Outsourcing autocratic anti-LGTBI soft power : the case of the Russian Federation in Hungary
Autocracy and soft power - for the past three decades they did not seem to go hand in hand. Nevertheless - the last decade has proven that populist and illiberal forces in the democratic West are prone to policies undertaken by illiberal autocratic states. In the eyes of Russian policy-makers - the demographic decline in Russia and the world possesses an existential threat to the current world order. An increase in civil rights for sexual and gender minorities would only reinforce this demographic trend - in their views. This research reveals that the Russian Federation has set up a well-thought soft power strategy regarding LGBTI-rights towards the democratic West. Via outsourcing their soft power to the already existing international anti-LGBTI movement, the Kremlin was able to create a network of (financial and ideological) support for possible cooperation between Russian and European policy-makers. This network seems to fit within the Kremlin’s broader foreign policy of undermining Western liberal democracies. By taking a closer look to the Hungarian and Russian involvement within international anti-LGBTI organisations - like the World Congress of Families - the author of this research was able to prove close and structural ties between high-level Hungarian and Russian government officials and oligarchs. The Hungarian government increased the homo- and transphobic political discourse, enforced policies to foster traditional family values and vetoed every pro-LGBTI rights policy proposal in the Council of the European Union since its involvement in the international anti- LGBTI movement.