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Itar-Tass, Russia

Another “Linking Move” to
Russia by the US Congress

By Anatolii Lazarev

Translated By Rina Hay

17 November 2012

Edited by Kath­leen Weinberger

Russia - Itar-Tass - Original Article (Russian)

After years of discussion and arguments, the U.S. has taken the first step in the process of fostering normal economic relations with Russia: On Nov. 16, the House of Representatives voted with an overwhelming majority to abolish the discriminatory Jackson-Vanik amendment, adopted in 1974.

At the same time, however, the legislators’ decision leaves us with mixed emotions. From the economic point of view, everything is okay. But from the political [perspective] – yes, the political one - one feels a sense of déja vu. For nearly four decades now, economic problems have been deliberately linked to political problems, [especially] to problems relating to human rights. Then, it was the question of the right of Jews to emigrate from the USSR. Now on the agenda is the “Magnitsky Act,” which “appeared” in the same package as the abolition of the Jackson-Vanik amendment. It's true that there are no direct links between the two aspects of the bill: Trade is trade, and human rights are human rights.

The act, in part, provides sanctions against workers of the Russian security forces and judges involved in the death of Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer representing advisory firm “Hermitage Capital Management,” in a Moscow detention center in Nov. 2009. One of its provisions requires that no later than 120 days after the law has been brought into force, the U.S. president “shall submit to the appropriate congressional committees a list of each person the Secretary of State determines is responsible for the detention, abuse, or death of Sergei Magnitsky” and also those “responsible for extrajudicial killings, torture, or other gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.” The Secretary of State is obliged to inform lawmakers of the updating or completion of said list. This allows any additional information added to the text to be given special security applications. The document gives the U.S. president the right to classify the names of those who will be affected by the sanctions in the name of national security.

Moscow's reaction to the legislative “linking” has been predictably harsh. However, Russia had warned the U.S. of the undesirability of such a move even before the House of Representatives made their decision. According to Aleksandr Lukashevich, official representative of the Foreign Ministry, on the eve of the vote on Capitol Hill, “such a move will inevitably have a negative impact on the entire range of our bilateral relations.” In his words, “given the statements that have been made, the movement should be entirely in the opposite direction. There are many positives, but they could very easily disappear.” Russia “naturally, will not accept the introduction of visa-related and financial sanctions together with the abolition of the Jackson-Vanik amendment without consequences,” asserted the diplomat, adding that “we will have to react and to react strongly.” In principle, suggested Lukashevich, “what with the gross violations of human rights in the U.S., including the legalization of torture and illegal detention of prisoners in CIA special prisons, the U.S. has no moral right to preach to other countries on this matter.”

Commentary from Moscow about Washington's move followed almost immediately. “It is with great regret that we accept this decision and with no less regret that we must state its predictability”, the ITAR-TASS Press Secretary said to the President of Russia. “It irrefutably shows that some segments of Russo-American bilateral relations have not been reset,” noted Dmitri Peskov, who added that “of course, an appropriate response shall follow.”

“If anyone in Congress believes that Russia can be spoken to in the language of sanctions and ultimatums, replacing the outdated anti-Soviet Jackson-Vanik amendment with a new edition under the pretext of an imaginary “concern” about human rights, then this calculation has no prospects,” emphasized the Russian Foreign Ministry. Russia “is open to honest dialogue and the development of mutually beneficial cooperation on the principles of equality, non-interference in internal affairs and true respect for each other's interests,” the ministry said in its commentary. “It is these principles that have in fact been undermined by Congress' initiative,” the Ministry stated.

Sergei Naryshkin, the Chairman of the State Duma, commented thus on the dual decision of the Congressmen: “I believe that is does not correspond to the current state of relations between Russia and the U.S. Here I see an attempt to interfere in the internal affairs of our country and politicking over a man's tragic death.” In his words, “for the U.S. lawmakers to make such a short-sighted move runs contrary to our common achievements in recent years and undermines the level of trust between our two countries”.

Now, the package containing the Jackson-Vanik amendment and the “Magnitsky Act” must be examined by the Senate, in which Democrats hold a majority. Is there a chance that the ruling party will vote any differently from their colleagues in the lower house? The chance is very small, although this is only because the author of this anti-Russian legislative initiative in the sphere of human rights, Maryland Democrat Benjamin Cardin, was safely re-elected on Nov. 6 to another six-year term. And he has more than a few allies in the Senate.

And so, in the near-future of Russo-American relations, it is more than likely that another sore point will appear in the legislature. ...



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