Recent interactions between the United States and Russia are a study in, well, incongruity. Last week, Secretary of State John Kerry hastened from Moscow’s airport to the Kremlin bearing President Obama’s administration’s latest proposal for U.S.-Russian military coordination against al-Qaida-linked guerrillas battling the Bashar Assad regime in Syria. In the days leading up to this meeting, Russia had exhibited its contempt for Washington by harassing U.S. diplomats and expelling Jeff Shell, chairman of the board of a U.S. agency that oversees Voice of America and Radio Free Europe.

Shell, the Russians explained, was on a blacklist they had put together in retaliation for U.S. sanctions targeting Moscow figures culpable for Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea – an attempt at moral equivalence whose falsity is underscored by the fact that Shell was visiting Vladimir Putin’s realm not on government business but in his capacity as chairman of NBCUniversal’s movie-production division.

Beyond these highly publicized events, Russia’s recent treatment of Americans has gotten arguably even uglier.

Consider the story of Jim Mulcahy, 72, the Ukraine-based pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church, a 48-year-old U.S. institution founded as an alternative Christian organization for gay men and lesbians who feel excluded from traditional churches. During a July 10 gathering with about a dozen people at a gay community center in Samara, Mulcahy was suddenly accosted by police.