U.S. Congress holds hearings on human rights in Russia

Ekho Moskvy

This week the U.S. Congress held hearings on human rights in Russia. The first remarks by Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), conducting the hearings, and they were pretty tough. This was not surprising, since long ago she signed a bill named for Sergey L. Magnitsky, a Russian attorney killed in police custody. This bill now has twenty-five senators supporting it in the upper house of the U.S. Congress, and may well be adopted. Further testimony was given Phillip H. Gordon, Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of European and Eurasian affairs, and Thomas O. Melia, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor.

Recognizing violations of human rights in Russia and the unfair December 4th elections, they pressed the fact that, no matter what, Russia is an important partner for America in many areas. Gordon and Melia stated that they would not allow entry into the U.S. of those involved in Magnitsky’s death, but they did not quite agree that any other action would be correct, including the Magnitsky law. It was not stated quite so directly, but it was stated. “We are supporting actors in this drama,” said Melia. “The Russian people are the main actors. We can’t build democracy for them. Only they can.”

(Chechen President) Ramzan Kadyrov, perhaps, was the only person caught by the U.S. State Department. Melia called him ruthless, and stated that he was banned from entry into the United States. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) questioned the officials, along with Senators Shaheen and Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD): “You’re talking about abolishing Jackson-Vanik (a 1974 law limiting trade with Russia), and yet you don’t mind that Russia’s selling arms to Syria?” The State Department men at once began to twist a verbal pretzel: the issue bothers them, but they are working on it and cannot, do not have the right, etc. These “pretzels” were a clear reflection of the Obama administration’s position of non-interference in Russian affairs. These much-too-diplomatic responses, at times, evoked laughter in the hall. Given the preceding, statements by certain Russian politicians that the meeting at Foggy Bottom was all but paid for by the U.S. State Department look particularly preposterous.

Following the State Department men, David Kramer from Freedom House and Tom Malinowski, director of the Washington Bureau of Human Rights Watch, painted a very different picture, one which we know to be objective reality. Ed Verona, head of the US-Russia Business Council, however, once again spoke about the importance of a partnership with Russia and its accession to the WTO, which, in his view, would have a positive impact on the overall situation. He emphasized the following numbers: 9 billion dollars worth of exports to Russia in 2010, compared with only 2 billion in 2000, and 55,000 jobs. Tom Malinowski stated that the more the Russian authorities declare that they do not care what people in the world think about them, the more important it really is. “I don’t agree that Putin could care less about world opinion.”

In general, I got the following feeling from the hearings. All of them – the senators who took a tough stance, as well as the State Department functionaries – see the situation the same way. They are not blind, and they are not stupid. The Obama administration, however, is unready and unwilling to skirmish with the Russian authorities. This explains why the U.S. president did not stand up for Secretary of State Clinton after attacks by Putin. Thus, our only hope is in our own efforts, which, in general, is rightly so. hairy girls hairy girls www.zp-pdl.com www.zp-pdl.com займы на карту срочно

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