Russian 'Reset' Malfunction; Harsh Washington Criticism Exposes Soviet-Like Anti-Americanism

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), August 10, 2011 | Go to article overview

Russian 'Reset' Malfunction; Harsh Washington Criticism Exposes Soviet-Like Anti-Americanism


Byline: Ariel Cohen, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The recent Russian threats to cease crucial cooperation with the United States and statements by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Rogozin, Russia's special representative for missile defense cooperation with NATO, raised hackles in Washington. Mr. Putin called the United States a parasite on the body of the global economy, while Mr. Rogozin claimed that U.S. senators told him U.S. missile defense is aimed at his country.

Mr. Putin's statements are baffling, as the global economy needs consumer consumption for growth and the United States is by far the biggest consumer country. In fact, the U.S. trade deficit drives a lot of global growth. Mr. Putin spoke at his United Russia Party youth camp on Lake Seliger, while Mr. Rogozin let his hair down on a visit to Washington after a meeting with two U.S. senators. Two Senate staffers vehemently denied Mr. Rogozin's allegations in a lengthy discussion with this author.

These are no longer words alone: Russia is threatening to stop cooperating with the United States over Afghanistan, Iran, Libya and North Korea if Congress passes the Sergei Magnitsky sanctions. The toughening Russian negotiating positions and rhetoric - including Mr. Putin's outburst and Mr. Rogozin's reference to the senators as monsters of the Cold War - suggest the Obama reset policy is in deep trouble.

The State Department has placed 64 Russian officials on a visa blacklist that would prevent them from entering the United States. These officials - prosecutors and policemen - all played a role in the death of the lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, the most famous whistleblower in post-communist Russian history.

The Foreign Ministry in Moscow loudly protested that the United States is being tough on Russia. But the imposition of sanctions looks more like the State Department's pre-emptive way to prevent the Senate's Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2011 (S. 1039) from passing.

Russia has threatened to respond asymmetrically against the Obama administration's reset policy if the bill becomes law. In a tit for tat, the Russian foreign ministry reportedly is drawing up a list of U.S. officials who will be banned from Russia and prevented from banking there. While this may be of little concern to Washington, Russian threats to curb cooperation on Afghanistan, Iran, Libya and North Korea are taken more seriously.

To reiterate, Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer representing Hermitage Capital, which was then the largest Western hedge fund operating in Russia, was arrested on spurious tax-evasion charges. Magnitsky alleged that Russian officials swindled $230 million in tax rebates. He died before his trial in 2009 after being denied essential medical care and possibly tortured and beaten. President Dmitry Medvedev said that those who were in charge of Magnitsky committed crimes. …

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