The Magnitsky Bill and the Russian “anti-Magnitsky Bill” seem like petty squabbling, but a recent article in The National Interest (a publication of the Nixon Center) maintains that the Magnitsky Bill is “a dagger pointed at the heart of Russia’s existing governmental structure.” Here are the most relevant excerpts:
It wasn’t widely reported in the U.S. media, but the Magnitsky Rule was far more than a mere symbolic gesture reflecting America’s devotion to the rule of law. It was a dagger pointed at the heart of Russia’s existing governmental structure. … certain designated members of Congress, based on committee assignments and chairmanships, were empowered to put forth names of Russian officials they felt should be on the Magnitsky List …
Opposition forces in Russia have ongoing access to favored legislators in the United States, and this provision of the bill gave them potent leverage against government officials whose actions were considered offensive by the opposition. They can say: If we don’t like your policies, we’ll get you on the Magnitsky List. … the problem for Russia’s government officials would be much more severe if the European Union were to adopt the Magnitsky principle, as many adherents of the U.S. legislation are urging. …
Thus, when Russian government leaders complain about U.S. meddling in their internal affairs, they’re not talking just about symbolic actions. They’re talking about an effort on the part of the United States to alter the balance of political power in the Russian polity. …
But the serious piece [of the Russian response, the so-called “anti-Magnitsky Bill”] was the ban on NGO activity for those who accept American money. The Russian political opposition operates largely under the auspices of NGOs, and many of them take substantial amounts of American money. Hence, this provision destroys the leverage these opposition groups felt they had won through the Magnitsky Rule. If they use the threat of the Magnitsky List to keep government officials back on their heels, Putin will simply put them out of business through application of the new NGO rule.
Thus do we see that this Magnitsky-adoption drama is anything but petty. Big issues are at stake, particularly for Putin and his government.
Whether the Magnitsky Bill is petty squabbling between nuclear-armed rivals or an American dagger pointed at Russia’s heart, it carries far too much nuclear risk.
For more on the Magnitsky Bill and its predecessor, the Jackson-Vanik Amendement, search this blog for Magnitsky and Jackson-Vanik.
To learn more about the level of nuclear risk, visit my related web site.
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