The Magnitsky Lesson

This piece originally appeared in Komsomolskaya Pravda:

In the rush of the looming holiday season, Russia’s State Duma is hastily preparing the so-called Dima Yakovlev law, a “symmetric” response to the Magnitsky Act that has just been adopted by the U.S. Congress. The latter bill bans entry in the United States and freezes Americans assets of Russian officials suspected in human rights violations. Given Duma’s propensity for low quality legislation, one does not expect anything good from that. The question one must ask here is different, though: how come that the Magnitsky Act has been adopted in the first place? Why a British citizen Bill Browder was allowed to freely lobby in the U.S. Congress for a law named after a Russian citizen Sergei Magnitsky? Why did it take Russia almost three years to finally send to the United States a delegation, which articulated something that has been long known: that Browder and Magnitsky have committed serious financial crimes? And when the delegation arrived in Washington this past summer, what is it not clear to everyone that by that time, the American sponsors of the Magnitsky Act have so heavily invested in it that they simply could not be swayed in the other direction?

The answers to these questions are neither difficult nor new. In his lobbying crusade, Browder was actively assisted by the numerous anti-Russian groups, including those organized by the members of the Russian diaspora in the U.S. At the same time, the much needed and long talked about pro-Russian lobby in America still does not exist. Besides, Moscow itself has been arrogantly ignoring Browder as completely irrelevant; it rather preferred issuing vague promises of future “symmetric” responses. The outcome of this negligence has been exactly as expected. Moreover, if Moscow will not change its attitude—that is, will not begin actively promoting its interests in the West, new anti-Russian acts are inevitable. The American version of the Magnitsky Act will become but a first sample of a set of laws that will be adopted, one after another, by the European Union. Should this happen—and this seems to be already happening–Russian officials used to spending time and money in old good Europe will face unpleasant consequences.

Yet, if Duma wants to “symmetrically” respond to the Magnitsky Act, it should better ban entry to Russia to all sponsors of the bill in the U.S. Congress: 39 Senators and 81 House representatives. Much better than fighting poor orphans in its own country.

About Eugene Ivanov

Eugene Ivanov is a PMI-certified Innovation Management Consultant who helps organizations increase the efficiency of their internal and external innovation programs.
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7 Responses to The Magnitsky Lesson

  1. Dear Eugene,

    First of all may I take this opportunity to wish you and your family all the best this Christmas and a prosperous and Happy New Year? I say this because I may not have an opportunity to do so closer to Christmas Day itself (on the assumption that you are celebrating the American Christmas on December 25th as opposed to the Russian Christmas on January 7th).

    It is very difficult for me to comment on an article I find myself in complete agreement with. We have already discussed the disastrous incompetence of the Russian authorities in delaying their response to the Magnitsky law. It is utterly exasperating to see this happen in a case where Russia is for once entirely in the right.

    I haven’t followed the Dima Yakovlev law closely and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if your skepticism about it turns out to be right. The one thing I would say is that as it is a law made in retaliation to a totally wrong US law. Russia can therefore at least in this case truthfully say that it has been provoked into passing it. Also someone has at least had the sense to try to relate the Dima Yakovlev law to the infringement of the rights of Russian citizens who Russia has a duty to protect. In saying this let me make it clear again that this is not an endorsement of the Dima Yakovlev law.

    It seems that yet another opportunity for a rapprochement between the US and Russia, something which I think we both agree is in the obvious interest of both countries, has been lost by a combination of mischief making bordering on sabotage and arrogance bordering on megalomania in the US and by slothful incompetence bordering on outright stupidity in Russia.

  2. Eugene says:

    Dear Alexander,

    Thank you so much for your warm greetings and let me in my turn wish you very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! (We indeed celebrate Christmas tomorrow, given the fact that our grown-up kids are perfectly American and don’t know any other Christmas than this.)

    My contacts in Moscow told me some time ago about the possibility of using ban on foreign adoptions to “respond” to the Magnitsky Law–so the Dima Yakovlev law wasn’t a total surprise. From a certain point of view, this is a strong response: about 60 Russians are now affected by the Magnitsky Law, whereas about 1,000 Americans who adopt Russian orphans annually will be affected by the Dima Yakovlev Law.

    What was surprising is the sloppiness with which Putin during his news conferences presented a rationale for the law. Moreover, I was very surprised by the negative reaction the law was met in Russia. If three federal ministers, including Foreign Minister Lavrov, voice their criticism, however measured, it tells you something. The problem is now for Putin to draft his own course through the “crisis.” He can overrule the Duma in a blink–who cares?–but he already gave too much support to the law. If, however, he signs it, the mud will be all over his face.

    That said, the state of US-Russia relations is at uncertain point. Sometime ago, I felt things can’t go worse that that; now I feel, they can. Let’s hope they won’t.


  3. Alex says:

    I think, the decades of relying on the government to solve all their problems under “socialism”, resulted in the nation (the Russians) with one of basic group survival instinct suppressed – that is they have markedly low support of their own. That is why there is basically no “Russian” lobby in US – for the same reason that there are few cases when Russian businessmen employ Russians (as opposed to the preferences of eg. Anglo-saxon nations).

    As to why the Russian Government did not do much .. well .. perhaps, they have the same problem as Panneta – they place personal allegiance of the staff above their IQ.. And perhaps, they (the Government) is there not only – or even so much as – to do something for the nation, as for their families and the families of the selected few.

    As for Putin’s performance – he does look increasingly bored with his role & it is even sometimes hard to understand what were the reasons for him to run for the third term ..It seems, somebody forced him – or at least this is how it more and more looks to me.


    Oh .. and let me wish you a Merry X-mas (belatedly) and a Happy New Year!

  4. Eugene says:

    Hi Alex,

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you too!

    I generally agree with you, but I’d also add that the old habit of being a superpower reflects itself in the deep disdain for any levels of government except for the very top. Meaning that Russians feel it beyond their paying grade to deal with Congress; it seems to me that they sincerely believed–until the very last moment–that Barack would “fix” this problem for them.

    As for Putin, yes, I always believed that he was forced to come back by his own people,But he doesn’t look bored to me; he looks lost.


  5. George A. Marquart says:

    Here is more from Moskovskiy Komsomolets.
    George A. Marquart

    Moskovskiy Komsomolets
    December 28, 2012
    Article by Stanislav Belkovskiy: “Putin, The Cripples and The Heroes; Don’t Hold Out Hope: It Will Not Be Forgotten or Forgiven”
    Moskovskiy Komsomolets Online

    I am a (semi-) professional master of ceremonies. In those years when I had no money at all, this reserve skill was my salvation.

    That is why the Moskovskiy Komsomolets editorial office has asked me to propose (or to write, which in this instance is the same thing) a New Year toast.

    And that toast will be proposed. A little later. But let’s begin with something slightly different.

    The Federation Council has just adopted the so-called “Dima Yakovlev” law which bans Americans from adopting Russian orphans. Moreover, it is promised that all other foreigners will also be banned from adopting our children.

    From the moral viewpoint, it is impossible to justify what the Federation Council has done. And geopolitics with all its attendant rubbish has absolutely nothing to do with it.

    The main point is that the culture of adopting disabled children does not exist in Russia. But in the West it does. And strictly speaking, apart from the Americans and other monsters, no one likes our small people with handicaps. They will all simply die in the heavy embrace of Russian state and public institutions. They will die literally, not figuratively.

    My father was a first-category invalid and he died in terrible agony at the age of 47. And I myself am a second-category invalid. I know what I am talking about. So if any Kremlin jerk opens his ugly mouth to criticize my position, I would advise him to take the precaution of closing it immediately. Because anything could happen. Invalids can sometimes behave with excessive harshness. We have real crutches in reserve if anything happens.

    And it was in that situation that the Federation Council decided what it decided.

    These apologies for senators should be pitied. Many of them have big problems, specifically with their children. That is clearly why they hate children so much.

    Well, what can you do if the son of one of the Federation Council leaders is a hardened heroin addict who has not managed to get cured? But thanks to his parent’s ties, that drug addict holds high-placed positions in business and earns billions for doing nothing (among the Russian people this is usually called “freeloading”). And of course, his parent is accustomed to saying that he (or it) played no part in it, his son the junkie achieved it all by himself.

    Or take Senator Sh., the former father-in-law of the famous popular singer B. A criminal case was brought against him 30 years ago on suspicion of pedophilia. How now could he fail to support a law against the Russian children who caused him so much unpleasantness?

    Another moral… cripple, let us call him that, former ALROSA company President Vyacheslav Shtyrov who, of course, has absolutely nothing to do with corruption and never has had, stated that we must “safeguard” Russian children by completely banning foreign adoption. “This is not in accordance with our traditions or with the morality inherent in all peoples inhabiting the Russian Federation,” he said.

    Of course. Unrestrained theft from the budgets of state companies accords with our traditions and morality.

    Yevgeniy Tarlo, a former lawyer now laboring in the upper chamber, covered himself in particular glory. He suggested conducting a parliamentary investigation into the fates of children handed over to foreign adopters. This sh… this statesman absolutely refuses to study the fate of the children expiring in our own sadistic children’s homes.

    By contrast, I would suggest conducting a parliamentary investigation into the ex-lawyer’s possible involvement in mysterious operations involving land and real estate in Moscow Oblast. That would be far more useful than fighting children.

    For everything there is a time, gentlemen. An investigation of this kind, like many others, will certainly take place. Many incumbent senators realize that there are places other than parliament where you can sit (REFERENCE to prison). Why? Because there are things which you must not do because you must never do them. For instance, depriving disabled children of the opportunity of gaining a normal family.

    Senator Tarlo motivated his position by the claim that there is a turnover of $1.45 billion a year in “this sphere” (international adoption). Well, yes. According to currently accepted yardsticks of theft that is small change. And will he not answer the question of how much a child’s tears are worth (REFERENCE to quotation from Dostoyevskiy)?

    Have you read nothing about this? You should. Our prisons to this day have quite good libraries — thanks to the Soviet regime.

    Don’t worry. God will not forgive you.

    Yes, and incidentally. The Moscow Patriarchate Russian Orthodox Church, through some of its most outstanding speakers, has also been noted for its support for the child-eating law. For instance, archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin piously pointed to the fact that the adoption of Russian children by foreign couples in the majority of cases means “they cannot receive a truly Christian upbringing and therefore they will be removed from the Church, from the road to eternal life, to the Heavenly Kingdom.”

    You think God did not hear? Nothing of the kind. But as regards earthly concerns, they are going extremely badly for the Russian Orthodox Church. A church which looks favorably on the death of children is dooming itself to death.

    Yes, I understand it all. People who know everything even say that Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matviyenko visited Vladimir Putin a couple of days ago. And she asked permission not to adopt the law. And the Russian president allegedly told her unequivocally: Adopt the law and don’t mess about!

    And that is what happened.

    Now can you imagine how lonely our president is if he authorized such a law? How we should pity him and in no circumstances envy him?

    It is true that it is several high-ranking gays close to the regime who are believed to have been the immediate drafters of the text of this child-eating document. They couldn’t give a shit about children. They only have one, completely different, use for them. Hence the content of the document.

    And now let’s turn to the New Year program in full accordance with the formal duties of a master of ceremonies. Albeit a (semi-) professional one.

    It turns out there were Federation Council members who refused to vote for the anti-child law. Perhaps this is redundant, but I will list them in full.

    Vitaliy Bogdanov (Kursk Oblast)
    Gennadiy Gorbunov (Astrakhan Oblast)
    Konstantin Dobrynin (Arkhangelsk Oblast)
    Vitaliy Ignatenko (Krasnodar Kray)
    Suleyman Kerimov (Dagestan)
    Anatoliy Lyskov (Lipetsk Oblast)
    Yefim Malkin (Chukotka)
    Valentin Mezhevich (Irkutsk Oblast)
    Vyacheslav Novikov (Krasnoyarsk Kray)
    Larisa Ponomareva, mother of State Duma Deputy Ilya Ponomarev (Chukotka)
    Vladimir Rushaylo (Arkhangelsk Oblast)
    Vadim Tyulpanov (St Petersburg)
    Vyacheslav Fetisov (Maritime Kray)

    Dear guys! I do not see you as heroes. Because you risked nothing except expulsion from the Federation Council — an already more than shameful institution.

    But still, I am proud of you. Because in this era of universal oblivion of all that is human (and most important, all that is godly) you have remained human. You have preserved your human countenance.

    So my New Year toast today is to you. You are great guys. I wish you health and prosperity.

    I also raise a festive glass to the Putin functionaries who also opposed the “anti-Magnitskiy” law — Vice Premier Olga Golodets, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and Justice Minister Aleksandr Konovalov. I have never known or liked you. But there are things you must value even if you do not love them.

    It turns out that in Russia, even at the very pinnacle of leadership, there are still living people. And charity beats in their hearts. And even the apartments issue has not completely spoiled them.

    That means we will make it somehow.

  6. Eugene says:

    Small correction: it wasn’t Justice Minister Aleksandr Konovalov, it was Education Minister Dmitry Livanov.

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