The details are still murky, but this is too good a story for cable TV to pass up.
Russia has canceled a 21-year-old high-school-student exchange program with the United States because a Russian teenager in the program, spending the academic year in Michigan, has sought asylum here for fear he will be persecuted if he returns home. He is gay.
It is true that Russia is notably inhospitable to gays, but the terms of the Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) program, under which 238 Russian students are currently studying in the United States, require that all participants return home at the end of their year.
Because of privacy laws involving juveniles, few details have emerged from the U.S. side, but the Kremlin has used the case to portray Russia as a wholesome bulwark against increasingly decadent Western values. A top Russian foreign ministry official portrayed the student’s defection, if that’s what it was, as a violation of not only the agreement but also the basic “moral and ethical principles of Russian society.”
One could fairly ask if under Vladimir Putin Russia has any moral or ethical principles other than self-enrichment, self-perpetuation in office, encroachment on its neighbors and seeking to mask its decline as a great power by aggravating the West and especially the United States.
Nonetheless, the United States, as in the Elian Gonzalez case, is obligated to return the boy home. Then at least Western diplomats and media can keep an eye on his treatment at the hands of the Russian authorities.
— The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tennessee,