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.