The “reset button” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave to the Russians early in President Obama’s presidency with the hopes of improving relations between the U.S. and Russia is still failing. Business Week reports that Russian legislators have given initial overwhelming approval to a bill that would impose sanctions on Americans accused of human rights violations.
The U.S. bill that caused the newest dust-up was intended to open new export opportunities for Americans wanting to do business in Russia. However, there is one section named after Sergei Magnitsky. He was an activist lawyer who was jailed and refused medical treatment until his death. He was arrested after he accused that police officials had engaged in multi-million dollar tax fraud. Russian rights organizations point out that no one has been prosecuted and that some officials he had accused have been promoted.
A Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman issued a statement after President Obama signed the U.S. bill into law saying it was “odious” and “blatant interference in our internal affairs.” The most troubling part of the story is the uncertainty about “what criteria would be used to assess human rights violations. The spokesman said “…targets could include people who abuse adopted Russian children and people responsible for creation of secret prisons.” I’m guessing that people in the U.S. considering adopting Russian children might want to know more about the law and the intent.