- Putin declares Sochi Paralympics open amid Ukrainian protest
- ‘In Jesus name, we pray’ sparks ire at Ohio council meeting
- Navy’s first laser weapon ready for prime time; drone killer to deploy this summer
- Billionaire backer: Rick Santorum ‘needs to be heard’ in 2016
- Obamacare fallout: 49 percent pessimistic; 45 percent ‘scared’
- DHS accused of holding U.S. citizen at airport, using emails to pry into her sex life
- Seattle socialist: Minimum-wage discussion skewed by ‘right-wing’ GAO analysis
- U.N. warns of Muslim ‘cleansing’ in Central African Republic
- Senate blocks change to military sex assault cases
- Drug mix may have cured child born with HIV, doctors say
FEULNER: A malfunctioning ‘reset’
Better relations with Russia break down over charges of Kremlin corruption
It has been two years now since President Obama heralded a new era in U.S.-Russian relations - a “reset,” as he put it. His plan was to “cooperate more effectively in areas of common interest.” He and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev were “committed to leaving behind the suspicion and the rivalry of the past.”
Fast-forward to the present. Have things improved? Considering that Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin recently called the United States a “parasite” on the global economy, and the State Department has put 64 Russian officials on a visa blacklist, it’s fair to say: not much.
The latest round of trouble springs from the case of the late Sergei Magnitsky, whose name is probably unfamiliar to many Americans. A lawyer for one of the largest Western hedge funds in Russia, Magnitsky in 2008 accused Russian officials of swindling $230 million in tax rebates. Even in post-Cold War Russia, it was a bold move.
Magnitsky soon found himself arrested for tax evasion. He died in police custody before his trial, having been denied medical care. There were also reports that he had been tortured and beaten. Reliable reports, it appears: Mr. Medvedev himself said the officials in charge of Magnitsky were guilty of crimes.
The Magnitsky case led to the “Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act,” which was introduced in the U.S. Senate in May. “While this bill bears Sergei Magnitsky’s name in honor of his sacrifice, the language addresses the overall issue of the erosion of the rule of law and human rights in Russia,” said Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, Maryland Democrat. “It offers hope to those who suffer in silence, whose cases may be less known or not known at all.”
The State Department visa blacklist, for its part, contains the names of prosecutors and policemen who played a role in Magnitsky’s death. The last thing Russian officials want is a spotlight, however well-deserved, on their deplorable human-rights record. Forget reform - they’d rather retaliate.
And so they’re threatening to stop cooperating with the United States on Afghanistan, Iran, Libya and North Korea if the Magnitsky bill passes Congress. Missile defense has re-entered the debate as well - another sign that things haven’t changed all that much.
Dmitry Rogozin, Moscow’s envoy to NATO as well as on matters involving missile defense, claims that U.S. senators told him that the U.S. system is aimed at Russia. His diplomatic reference to the U.S. lawmakers? “Monsters of the Cold War.” Ah, reset.
And in response to the U.S. visa blacklist (which, according to Heritage Foundation Russia expert Ariel Cohen, was drawn up by State Department officials who dislike the Senate bill), Mr. Medvedev has ordered the Foreign Ministry to create a list, too - of U.S. officials who would be banned from traveling to Russia or banking there.
Not just any U.S. officials are on that list, mind you. It includes prosecutors and law-enforcement officials who are working on two very interesting cases: that of Victor Boot, who is accused of supplying arms to terrorists, and that of Konstantin Yaroshenko, a weapons-and-drug-smuggling pilot captured in Africa. “Russian diplomacy now appears to fly cover for suspected organized criminals,” Mr. Cohen writes.
Moscow may chafe at the Magnitsky bill and other criticisms, but there’s virtually no chance that officials there would implement any kind of reform without outside prodding. As Mr. Cohen notes, Congress is actually doing Russia a favor. David J. Kramer, president of Freedom House and former assistant secretary of state for human rights under President George W. Bush, says merely introducing the bill has “done more for the cause of human rights [in Russia] than anything done” by the two previous administrations.
The reset button is broken. But pressure still works.
Ed Feulner is president of the Heritage Foundation (heritage.org).
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
TWT Video Picks
By Tammy Bruce
Get Breaking Alerts
- Bill Clinton cashes in on struggling nonprofit hospital
- Putin has transformed Russian army into a lean, mean fighting machine
- BRUCE: Obama's bizarre immigration rules
- IRS to turn over Lerner emails in tea party targeting probe
- Unemployment insurance vote could happen next week
- Bill Clinton poses for photo with Bunny Ranch prostitutes
- DELAY: A revolution for the Constitution
- PRUDEN: Likening Putin to Hitler on Ukraine shows Hillary's shaky grasp of history
- U.S. pilot scares off Iranians with 'Top Gun'-worthy stunt: 'You really ought to go home'
- Kim Jong-un calls for execution of 33 Christians
Recent Letters to the Editor
- LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Turkey not committed to Cyprus peace
- LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Spoiled-kid culture creates greedy adults
- LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Obama's flawed Mideast 'peace' plan
- LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Foreign policy would distract Obama from social hour
- LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Hit Putin where it hurts over Ukraine