The Upper House of the Russian Parliament approved a bill Wednesday that will ban American citizens from adopting Russian Children. The bill is the latest salvo in a tit for tat war of nerves between the United States and Russia that began when Congress passed a law imposing sanctions on Russian officials accused of human rights violations.
The US law, known as the Magnitsky Act, was passed on December 6, 2012 and signed by President Obama. The bill seeks to punish Russian officials involved in the mistreatment and death of financier Sergei Magnitsky, who died in a Russian prison in 2009. It also imposes US visa restrictions and financial sanctions on any Russian officials involved in “gross violations of human rights.”
Russian are outraged over the American law, which was originally intended to loosen cold war trade restrictions and benefit both nations. The addition of the human rights component of the legislation provoked President Vladimir Putin to call the Magnitsky Act “unfriendly and political.”
Just days after Obama signed the bill, an angry Lower House of the Russian Parliament retaliated by passing the Dima Yakovlev Law, which suspends the activities of all US NGOs currently operating in Russia and prevents US officials who sentence Russians for human rights violations from receiving visas.
The Dima Yakovlev Law is named for a 21-month-old Russian boy who died in 2008 of heatstroke after his adoptive American parent, Miles Harrison, left him alone in a car for nine hours. The US courts raised the ire of Russian officials when they found the father not guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the death of the child.
Over the last 20 years, 19 adopted Russian children have either been murdered by their American parents or died from parental neglect. There have also been several ugly, high profile disputes in which American parents demanded the adopted child be returned to Russia because of severe behavioral issues.
Leaders in Moscow are concerned that American politicians have not really changed their attitudes towards the Russian nation and have only replaced anti-Soviet policies with anti-Russian policies. They are convinced the dispute is not about human rights but an attempt by the United States to retaliate against Russia for taking a different approach to dealing with major world issues including Middle East peace, Syria, and Iran.
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov spoke about the need for compromise and negotiation:
“We think that the only reasonable way to conduct inter-state relations is to look for compromises in the cases when disagreements occur. This also implies searching for acceptable solutions on the issues which concern different controversial points such as approaches of different countries towards observation of human rights. Unfortunately, the US did not show the required understanding.”
Russian journalists have expressed strong support for the words of Mr. Putin and the actions of the Lower and Upper houses of Parliament. Political observer Mikhail Remizov voiced his displeasure with the United States in comments to the Voice of Russia:
“I qualify the Magnistky Act as a discriminatory law against Russia. Moreover, the act presupposes arrests of Russian citizens in the US without any decision of any court, which is an unprecedented step. It is only a court that has the right to take such decisions, not any political body. I believe that this decision was politically motivated. The fact that this decision was initiated by a congressman and approved by the US State Secretary is evidence that it was politically motivated.”
President Putin has not decided if he will sign the adoption ban into law. He seems to be taking his time, perhaps in hope of some conciliatory gesture from his American counterpart, President Obama. However, he still had words of warning for the American Government:
“If the US adopts any other discriminatory laws against Russia like the Magnitsky Act, Russia will also respond with more sanctions against the US. At Guantanamo, they keep people in prison for years without any charges. People there go around in shackles, like in medieval times.”
While both nations certainly have different concepts about human rights, any legislation banning adoption is only going to hurt the children. More than 700,000 Russian children are without parents, and US families have provided loving homes for 60,000 needy youngsters over the last 20 years. Hopefully, the two superpowers will put the children ahead of politics and find a way to resolve their issues without resorting to a total ban on the adoption of Russian children by Americans.