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Izvestiya, Russia

A Dish Best Served Cold

By Maksim Sokolov

Translated By Rina Hay

25 December 2012

Edited by Kath­leen Weinberger

Russia - Izvestiya - Original Article (Russian)

The politicians who have seen fit to respond immediately to America's “Magnitsky Act” with a ban on the American adoption of Russian orphans are either very brave, or very short-sighted. Without even referring to the appropriateness of anti-adoption sob stories (although its appropriateness is, indeed, highly doubtful), politicians have completely ignored the fact that there are certain subjects which should not be touched unless absolutely necessary; in those cases (and it is not at all obvious that the current situation is such a case), they should be approached with a full understanding of how they will be received. That is, prepare public opinion well ahead of time, build up intelligence and create convincing arguments, etcetera. None of this has been done at all.

In the words of Faust, “Blood is a juice of the rarest quality;” this also relates to medicine and to social welfare. People can relate calmly to economic and political decisions that carry disastrous consequences because these consequences are implicit, manifesting themselves through a chain of cause and effect, which takes some time to understand. At first glance everything is in order; there is nothing to worry about. However, when dealing with any issues containing key words such as “illness,” “death” or “disability,” the disastrous consequences are not hidden inside. From the very beginning they protrude and activate the appropriate emotional mechanisms. When you add in the key word “children,” the emotional responses go through the roof.

Sympathy is a good feeling, but it is even better when it is combined with reason: A willingness to examine the problem in its fullness, to pay attention to both sides of the argument, to look at relevant statistics, etcetera. However, our reason is turned off when examining problems which contain the above key words—even in cases much less controversial than the adoption of poor little crippled children. What about the most severe case? Even if 80 percent of American adopters were heartless villains and only 20 percent were normal, the logic of hope and desperation would force us to say: “What if he ends up in a normal family, and everything turns out okay—there is still some hope!” This logic will work (and is working) now, when the number of villains (or simply irresponsible idiots) among foreign adopters is considerably lower. The law thinks practically by using statistical categories and takes into account not only specific cases, but also the bigger picture, for example, how the corrupted nature of foreign adoption has affected the fate of orphans and not even those which have been chosen to be sent abroad. However, this does nothing for our emotional reaction, which sees only the fate of one little crippled child. It is pointless to argue and persuade. We must and we should act in a roundabout way, improving the situation in our own country, achieving more transparency in international adoptions. However, to cut off hope entirely and inhumanly cruelly is (not depriving the terminally ill and their families of hope), in a political sense, not entirely productive.

This would be enough to doubt the appropriateness of a cruel anti-adoption law even if it were taken out of its clear political context. But this is not so. This measure is part of a law that was passed in response to the Magnitsky Act; any critic can easily observe that this blatant motivation makes the point of the law very difficult to understand—is it to protect children, or to hurt Senator Cardin? There has been plenty of time to act to protect children before now, you see, and if we had acted before, at least it would not look like our answer to Chamberlain.

As for the actual answer to Chamberlain, this hastiness and lack of thought is distressing, even if one ignores the effect that it will have on the children. The Magnitsky Act had been prepared over a long period of time and its point was serious: It allowed for the extra-judicial weaning of assets both in and out of the U.S. from any Russian citizen who for any reason (maybe he is not evil, but just a little crooked – the American legislation is broad here, perhaps too broad) does not like the American administration. Moreover, this is an act for the long term—just remember how long the Jackson-Venik amendment lasted after the collapse of the USSR. In practice, this means that not only under Putin, but even under President Navalny, this versatile weapon will be taken out in any disagreement between the Kremlin and the White House. There will always be disagreements; they will only cease if Russia becomes America's poodle in Moscow, unquestioningly listening to its host.

This serious threat—which was not present in the 1950s—requires a serious response and, most likely, serious costs. The cessation of Afghan transit through Russian territory and the transfer of Kudrinsky's treasures from the U.S. Treasury to some other place—we can only hope that the costs will stop here. There could be many more. if the political will exists, then we should prepare for greater costs. If there is no will, then we can relax and be satisfied. But in this and any other cases, it is hardly worthwhile making orphans into pawns in a political game. If there were political will, there would be other pawns, adult ones. If there were no will, no one would not cry about orphans.

Revenge is a dish best served cold. The fast food which has been served up by the State Duma is neither revenge nor an answer.



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