Foreign Policy Initiative

By April 13, the President must submit to Congress a list of people to be sanctioned under the Justice for Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act, passed by Congress last December. The law is named for a Russian tax lawyer who died from abuse in jail for resisting official corruption, and it directs the denial of U.S. visas and freezing of assets against any individuals responsible for “extrajudicial killings, torture, or other gross violations of internationally recognized human rights” in Russia. The law’s implementation will be a critical test of America’s longstanding commitment to human rights for the Russian people.

Congressional champions of the Magnitsky Act are concerned that the Obama Administration will not faithfully implement the law. At a conference earlier this month, Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA) warned the Obama administration: “If there are some bureaucrats in my own government who, for whatever reason, choose not to implement the law in the spirit that it was written and it was passed, then I assure you that Congress will strengthen that law, amend that law with even tougher language. . . . This was not just a talking point that we passed.”

McGovern is right to be concerned. Beginning his second term, President Obama has recommitted his administration to the “reset” for Russia, a policy premised on the difference between interests and values. Discrete objectives are to be approached instrumentally and without regard to the quickening pace of anti-democratic regression under Vladimir Putin that provides ample basis for a list addressing a litany of abuses beyond the case of Mr. Magnitsky. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has reported that the administration is pursuing a cramped reading of the bill.

The administration opposed the Magnitsky bill, ultimately accepting it only as a trade-off to gain repeal of the Jackson-Vanik amendment, which was necessary to grant permanent normal trade relations to Russia in connection with its WTO accession. It was revealing but not surprising that a White House statement about the bill’s passage failed to mention not only Mr. Magnitsky’s death in his jail cell, but also the legacy of Jackson-Vanik. That Cold War-era provision, which linked trade status of non-market economies to the right to emigrate, was for decades synonymous for American support for human rights in the Soviet bloc.

Inspired by the desire to help Jewish “refuseniks” emigrate to Israel, the amendment’s broader significance for all Soviet bloc citizens was understood by the scientist and dissident Andrei Sakharov. Exposing himself to great risk, he wrote to express his support for Jackson-Vanik to the U.S. Congress in September 1973: “A country whose citizens are deprived of this minimal right is not free if there were not a single citizen who would want to exercise that right.”

As the Obama administration approaches the deadline for the first Magnitsky list, it is worth recalling that Jackson-Vanik itself was passed over the objections of the Ford administration which was pursuing détente with the Soviet Union. President Gerald Ford and his predecessor Richard Nixon also disdained the inclusion of human rights guarantees in the Helsinki Final Act, a multilateral agreement conceived mainly as a way to establish a modus vivendi with the Soviet Union. However, the inclusion of human rights guarantees proved valuable to dissidents like Lyudmila Alexeeva and Natan Sharansky who pressed the Soviet Union to adhere to promises it never intended to keep. Years later, Sharansky would recall he first heard of this “spirit of Helsinki” from a visiting U.S. Congressman. It should also be remembered that the impetus for the Helsinki guarantees on human rights came first not from American negotiators but from Europeans. Today, leading members of the European Parliament and Russia’s democratic opposition have established a new Helsinki process and hope American congressmen will join the effort.

With its focus on abuse and corruption, the Magnitsky is a worthy successor to Jackson-Vanik. Denial of the right to emigrate no longer symbolizes the problem of repression in Russia. In fact, educated professionals are leaving Russia in high numbers. But Congress chose to preserve and adapt rather than abandon the lever for American pressure on behalf of human rights there. Polls show the Magnitsky legislation is popular with Russians despite a general climate of anti-Americanism the Putin government does its best to stoke. Boris Nemtsov, a democratic opposition leader, has called it “the most pro-Russian law passed in the United States in the history of our countries.”

The Obama administration’s first “Magnitsky list” will define the Obama administration’s second term Russia policy. The administration’s approach will have ramifications, not only in Russia where a weak effort will embolden President Putin and undermine the opposition figures and activists who favor it, but also in Europe where parliaments are considering their own “Magnitsky Acts.” President Obama should implement the law as Congress intended and with its distinguished legacy in mind, not to mention in a manner that honors the memory of its namesake. займ на карту микрозаймы онлайн https://zp-pdl.com/online-payday-loans-in-america.php https://zp-pdl.com/apply-for-payday-loan-online.php онлайн займы

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