The lawyer for a major foreign investor in Russia is arrested on bogus charges while attempting to expose corruption by the Kremlin. Once in jail, he’s brutally tortured to death. A bipartisan pair of U.S. senators introduces legislation to block the high-level Kremlin officials who were directly involved in the murder from setting foot on U.S. soil.
What response do you expect from the president of the United States?
For some time now, I have been expressing outrage at the fact that Barack Obama did not actively support the Cardin-McCain Magnitsky Act, named for Sergei Magnitsky, the attorney in question. But I never dared dream that Obama would take the Kremlin’s side and aggressively seek to derail the legislation for his own personal political gain.
Yet that is exactly what the Washington Post reports he has “quietly” done.
The Financial Times immediately noted that the United States was “toning down” its action regarding Magnitsky. That’s a mighty understatement. Acting as if it were a lobbyist for the Kremlin, the Obama administration first issued an ominous warning to the Senate:
Senior Russian government officials have warned us that they will respond asymmetrically if this legislation passes. Their argument is that we cannot expect them to be our partner in supporting sanctions against countries like Iran, North Korea, and Libya, and sanction them at the same time. Russian officials have said that other areas of bilateral cooperation, including on transit to Afghanistan, could be jeopardized if this legislation passes.
Vladimir Putin couldn’t have put it better himself!
Then Hillary Clinton went to work “quietly” behind the scenes to strike a deal in which the State Department would “quietly” ban a certain number of Russian officials administratively if key senators would withdraw their support for Cardin-McCain.
One could almost see Putin grinning from ear to ear, like the Grinch who stole Christmas.
According to Freedom House, the level of democracy and liberty in Russia has declined each and every year since Putin has held power. Young Russians are fleeing the country at breakneck speed to avoid persecution. Opposition figures who are not murdered outright (like Magnitsky, journalist Anna Politkovskaya, and legislator Galina Starovoitova) are subjected to relentless harassment: First the Kremlin tried to revoke former first deputy prime minister Boris Nemtsov’s passport to keep him in the country, then it considered revoking his citizenship to keep him out.