Reset on the Ropes?
5:11 PM, Jun 14, 2011 • By DANIEL HALPER
Earlier today, Republican Rep. Peter Roskam, deputy whip in the House, put out a statement signaling his support for the Justice for Sergei Magnitsky Act.
The Magnitsky Act, which has been introduced in the Senate by Democratic senator Ben Cardin with broad bipartisan support, including cosponsorship by leadership in both parties (Kyl and Durbin), has support from some of the usual suspects (Lieberman and McCain), and even some of the newest members (Blumenthal and Rubio). The bill would require the Obama administration to compile a list of officials and individuals in Russia who have been complicit in human rights and rule of law violations. Those who make the list would be blacklisted from entering the United States, and their assets and bank accounts in the United States would be frozen.
It’s the kind of smart sanctions the left is always calling for – but it’s also a very sensitive issue for the Russians (and the administration), to put it mildly.
Eli Lake had some good background on the issue in the New Republic, not long before the bill was introduced. “The reason this is effective is because the guys who are responsible for these kinds of crimes like to spend their money in the west,” Pavel Khodorkovsky, the son of the jailed Russian dissident, told Lake. And indeed, even as this bill was moving in the Senate, President Obama released a statement with his nominal Russian counterpart, Dimitry Medvedev, pledging U.S. support for a normalized visa regime between Russia and the United States. It’s clear that the Russians wanted Obama to pick a side.
Last week, Putin’s right-hand henchman came to town for a series of administration meetings, the subject of which has been the focus of much speculation. Leading Russian opposition figure Vladimir Kara-Murza offered the likeliest explanation:
If the Russians were concerned over the Senate-side action on the Magnitsky Act, they ought to be downright perturbed by the strong statement today from a member of the Republican leadership in the House. Whatever influence the Russians can bring to bear in the Senate by way of the Obama administration, a Republican House isn’t likely to spend a lot of time worrying about how this is legislation is going to affect President Obama’s precious reset.