions in connection with events in Ukraine. Keane told the publication the Daily Beast, which first wrote about the meeting, what the content of the conversation with Rogozin had nothing to do with politics and was only excursions in the enterprise.

After winning the trump Torshin came to the United States with a delegation of influential Russians to visit the annual national prayer Breakfast in Washington in February. In addition to the campaign in support of the right to bear arms Torshin participated in the transformation of the same prayer Breakfast in Moscow from a small and strange monthly event to event, much like the ritual that is held annually in Washington.

Now Putin sends annual message to the organizers that is a sign of recognition of its value, as the Breakfast allows you to “Russian and American guests to gather under one roof to restore relations between the two countries, which have seriously deteriorated under President Obama,” wrote the organizer of the Breakfast, Peter Sautov in his email.

According to sources, Torshin accompanied by 15 government officials and representatives of the Church asked to meet with the new President to trump’s speech at the event.

However, according to them, the meeting never took place because the Spanish authorities announced that Torshin is supposedly directly related to organized crime and the laundering operations of money. Torshin has not been charged with any crime, and in his Bloomberg interview, he denied this information.

According to one official from the White house, trump was not going to hold a meeting with Torshin. The first alleged meeting was reported by Yahoo.

That night Torshin has arrived at a gala dinner at the restaurant on Capitol hill, where he met with the leaders of conservative thought, supporting the idea of establishing relations with Russia.

“Against hardened conservatives to Russia has changed, said in an interview with a member of the house of representatives Dana Rohrabacher (Dana Rohrabacher). Conservative Republicans, like me, hated communism during the cold war. But Russia has long ceased to be the Soviet Union.”