Topic: US Adoption Ban
Weekly column by Konstantin von Eggert
Russia’s answer to the United States’ “Magnitsky Act,” banning the adoption of Russian children by US citizens, provoked a storm among intellectuals, dismay among many rank-and-file supporters of Vladimir Putin and – for the first time – real discord among government figures.
Konstantin von Eggert
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was one of the most respected senior political figures to surprise observers by coming out against the law. Minister for Education and Science, Dmitry Livanov, also condemned it, arguing that this law will hurt the very children it purports to protect. Dissonant voices also came from the Presidential Council on Human Rights and the Justice ministry.
On Friday I visited a mid-level official in one of the ministries concerned with the new law. She bombarded me with questions about the reasons for this harsh decision. For the first time I heard from this loyalist that she opposed her own government’s decision. Theoretically, this could be an isolated case, but there is every reason to believe that it is not.
The idea of orphaned or sick children being used as pawns in a political game seems to be finding much less resonance within the bureaucracy than one might have expected.
First, there is the issue of morality, second, that of practicality.
One foreign ministry official told me that many Russian diplomats felt offended. The Russian-US agreement on child adoption issues took nearly two years to finalize and quite some time to ratify. It finally came into force in November, a few weeks before it was unilaterally abrogated by what is now known as the “anti-Magnitsky law” in Russia.
There are questions as to whether this abrogation breaks several laws and international conventions. But far worse, the diplomat said is that: “What happened makes Russia looks like an unreliable partner who cannot be trusted.”
Third, the Kremlin’s response to the “Magnitsky Act” could badly misfire internationally. Moscow’s apparent campaign of victimization, that first targeted NGOs and now children, puts the Obama administration in an awkward position, especially since it has shown marked indifference to Russian domestic developments.
Unless Vladimir Putin starts building new Gulags, or threatening military confrontation, the White House had repeatedly demonstrated that it could not care less about Russia’s harassed NGOs, beaten demonstrators and censored journalists.
Obama clearly hoped to leave the Magnitsky issue behind and trusted Russia to produce a less spectacular and scandalous response. The White House wants Vladimir Putin to agree to a new round of nuclear disarmament negotiations and begin work on the START-4 treaty.
Instead, the US administration will have to react to Moscow’s steps. Moreover, the European Union may also have to start debating the possibility of adopting its own version of the “Magnitsky Law,” something that would create problems of an altogether more serious order for the Kremlin.
The probability of EU-wide Magnitsky-style legislation coming into force remains low. But the negative publicity surrounding what has also been termed here in Moscow as “the scoundrels’ bill” will definitely give a shot in the arm to those in the EU who advocate a tougher stance towards the Kremlin.
It looks like the “anti-Magnitsky law” proves quite a different law: that of unintended consequences. Instead of consolidating Russia’s ruling class – the bill divided it, instead of keeping the Americans and Europeans out it keeps them in – and more angry.
Finally, the law forces even the Kremlin loyalists to make hard moral choices – something people usually do not forget, and frequently do not forgive.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s and may not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.
What is Russia's place in this world? Unashamed and unreconstructed Atlanticist, Konstantin von Eggert believes his country to be part and parcel of the "global West." And while this is a minority view in Russia, the author is prepared to fight from his corner.
Konstantin Eggert is a commentator and host for radio Kommersant FM, Russia's first 24-hour news station. In the 1990s he was Diplomatic Correspondent for “Izvestia” and later the BBC Russian Service Moscow Bureau Editor. Konstantin has also spent some time working as ExxonMobil Vice-President in Russia. He was made Honorary Member of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II.
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- arsanlupinInteresting ...21:23, 01/01/2013An interesting, thoughtful, and well-written article on a sensitive, controversial, and complicated situation. I especially appreciate the feedback from within the Russian government. Opposition included Russia’s own Foreign Ministry, Education and Science Ministry, Justice Ministry, and the Presidential Council on Human Rights. I can imagine some of the most recent cabinet meetings have been a lot more exciting than Putin ever imagined! The Foreign ministry’s annoyance is the most obvious, after all the work they did in the new adoption treaty.
I guess Putin’s United Russia didn’t like others telling him that acting like a thug against people who accuse him and his cronies of corruption and embezzlement is uncultured. Apparently he never realized that if you act like a thug, the world around you will eventually start treating you like one.
That’s one problem here. The other one is that Westerners aren’t aware of the subconscious feelings of insecurity and inferiority Russians have historically felt when dealing with the West in general and the US in particular. Their irrational lashing out in response to any slight – real or imagined – is unfortunately the norm. However, the US Congress should have known better than to make the rebuke so public, in spite of domestic demands for a harsh response.
This shameful overreaction to so mild a rebuke from the US will hurt Russia worldwide far more than it will hurt a handful of American families. I only hope the American Congress doesn’t react in righteous indignation and pass another equally emotional and nonsensical bill in response – that would accomplish nothing but make the overall situation even worse.
- reecesrainbowUnintended, but not a surprise22:54, 04/01/2013Your article is excellent, however, more responsibility for this needs to be laid at the feet of the US Congress. Yes, unintended results, but certainly not a surpise, not to me anyway. To pretend as if Pres Obama and the rest of Congress had no idea that Putin would pull the orphan card? They may not have expected him to go so low, but the Russians have done this so many time in the past, I can't even count them all. The US Congress was naive and reckless in this, pushing a point about a Russian citizen that they had no real business bothering with, especially since they can't even pass a budget for the American people. And keep in mind that President Putin was just the last link on the chain. This knee-jerk, nationalist ego trip was started and fueled by nearly every single member of the Russian Duma, which has been looking for a reason to close their adoption program for decades. They got called out for human rights abuses, and retaliate with even further perpetuation of the neglect and abuse of their orphaned disabled children. I am thrilled to see the international community and much of domestic Russia in an outcry against this. I was so hoping for wisdom, compassion, leadership from President Putin, but what the children got shafted with was Cold War Stalin.
- Mikhail1228US Adoption Quagmire17:15, 08/01/2013When I read these stories it makes one wonder. Is the US the only country in the world where a child can grow up happy? Of couse not. If orphaned children could find Russian parents this is the best scenario of all. Then there is Western Europe which has not been banned from adopting Russian children. The US is a consummer society. The culture is like living in one big shopping mall. Every young girl wants to be Kim Kardashian. Everything has to be available for immediate consumption. Whether this is a new car, property, clothes, travel, jewellry, food and even a new child. These are American values.Upper class white familes cannot find white children to adopt in America. Sometimes the process to adopt a white child can take years. Why wait when you can adopt a white kid from Russia? As with any commodity the US market needs sellers. It's really not about the kids, well these stories make it sound that it is. It's about US comsumers being able to get what they want to purchase. It's about taking what you want, when you want it.