After the battle of the blacklists, can the US-Russia
relationship get back on track?
The leaders of both countries on Monday signaled a desire to move
beyond a recent deterioration in what were already brittle
relations. Last Friday, the United States released a list of 18
Russians subject to sanctions for alleged involvement in human
rights abuses - prompting Russia to retaliate over the weekend with
its own list of 18 Americans targeted for similar sanctions.
The tit for tat of blacklists, which some US-Russia analysts
describe as more worthy of the cold-war era, is the outcome of laws
passed in 2012. After the US Congress approved a law targeting
Russian human rights abusers, Russia retaliated with its own law
banning adoptions of Russian children by Americans and providing for
the targeting of US rights abusers.
The US law was named the Magnitsky Act after Sergei Magnitsky, a
Russian tax collector who reported hundreds of millions of dollars
in stolen tax receipts, only to be thrown in prison, where he died
in 2009. The Russian legislation approved in December was named for
Dima Yakovlev, a Russian boy who died in 2008 after his adoption by
a Virginia family.
Now President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin are
hinting at their hopes for getting past the Magnitsky and Yakovlev
affairs to issues of mutual interest to the two powers, like missile
defense and nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation.
Mr. Obama's national security adviser, Tom Donilon, was in Moscow
Monday, where he met with Russian national security officials and
presented Mr. Putin with a letter from Obama. The two countries
agreed in March to resume discussions on missile defense, which had
broken down over Russian concerns that NATO missile defenses would
be aimed at Russia's nuclear arsenal.
Putin's foreign policy aide, Yuri Ushakov, hailed the "very
constructive tone" of the letter, which he said was being taken as a
sign that Obama wants to move beyond the recent rift in relations.
But Mr. Ushakov added that from the Russian perspective, Obama is
not doing enough to "fight for bilateral cooperation within the US
and does not want to rein in some Russophobes who are putting spokes
in the wheel of our cooperation."
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov echoed that sentiment
after his meeting with Mr. Donilon, saying that the Obama
administration sounded as if it wanted to repair strained relations,
but that actions speak louder than words. …