In other words, in the last two weeks Moscow has turned into a city where every day one runs a real risk of being arrested for no apparent reason — and brutally arrested at that. At the same time, Parliament is considering a bill that would effectively ban street protests altogether. Over the last 12 years, Putin has eliminated most elections, monopolized all major media and destroyed the political party system, leaving only the street for any opposition. And now even that is being taken away.
Yes, I really mean to say that Putin is a dictator. The only reason this is still questioned after all that we have seen in Russia is that Western leaders and Western media refuse to call him one — while being perfectly content, for example, to brand Belorussia’s Alexandr G. Lukashenko this way. For this I see no good explanation.
And how is the Obama administration reacting to the continuously worsening human rights situation in Russia? If one is to believe Obama´s ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, the US policy is "not pursuing a policy of linkage". In reality this means that dictator Putin is free to continue his policy of destroying what little is left of human rights and democracy in Russia, without risking any real sanctions from the US. Trade and co-operation in " literally hundreds of other areas" will continue no matter what Putin does: We in the Obama administration have been very clear: we want to engage with Russia, government and society, on security issues, economic issues, democracy and human rights issues. And we do that every day. I do that every day in doing my job in Russia. What we don’t want to do is to link issues which we think are unrelated. So we have been trying very diligently to avoid linkage between, say, issues with respect to European security and trade, or issues with respect to human rights and security. We deliberately are not pursuing a policy of linkage.
So, with respect to Jackson-Vanik and PNTR (Permanent Normalized Trade Relations), we have worked very hard with the Russian government to assist them, and I am just quoting back Mr. Putin himself, he said this to my president in Los Cabos [Mexico] a few weeks ago. We helped with that process of Russia’s accession into the World Trade Organization and now we need to finish our part of that by lifting Jackson-Vanik. We want to do that in one thing. We also want to address human rights violations in Russia and, by the way, in all countries around the world. We have looked very closely into the tragic death, the wrongful death, of Mr. Magnitsky, the lawyer, and we have taken action with respect to that already. And therefore, we don’t see why these two things should be linked. We don’t think one needs to replace the other.
But we have a democracy, we have an open system, other senators, other members of Congress, other NGOs have spoken loudly on this. It is a debate going on in Washington. I don’t know how it will end; I know what our position is. We are going to work very hard to make sure whatever disagreement we have about this legislation, however it ends – and I really don’t know how it will end because I’m not an expert on the US Congress. I want to make sure your viewers understand, but we are going to work hard to say, “Let’s deal with this in this room and let’s continue to co-operate in literally hundreds of other areas that we co-operate with Russia in today.” That’s what we are going to try to do.
Let´s hope that the US Congress will finally pass the Magnitsky act, which would at least partially prevent the Obama administration from pursuing its catastrophic Russia policy:
The Magnitsky act is hardly going to change Russia overnight. It might result in retaliation by Russia. But it has consequences that Russian officials — most of whom park their assets abroad — really care about. It has the potential to make a difference, just as Jackson-Vanik once did. If only Congress could pass it.
Meanwhile, after suggesting last week that the Russian trade bill would be deferred until after the election, the House leadership quickly backpedaled. Now Representative Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, says it will be brought to a vote in September, before Congress departs again to run for re-election.